Updated Jun 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats subpoena two whistleblowers over allegations of DOJ politicization

Bill Barr

Bill Barr. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced on Tuesday he has issued subpoenas for two Department of Justice whistleblowers as part of the committee's probe into alleged politicization of the agency under President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr.

Why it matters: One of the officials, Aaron Zelinsky, resigned from the team that was prosecuting Trump associate Roger Stone after Barr intervened to soften Stone's sentencing recommendation.

  • The other, John Elias, was reportedly looking into a fuel efficiency deal between large automakers and the state of California. Democrats have called the probe politically motivated.
  • The two will testify before the committee, along with former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, on June 24.

The big picture: Barr has been accused of acting as Trump's personal lawyer throughout his tenure. He has launched and overseen aggressive investigations into the origins of the FBI's Russia probe, including one led by veteran prosecutor John Durham that could result in criminal charges leading up to November's election.

  • More than 2,000 former DOJ officials have signed onto a pair of statements calling on Barr to resign for his interventions in the Stone case and the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The DOJ is currently seeking to drop charges against Flynn, but is facing resistance from the judge overseeing the case.
  • Barr denied doing "the president's bidding" in an interview with CBS News last month, arguing that "partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice."

What to watch: Nadler has threatened to cut funding to Barr's office at the Justice Department due to the attorney general's refusal to testify before the committee.

What they're saying:

“Again and again, Attorney General Barr has demonstrated that he will cater to President Trump’s private political interests, at the expense of the American people and the rule of law.  He has abruptly reversed course on prosecutions against the President’s allies and friends.  He has pursued pretextual investigations against the President’s perceived political enemies.  He has failed to defend the Affordable Care Act, and he has helped to roll back important civil rights protections. ...
The Attorney General—who cites his busy schedule as a basis for refusing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee but has made time for multiple television interviews—may have abdicated his responsibility to Congress, but the brave men and women of our civil service have not.
— Chairman Nadler
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