Aaron Zelinsky

Beware DOJ Inspectors General Bearing Investigations, Aaron Zelinsky Edition

When DOJ IG got evidence, in the form of Jim Comey’s memos documenting that every safeguard against White House interference in DOJ and FBI investigations had broken down, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz instead investigated whether Comey had mishandled classified information, ultimately referring Comey for prosecution.

When FBI Inspection Division got evidence that someone kept leaking false information to Sara Carter claiming Andrew McCabe had promised to “fuck Trump,” it turned into a DOJ IG investigation into whether McCabe had lied. After withholding the evidence of a key witness, Michael Kortan, the IG Report was used to justify the firing of McCabe.

When DOJ IG conducted an investigation into the leaks and conduct of various FBI Agents, it ended up being a report that exclusively reported on anti-Trump texts from Agents, and not pro-Trump leaks and texts — it even provided misleading graphics that falsely suggested only anti-Trump leaks happened. That led to the disclosure, during an investigation, of those texts, and ultimately to Peter Strzok’s firing.

That’s why I’m wary about the NBC report today that DOJ’s Inspector General is investigating the Roger Stone sentencing.

The Justice Department inspector general’s office has begun investigating the circumstances surrounding the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump’s, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The investigation is focused on events in February, according to the two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Stone’s prosecutors have said that is when they were told to seek a lighter sentence than they had previously considered.


A source familiar with the matter said comments Zelinsky made during his testimony triggered the inspector general’s office to open an investigation. It is not known how far the office has proceeded in its investigation, whom it has interviewed or whether it has found any evidence of wrongdoing.

That’s particularly true given Kerri Kupec’s confidence — in a statement to Politico’s Josh Gerstein — that Billy Barr’s DOJ welcomes this review.

A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed that the agency’s Office of Inspector General is looking into Barr’s move in February to seek a lighter sentence for Stone after rank-and-file prosecutors and an acting U.S. attorney hand-picked by Barr had already submitted a recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for the conservative provocateur, who has been a political sounding board for Trump for more than two decades.

“We welcome the review,” a department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said on Monday evening.

Gerstein further notes that this probe did not come with an announcement to HJC.

In the past, Horowitz has written to members of Congress to confirm that he has launched inquiries in high-profile cases in which lawmakers demanded a review. It was not immediately clear why Horowitz was being more tight-lipped about the investigation into the Stone sentencing decision.

Even aside from past history and the warning sign that Gerstein notes, there’s one more reason to believe that Horowitz’ IG Report will once against serve to damage — if not provide an excuse to fire — someone who investigated Trump.

DOJ IG cannot investigate the actions lawyers take as lawyers. And virtually everything Aaron Zelinsky testified to in the House Judiciary Committee hearing pertains to actions Barr flunky Timothy Shea and others took as lawyers. Moreover, during the hearing, Jim Jordan made a point to get Zelinsky to name precisely who he claimed had accused Barr of politicized decisions. By the end of the hearing, Republicans were claiming that those people had not said what Zelinsky claimed.

DOJ IG can’t investigate why Timothy Shea engaged in unprecedented interference in sentencing. It can, however, investigate whether Zelinsky’s testimony matches that of more complicit supervisors in the DC US Attorney Office. And that’s what’s likely to happen.

21 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    I mentioned in the Herridge thread that Bolton is being investigated as well, so we are now in the phase where the “enemies list” has been made and is being prosecuted. DJT and AG Barr needs to go now. Impeach, Nancy.

  2. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    Is the concern that Horowitz may end up scrutinising Zelinski’s testimony by comparing it to the carefully lawyered statements of dishonest complicit higher ups?

    Was Comey referred for prosecution? So much has happened since, I don’t remember that.

  3. BobCon says:

    My immediate thought was this was some kind of whitewashing for Barr, and the Dilanian connection made me feel like they were looking for a reporter who wasn’t going to probe too hard.

    How big of a deal would it be, if we are lucky, for a Democratic DOJ to dump Horowitz?

    I know Nervous Nellies would wring their hands and start bothsidesing, but I think looking at how bad DOJ has gotten, all serious reforms will get that complaint anyway. He’s too compromised to stay if we are fortunate to be able to remove him.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      The man reminds me of how Comey described Rosenstein, “a survivor”. It is telling that so many other IGs were dumped but he remains. Would love to see him replaced.

    • bmaz says:

      I’d be fine with getting rid of Horowitz. I don’t think he has ever really earned his supposed “straight shooter” reputation, but to any extent it ever existed, it is in tatters now. Would a Biden administration do that? Probably not, even though they should.

      • BobCon says:

        There are a lot of IGs who are hacks, and I have no idea if that makes it easier to do a clean sweep, or if it is harder because they want to go piecemeal.

