“These circumstances are deeply troubling,” Nadler wrote. “Although you serve at the President’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws. In turn, the House Judiciary Committee is charged with holding you to that responsibility.”
Among the officials Nadler is seeking to interview are John Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut who was picked by Barr to review the origins of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election; Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, who Barr selected to review Flynn’s case; Robert Khuzami, the former New York-based prosecutor who oversaw the case against Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen; and Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who Barr picked to review all matters related to the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment in the House last year.
But the most notable names on the list are four Stone prosecutors: Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando and Jonathan Kravis. Nadler’s request for access to the career line prosecutors is an unusual step intended to circumvent the Justice Department’s political leadership — and one that has been viewed with caution even by Trump critics.
It’s the latest indication that House Democrats see career employees as crucial sources of information in an era in which Trump has directed his top political appointees to ignore House demands for information.
Democrats similarly turned to career State Department and national security officials during their impeachment investigation as central witnesses to Trump’s handling of Ukraine policy. Their testimony helped form the basis of the House’s charge that Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to aid his reelection by investigating Democrats.
Nadler has asked for Barr to respond to his requests by March 13, and Barr himself is slated to testify to the committee on March 31. It’s unlikely Barr will acquiesce to many of the committee’s demands, and Nadler indicated he’d be willing to negotiate terms of any of his desired interviews to allay any concerns the Justice Department might have about making its officials available to the committee.
Republicans slammed Nadler’s new investigative push, noting that it occurred just two days after Democrats canceled a meeting on renewing pieces of a soon-to-expire surveillance program amid internal policy disagreements.
“The Democrats’ request today is yet another attempt to distract from the job they’ve failed to do, which is reform FISA and finally address the abuse that has plagued our nation over the last three years,” said Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “The only political interference our committee should be examining is the FBI’s unlawful surveillance of Carter Page and the Trump campaign.”
Zelinsky and Jed were members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as Trump’s efforts to thwart the probe. Marando and Kravis, two veteran Justice Department prosecutors, joined them in the prosecution of Stone, who was convicted last year on charges of lying to congressional investigators and threatening a witness.
The four prosecutors had recommended Stone serve a seven- to nine-year jail sentence, a steep penalty that they attributed to the national security implications of his lies to Congress.
Within hours, Trump weighed in to assail the recommended punishment, and the next day, Justice Department leaders intervened to suggest that the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, issue a lighter sentence. Amid the turmoil, all four prosecutors quit the case, and Kravis resigned his position altogether. Jackson ultimately sentenced Stone to three years and four months, and she grilled the replacement prosecutors about the chaotic departure of the original trial team.
In his letter to Barr, Nadler is also seeking to interview Jessie Liu, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who oversaw the Stone case, as well as all the prosecutions that stemmed from Mueller’s probe. Liu left her position recently and had been tapped by Trump to fill a senior Treasury Department role. But her nomination was withdrawn abruptly within days of Trump’s acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial earlier this month. Her successor, interim U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea, is on Nadler’s list as well.
The others include: U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott Brady, who Barr tapped to accept information collected by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been working with ousted Ukrainian prosecutors — seen widely as corrupt — to level corruption charges against former Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber, who was appointed by Barr’s predecessor Jeff Sessions to review the FBI’s handling of the case against Hillary Clinton that was ultimately dropped; and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, who was tapped by Sessions to facilitate providing sensitive Mueller-related documents to the GOP-led Congress in 2017 and 2018.
In addition to the interview requests, Nadler is seeking details about Justice Department decisions to soften its sentencing demand for Flynn and its decision to overrule a decision to relocate former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort – who is serving a prison sentence for multiple financial crimes — to Riker’s Island.
Nadler also indicated he has questions for DOJ about its intervention in antitrust matters that Trump has weighed in on, including a proposed Time Warner-AT&T merger and a proposed Sprint-T-Mobile deal. Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division, is also on Nadler’s interview wishlist.
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