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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact.

Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.

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