The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday held an oversight hearing focusing on Attorney General William Barr’s decisions as head of the Department of Justice. As part of the proceedings, the committee heard testimony from two DOJ officials: Aaron Zelinsky, a federal prosecutor at the US attorney’s office in Baltimore, and John Elias, a senior official in the department’s antitrust division.
Zelinsky worked on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team during the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election, and he testified Wednesday that senior DOJ officials improperly interfered in the sentencing recommendation for the former longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone. Specifically, he told lawmakers that DOJ leaders sought a weaker sentence for Stone at Barr’s direction because they were “afraid of the president.”
Elias testified that Barr weaponized the antitrust division to harass marijuana companies because he doesn’t like the cannabis industry.
The committee also heard testimony from two former DOJ officials: former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer. Mukasey was invited to testify by Republicans on the panel.
The witnesses who appeared on Wednesday were asked at one point why they chose to testify. Here’s how Elias and Zelinsky, both of whom are still serving at the Justice Department under Barr, responded:
Elias: “I looked at what was happening, which was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and it didn’t feel like a good faith calling of balls and strikes that I had been used to seeing. And I care very much about the antitrust laws, their evenhanded enforcement, protecting consumers, and also the institution of the antitrust division where I have spent my entire legal career. And when I saw these abuses, I thought that the public should get to know about them. So that’s why I stepped forward.”
Zelinsky: “Because I took an oath to do so.”
Things went downhill from there. Want an example? At one point, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell excoriated Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan for not wearing a mask during the hearing:
“Let me just remind every member of this committee, and people that are walking into this room, that the guidelines have been set forth by the office of the attendee physician and the house speaker that members need to be wearing masks,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “And the chairman stated earlier, very clearly, that members will not be recognized if they are not wearing masks.”
She then addressed Jordan, saying it was “incredibly disrespectful that you have been sitting here next to the chairman without wearing a mask. You are putting other peoples’ lives and their families in danger.”
Jordan replied by saying that “the unmasking this committee should be concerned about is the unmasking that took place at the end of the Obama administration.”
Jordan was referring to “unmasking,” which is a routine and legal process that the US intelligence community engages in regularly. Republican lawmakers allege that the Obama administration improperly and illegally “unmasked” former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s name in intelligence reports monitoring the communications of then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the most outspoken Democrats on the committee, asked former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer about Barr’s unfounded claim that foreign countries would meddle in the 2020 election by mass-producing counterfeit ballots.
Barr has “provided an echo for the president, who has voted himself by mail in New York and in Florida and whose party encourages its members to go out and vote by mail — but he’s echoed the president in saying there’s something wrong with voting by mail, and he’s alleged that voting by mail makes us vulnerable to foreign influence by counterfeit ballots,” Raskin said to Ayer. “Is that an appropriate role for the attorney general of the United States?”
Ayer said: “I think it’s not, and especially it’s not because it appears to be something that there’s absolutely no truth in at all. There are five states that do nothing but vote by mail, and every other state, I think virtually every other state, uses vote by mail somewhat substantially. So the idea that we’re going to throw cold water on the notion that we’re going to vote by mail is just disreputable. And it’s entirely inappropriate. It really isn’t his job anyway. If there were some law-enforcement function, there it might be. But basically he’s just echoing the president.”
Enough of these meaningless allegations tossed about and the screaming match in the House committee hearing room! A bunch of adults acting at best like children and, at worst, a bunch of circus clowns!
What Really Happened in that Hearing?
I’ll give you my two cents:
- Two DOJ lifetime bureaucrats were enraged when AG Barr instructed their office to reduce the federal sentence handed down in the Roger Stone case. They both resigned over Barr’s order to do so.
- The reduced sentence was not only a process that happens in at least 40% of federal cases when judges prepare to sentence defendants, their recommended sentence in the case far exceeded punishments meted out in every previous federal case with similar situations.
- None of this mentions that the Attorney General is overall responsible for the actions of any attorneys that work in the DOJ under him. Obama’s AG Eric Holder frequently intervened in federal sentences as did his replacement, AG Loretta Lynch.
- What was shocking to me (but should not have been) was that nobody who testified offered any firsthand evidence of any of the evidence of alleged wrongdoing! Why should that NOT surprise me? Because that has been the case in every allegation against President Trump in those impeachment hearings initiated in “Ukraine-Gate!” All-day it was this: “Mr. So-and-so told me that he heard Mr. Boo-Boo talking on the phone to Miss La-La, who said Attorney General Barr coughed when he was reading the recommended charges against Mr. Stone. And because he coughed, that was a sign that President Trump was mad because Stone was his friend and had promised he’d take care of it all.”
That may sound like a juvenile—explanation for a House Judiciary Committee hearing. But, folks, it was that stupid! It was nothing but a show for the Hard Left in Congress and the nation. Why do that? CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS!
I’m confident you’d like to know what was the purpose of the charade perpetrated by Rep. Nadler. “The Penguin,” as he has been termed held this committee for no other reason than to lay a foundation. Put that one hearing in the context along with what is imminent in Washington.
Have you forgotten that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Federal Attorney Jim Huber of Utah to investigate alleged wrongdoing in the Hillary Clinton email server investigation? Even though Session was fired and replaced with Barr, Huber continued acting on his commission, worked (and still does) behind a curtain of secrecy, and has yet not stepped forward with his findings. Additionally, Attorney General Barr appointed Connecticut Federal Attorney John Durham to investigate any wrongdoing by those in the Obama Administration regarding all things that occurred during the Russian Collusion investigation. About six months into Durham’s investigation, the DOJ announced his investigation had shifted gears into a full-blown criminal investigation.
Here’s what’s about to happen:
- Huber and Durham are very close to bringing their cases forward;
- The Huber case will probably implicate those from the Hillary Clinton Campaign, the Clinton Foundation, and possibly others in wrongdoing regarding that private email server kept in her home. Just having it there was a constant violation of the handling of classified information. And each such violation was a felony;
- The Durham case purportedly included multiple grand juries hearing the testimony of numerous subpoenaed witnesses. It is almost certain its recommendations will consist of indictments of numerous members of the Obama Department of Justice, the Obama FBI, and possibly even members of Obama’s White House leadership team;
Don’t for one moment think the Nadler House Judiciary Committee hearing and future such hearings ahead are NOT purposely to build layer upon layer of finger-pointing at Attorney General William Barr to destroy his credibility. Both House and Senate leadership teams know their only hope at escaping the vitriol of American voters just before the November election is to paint Barr as nothing more than a Trump sycophant acting on instructions from the President to attack, attack, and attack those who oppose him to deflect attention from HIS wrongdoing.
In other words, all of these upcoming House committee hearings are nothing more than smokescreens.
Should we expect anything less?