Career Justice Department staff to outline political meddling in Stone, antitrust matters

The federal office that led the prosecution of President Donald Trump’s friend Roger Stone received “heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice” to ease its sentencing recommendation, career prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky plans to tell Congress, according to his prepared remarks. Zelinsky, who withdrew from the Roger Stone case in protest, will testify on Wednesday before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee about political pressures that his office faced and how Tim Shea, the acting U.S. attorney at the time who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr, ultimately caved in to the pressure because he was “afraid of the President.” “I was explicitly told that the motivation for changing the sentencing memo was political, and because the U.S. Attorney was “afraid of the President,’” Zelinsky said. Stone, who was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is due to report to prison later this month. Zelinsky will testify alongside John Elias, a career Justice Department antitrust attorney who served as the division’s chief of staff and is now a trial attorney. Their testimony comes as Barr has increasingly faced criticism about his decisions to intervene in cases in ways that many say appear to benefit Trump personally. Elias, in prepared remarks, said he was concerned that the department opened probes of cannabis company mergers despite low market shares, as well as a probe of four automakers that had sought to work with California to set vehicle emission standards. Republicans are expected to push back on his testimony, saying he is confusing politicization with policy disagreements.

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