The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday to discuss what Chairman Jerry Nadler characterized as “unprecedented politicization” of the Department of Justice under President Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
Watch the hearing in the video player above.
“Mr. Barr’s work at the Department of Justice has nothing to do with correcting injustice,” Nadler said in his opening remarks on Wednesday. “He is the president’s fixer. He has shown us that there is one set of rules for the President’s friends, and another set of rules for the rest of us.”
The hearing comes after news last week that Trump fired U.S. attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, whose office has handled investigations linked to the president and his associates.
One of Barr’s federal prosecutors is testifying to the committee Wednesday that Roger Stone, a close ally of President Donald Trump, was given special treatment ahead of his sentencing because of his relationship with the president. As the hearing began, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec tweeted that Barr would accept the panel’s invitation to testify July 28.
Aaron Zelinsky, a career Justice Department prosecutor who was part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and worked on the case against Stone, said in prepared testimony that he was told by supervisors that political considerations influenced the decision to overrule the recommendation of the trial team and propose a lighter prison sentence.
Zelinsky now works in the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland, and his testimony features the extraordinary spectacle of a current prosecutor castigating decisions made by the leadership of the Justice Department where he still serves. The hearing is likely to add to scrutiny of Barr, who has alarmed Democrats in recent months with his efforts to scrutinize, and even undo, some of the results of Mueller’s Russia’s investigation.
“What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president,” Zelinsky says in the testimony.
The panel subpoenaed Zelinksy and John Elias, a career official in the department’s antitrust division, as part of its probe into the politicization of the department under Barr. The Democratic-led panel and Barr have been feuding since shortly after he took office in early 2019, when he declined to testify about Mueller’s report.
The Democrats launched the investigation earlier this year over Barr’s handling of the Stone case but have expanded their focus to several subsequent episodes in which they believe Barr is doing Trump’s bidding. That includes the department’s efforts to dismiss the criminal case against Gen. Michael Flynn and the firing of Berman last weekend.