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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Justice Department is probing the communications of Vladimir Zelenko, a New York doctor who has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment and has been touted by Fox News host Sean Hannity, the Washington Post reports.

How it happened: Jerome Corsi, a Roger Stone associate and former Infowars employee who had been under scrutiny in the Mueller investigation, accidentally emailed federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky instead of Zelenko about the drug.

  • Zelinsky, who investigated Corsi during the Mueller probe, now investigates coronavirus-related fraud crimes for the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland. Corsi told the Post that Zelinsky then emailed Corsi's lawyer to request all of his communications with Zelenko.
  • In the email, Corsi wrote that Zelenko had "an FDA-approved randomized test of [hydroxychloroquine] underway."
  • Corsi told the Post that Zelinsky found that Zelenko had no such approval from the FDA — and that he believes Zelenko was not trying to defraud anyone, but simply misunderstood the FDA's guidelines.

What they're saying: Corsi said that he and Zelenko have not broken the law and added that he plans to cooperate with Zelinsky's request.

  • "I did nothing wrong. Zelenko made a mistake. He's got no case and we're following all the rules," Corsi told the Post.
  • Corsi's attorney confirmed what happened to the Post, while an attorney working with Zelenko said he had not been contacted by federal prosecutors.

The big picture: President Trump has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential "game-changer" for treating the coronavirus, though public health experts caution that the drug's efficacy has not been proven.

  • Fox News' Sean Hannity discussed Zelenko's hydroxychloroquine work during a March panel on his show. During that show, he also mentioned a letter from "a doctor in the New York area" about hydroxychloroquine during an interview with Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Earlier that day, Hannity had interviewed Zelenko on his radio show, saying he believed his hydroxychloroquine claims were "just amazing."
  • Rudy Giuliani also discussed Zelenko's work during an appearance on Laura Ingraham's show in March.

Be smart: While it's unclear how seriously DOJ is scrutinizing the matter, the Post notes that "even passing interest from federal authorities into efforts to promote the anti-malarial is likely to chafe the president and his allies, particularly given the involvement of a former member of Mueller’s team."

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Zelenko’s claims about hydroxychloroquine have been touted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Zelenko has not directly appeared on the network.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Republicans and Democrats react to Trump's coronavirus aid action

President Trump speaks to workers at a manufacturing facility in Clyde, Ohio, on Thursday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing President Trump Saturday night for taking executive action on coronavirus aid, with Democratic leaders demanding the GOP return to negotiations after stimulus package talks broke down a day earlier.

Why it matters: Trump could face legal challenges on his ability to act without congressional approval, where the constitutional power lies on federal spending. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was the most vocal Republican critic, saying in a statement: "The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop."

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Updated Aug 10, 2020 - World

PM prepares for "COVID election" as NZ marks 100 days of no community spread

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends the launch of the Labour Party's election campaign in Auckland on Saturday. Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP via Getty Images

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — New Zealand has now gone 100 days with no detected community spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health confirmed in an emailed statement Sunday.

Why It Matters: New Zealanders are going to the polls on Sept. 19. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for her leadership that saw NZ lock down hard for several weeks before all domestic restrictions were lifted in June. She sees her government's response to and recovery from the coronavirus outbreak as key to her Labour Party being re-elected.