One of four prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case after Attorney General William Barr intervened to recommend a lighter sentence says there was "significant pressure" to cut Stone a "break" because he was close to President Trump. "What I heard—repeatedly—was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president," Aaron Zelinsky will tell the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, according to prepared testimony seen by Politico. "I was also told that the acting US Attorney was giving Stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was 'afraid of the president.'" Zelinsky says the pressure to go easy on Stone came from the "highest levels" of the Justice Department.
Stone was sentenced to 40 months earlier this year for witness tampering and lying to Congress. Prosecutors initially recommended up to 9 years. Zelinsky, who is now a federal prosecutor in Maryland, says the handling of the sentencing recommendation was "unusual and unprecedented," with Justice Department higher-ups seeking to "outright distort the events that transpired in his trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction," the Wall Street Journal reports. The Wednesday hearing will focus on the politicization of the Justice Department under Barr, Democrats say. John Elias, an antitrust official who accuses Barr of ordering investigations of mergers of cannabis companies because of his personal dislike of the industry, will also testify, reports CNN. (Stone is due to start serving his sentence next week, but Trump has strongly hinted that he will be pardoned.)