If President Donald Trump thought that his endless public complaints about House Democrats trying to hold his team accountable would mean that Democrats would drop their many investigations, he got a reminder of the truth this Tuesday. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has announced that he’s issued two subpoenas for two figures who’ve worked amidst flashpoints of the Department of Justice’s alleged sharp pro-Trump politicization under Attorney General Bill Barr. The Trump-appointed attorney general has frequently worked to support the president’s political agenda — he’s hidden key facts of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation from the public for weeks on end, lowered a sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone, tried to drop the federal government’s case against Trump ally Michael Flynn, and more.
One of the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas targets federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, who resigned from the prosecution team in Stone’s case after Barr’s team intervened to lower the federal government’s sentencing recommendation for Stone. (At the time, every single federal prosecutor who’d been on the case stepped back from their role in apparent protest of Barr’s team’s move.) The other new subpoena targets John Elias, who “was reportedly looking into a fuel efficiency deal between large automakers and the state of California,” Axios explains. Trump has long established his opposition to California state efforts to secure strong fuel efficiency standards; thus, Elias’s probe has appeared “politically motivated” to Democrats, Axios notes.
Zelinsky and Elias are currently scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on June 24 alongside former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer.
Nadler commented this week:
‘Again and again, Attorney General Barr has demonstrated that he will cater to President Trump’s private political interests, at the expense of the American people and the rule of law. He has abruptly reversed course on prosecutions against the President’s allies and friends. He has pursued pretextual investigations against the President’s perceived political enemies. He has failed to defend the Affordable Care Act, and he has helped to roll back important civil rights protections.’
One of those “pretextual investigations” is an investigation that Barr launched into the origins of the Russia investigation, which the president and his allies have alleged unfairly targeted the Trump team, no matter the ample evidence implicating them in Russian interference in U.S. elections.
In light of Barr’s own consistent stonewalling, Congressional investigators have been left looking elsewhere. Nadler continued:
‘The Attorney General—who cites his busy schedule as a basis for refusing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee but has made time for multiple television interviews—may have abdicated his responsibility to Congress, but the brave men and women of our civil service have not.’
Nadler and his committee were one of the two House committees that took a leading role in handling the impeachment proceedings against the president. At one point last year, the House actually voted to hold Barr in criminal contempt of Congress — although the Department of Justice declined to bring any charges against Barr, unsurprisingly, who has continued to face a lot of criticism in the time since.