US prosecutors to testify on ‘politicisation’ of DoJ under Trump

Two US prosecutors will testify publicly next week about the “unprecedented politicisation” of the Department of Justice under Donald Trump, Democrats announced on Tuesday.

The testimony from the prosecutors — Aaron Zelinsky, who worked on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and John Elias, an antitrust division lawyer — is set to add further pressure on William Barr, Mr Trump’s attorney-general.

Jerrold Nadler, the House judiciary committee chairman, said Mr Zelinsky would speak about the sentencing of Roger Stone, an ally of Mr Trump convicted of lying to Congress, while Mr Elias would testify about “improperly motivated activity by the Antitrust Division”.

“The committee welcomes the testimony of current and former department officials who will speak to the lasting damage the president and the attorney-general have inflicted on the Department of Justice,” said Mr Nadler in a statement, which announced that subpoenas had been sent to Mr Zelinsky and Mr Elias.

The hearing on June 24 marks a new push on oversight efforts by the House judiciary committee following months of controversy about the justice department’s actions in politically sensitive matters.

Mr Zelinsky, a member of Mr Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s links with Mr Trump, was one of four prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case earlier this year after Mr Barr intervened to lower the sentencing recommendation they had made. He is currently a prosecutor with the US attorney’s office in Baltimore.

Subsequently, Mr Barr also intervened in the case of Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, ordering the prosecution to be dismissed. Mr Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador but has since said he is innocent.

Mr Elias was acting chief of staff in the antitrust division until late 2018 and is currently a prosecutor in the division at headquarters in Washington DC.

During that time, the justice department has embarked on several politically contentious cases, including a failed challenge to AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner and an aborted probe of several carmakers criticised by Mr Trump for agreeing emissions restrictions with California.

The two long-serving justice department lawyers are set to appear at the hearing alongside Donald Ayer, who was deputy attorney-general in the George HW Bush administration before Mr Barr held that post. Earlier this year, Mr Ayer called on Mr Barr to resign in an article in The Atlantic.

An attorney for Mr Zelinsky’s attorney, Robert Litt: “I can confirm that Mr. Zelinsky has received a subpoena and intends to comply with it to the full extent appropriate.”

Mr Elias did not return an email seeking comment and an attorney for him could not be immediately identified.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barr did not immediately return a request for comment.