        It’s a Senate approval job, and I guess it depends also in whether Biden gets an effective Senate, or a largely useless one like the past 20 years. At least there is serious talk of ending the filibuster.

      • theodora30 says:

        Beware when the media tells you someone is a “straight shooter”, a “Boy Scout”, and “institutionalist” — pretty much anything that indicates they have that man (and I do mean “man”). That is how they described guys like Louie Freeh, Ken Starr, Comey, Barr and others. You can bet that that guy will turn out to be an unprincipled right winger with a personal agenda.

        As for Horowitz investigating FBI leaks during the 2016 election, he did open an investigation of those Trump loving Hillary haters in the NY FBI office. In fact last December during his testimony before the Senate about the Carter Page FISA warrant Senator Leahy asked him about it and he told him he was still investigating!! He gave some bogus excuse about having a record of their unauthorized media contacts but not their contents and implied he couldn’t do anything about it. I guess he can’t subpoena them and ask them under oath or anything.
        Horowitz’s first report described the pressure those leaks put on Comey, making it clear that Comey made those two unauthorized public statements about the investigation into Hillary’s emails to appease those agents. He also describes how Comey told Loretta Lynch that he had been shocked by the “visceral hatred” of Hillary in that office. Horowitz went after Strzok and Page for saying negative things about Trump but has yet to hold those agents accountable. Peter Strzok included that double standard in his lawsuit against the agency for wrongful termination. Of course if Comey had been the strong leader he claims to be he would have shut them down as soon as he knew they were breaking the FBI/DOJ rules and almost certainly the Hatch Act.

        What drives me nuts is that the media has completely ignored the fact that powerful FBI agents interfered in the election to help get Trump elected. All I can figure is that they are favored sources. I also assume the media didn’t care that they hurt that nasty woman.

  4. Alan Charbonneau says:

    Makes sense. Under the Trump administration, I’ve thought that tho office of the IG wasn’t the apolitical organization it’s supposed to be.

  5. harpie says:

    On the day Roger Stone accepted commutation he called for pay back against Zelinsky:

    Roger Stone accepts Trump’s commutation during Infowars appearance with Alex Jones
    Infowars led efforts to intimidate the jurors who convicted Stone of seven felonies https://www.mediamatters.org/roger-stone/roger-stone-accepts-trumps-commutation-during-infowars-appearance-alex-jones

    […] During his appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Stone called for retribution against those who prosecuted him, singling out https://www.mediamatters.org/media/3884176 Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky for firing and prosecution. Zelinsky recently testified [link] before a congressional committee that other people at the Justice Department told him that Stone was receiving preferential treatment in sentencing because of his longtime friendship with Trump. […]

    • P J Evans says:

      Calling for retribution against attorneys for *doing their job* should be reason for rescinding a commutation. Or a pardon.

      • Eureka says:

        1A1A1A Yikes, you guys don’t mean that. I know these are bad people* exploiting our rights and systems, but think of how many regular folks who’ve received clemency — or moreso their advocates and family members — have called for investigation of prosecutorial decisions and such (and rightfully so) (plus other, related, situations where maybe someone wins right to an appeal or a years-long battle for DNA testing or something when a new judge or prosecutor is elected/ installed, and prior gov behavior is later questioned. Yeah, in normal world people _formally_ file such claims against the gov, but more often they make _informal_ speech against its agents).

        *And as we descend into an authoritarian shit-show at their hands, it’s important now more than ever to say this.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes. Well stated. Stone, like Trump, should not be silenced. In fact, it is important to know what these dolts are saying and doing. It may be painful to see, but it is important to see.

          And George Stephanopolis is who he is. But that undertaking was remarkably important because Trump was Trump. I’ll give GS a bit of credit, he let Trump blow himself up.

        • Rugger9 says:

          In DJT’s case that is particularly true, given how the reviews of last night’s town hall are trending. Kayleigh was trying to spin the idea that DJT said herd “immunity” not “mentality” as if that was going to help him, conveniently ignoring that:
          1) Sweden tried it and it doesn’t work,
          2) there doesn’t seem to be a permanent immunity from exposure and
          3) it ignores all of the side effects of exposure to COVID-19 including some serious vascular system damage.

          To paraphrase Napoleon, never interrupt an enemy making a mistake.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        They’re permanent, and should be. Enough with the Trump-enabling ping-pong over civil rights and state conduct.

        We’ve had enough, too, of Trump and his pet GOP tearing things down to suit themselves. Let’s build them back up, stronger and fairer than before. But that means being fully aware of what shites like Trump, Stone, Caputo, Manafort, McConnell, Cotton, Sasse & Co. have done and will do to tear them down again.

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