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Roger Stone. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Career prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky will tell the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that Justice Department leadership intervened in the sentencing of former Trump adviser Roger Stone for political purposes, according to his opening statement.

Why it matters: Zelinsky is one of two Justice Department whistleblowers who plan to testify before the committee about the alleged politicization of the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr.

The big picture: Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert Mueller's team, resigned from the case in February after the Justice Department submitted a new sentencing recommendation for Stone, overruling career prosecutors who had requested the former Trump adviser serve seven to nine years in prison for obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering.

What he'll say:

  • "In the many cases I have been privileged to work on in my career, I have never seen political influence play any role in prosecutorial decision making. With one exception: United States v. Roger Stone."
  • "What I saw was the Department of Justice exerting significant pressure on the line prosecutors in the case to obscure the correct sentencing guidelines calculation to which Roger Stone was subject — and to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in his trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction."
  • "What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president. I was told that the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break, and that the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations."
  • "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.'"

Read his opening statement via DocumentCloud.

Go deeper

Dems on Senate Judiciary tell Graham to delay filling Ginsburg's seat

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaking in August.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), called on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to delay filling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court until after the presidential inauguration.

What it matters: Democrats cited the Senate GOP's refusal to consider President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland following Justice Antonin Scalia's death in 2016. Republicans at that time claimed voters should choose the president and the president should select the justice, since the vacancy occurred during an election year.

The recovery needs rocket fuel

Data: BLS. Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's deeply disappointing jobs report should light a fire under Congress, which has dithered despite signs the economy is struggling to kick back into gear.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden said Friday afternoon in Wilmington that he supports another round of $1,200 checks.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

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