Zelinsky also named Alessio Evangelista, then Washington DC’s first federal prosecutor, as a participant in those discussions.
Those names, which Zelinsky revealed under questioning of the Republican top of the Judicial Committee, Representative JIm Jordan (R-Ohio), provide avenues for a possible further investigation as the panel considers allegations that Attorney General Barr or his senior leadership level intervened in matters to protect the President or his allies.
Zelinsky’s testimony followed an explosive written statement describing intense pressure for Stone’s four prosecutors to deviate from Justice Department practice and to recommend a lighter sentence for Stone. He said he was warned that his job could be in jeopardy if he did not double down, and the four prosecutors withdrew from the case after they submitted a stiff sentence recommendation and were overturned by Justice Department leaders.
Zelinsky, a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, faced strong attacks from committee Republicans, some of whom accused Mueller’s team of political bias, a charge that Zelinsky flatly rejected. Jordan rejected Zelinsky’s allegations, noting that he never spoke directly to Barr or other top Justice Department officials about the effort to review Stone’s sentence, and only heard about political considerations through others in the department.
That argument echoed the defense presented by the Justice Department, which has said that Zelinsky’s claims amounted to “rumors.”
The hearing, which also featured the testimony of John Elias, an antitrust prosecutor, presented a return to internal struggles between Republicans and Democrats after weeks of quieter exchanges amid consideration of police reform legislation and emotional testimony. about police brutality.
When the hearing began, Barr himself agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month, ending, for now, the threat by President Jerry Nadler to issue a subpoena for his testimony.
“The Attorney General accepted an invitation to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a general oversight hearing on July 28,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said on Twitter, a day after Nadler issued her threat to citation.
Barr’s appearance, if valid, would be the first before the Judiciary Committee since its confirmation earlier last year.
Three previous attempts to bring him in were aborted. The first, in the spring of 2019, was canceled after Barr refused to submit to questions from committee staff in the weeks following the release of Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s report. The second occurred in March, when the coronavirus crisis led the House to suspend most of the committee’s proceedings. The hearing was rescheduled for early June, but Barr again canceled after the White House objected, citing a ban on testimony from Congress during the coronavirus emergency.
Committee advisers said Barr’s agreement to appear came shortly after Nadler’s revocation and the process to issue a subpoena for Nadler’s testimony began next week. Nadler had previously rejected the possibility of citing Barr, worried that this would lead to months of litigation.