Aaron Zelinsky, a prosecutor who left the Roger Stone case after Justice Department leaders intervened to recommend a lighter sentence will tell Congress he and his colleagues were repeatedly pressured to cut Stone “a break,” and were told that it was because of his relationship with President Donald Trump, reports Politico. Zelinsky, one of four prosecutors who quit the case, will tell the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday that “the acting U.S. Attorney was giving Stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was ‘afraid of the President.’ ” Zelinsky will appear alongside antitrust prosecutor John Elias, who says Attorney General William Barr personally ordered the DOJ Antitrust Division to launch politically motivated reviews of ten cannabis mergers.
Zelinsky’s testimony is a rare public rebuke of the Justice Department leadership by a sitting official. Barr faces intensifying scrutiny over actions that Justice Department veterans and Democrats have described as dangerous breaches of the Justice Department’s independence from politics. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has begun a process to subpoena Barr for a July 2 hearing. Zelinsky alleges that after Stone was convicted last year of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness, Justice Department leaders leaned on him and three other prosecutors to deviate from typical sentencing practices and issue a lighter recommendation, Zelinsky says. Judge Amy Berman Jackson settled on a lower sentence than the prosecutors had recommended: 40 months. Stone is due to report to prison on June 30, but Trump has strongly hinted that he will pardon him or commute his sentence, telling Stone in a tweet to “sleep well at night.” A Justice Department spokeswoman rejected Zelinsky’s allegations, noting that he had never directly discussed the matter with Barr or others at the top of DOJ.