In prepared testimony for the House Judiciary Committee, assistant U.S. attorney Aaron Zelinsky said Trump ally Roger Stone received preferential treatment from the Department of Justice in a sentencing recommendation following his conviction for witness intimidation and lying to Congress because of his relationship with the president. Zelinsky’s testimony was released on June 23, and Fox News’ prime time entirely ignored the story that night.
Stone, a close ally of President Donald Trump’s, was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress in November 2019, and federal prosecutors requested sentencing of seven to nine years, but their superiors in the Department of Justice overruled them and issued a lighter sentencing memo. Four prosecutors on Stone’s case resigned from the case after the leadership intervened in their prosecution.
Zelinsky withdrew from Stone’s case because “wrongful political pressure” was interfering with the prosecution. The pressure came down on Timothy Shea, an acting U.S. attorney at the time of Stone’s sentencing, who relented and issued a lighter sentencing memo because he was “afraid of the president.” Zelinsky will testify that a supervisor acknowledged that the political pressure to issue the lighter sentencing recommendations was e “unethical and wrong,” according to his prepared remarks.
Attorney General Bill Barr maintains that he intervened in the Stone case on his own and without direction from the White House. Shortly before the lighter sentencing memo was issued, however, Trump tweeted that Stone’s case was a “horrible and very unfair situation.”
Politico reported that Zelinsky’s testimony is a “stunningly rare” rebuke of DOJ leadership by a sitting official. NPR called it “unusual testimony.” CNN marked Zelinsky’s testimony as indicative of how “politicized Barr’s decision-making has become within the ranks of career officials.” CNN covered the news when it broke and MSNBC devoted several segments throughout the evening to the testimony.
But Fox News entirely ignored the news to focus instead on controversies related to racist monuments and Black Lives Matter protests. Host Tucker Carlson did briefly mention that Stone was scheduled to go to prison while complaining that police are too deferential to “the mob.” And on June 24, Fox & Friends hosted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who smeared Zelinsky -- who clerked for two Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices -- as a left-wing partisan. Host Steve Doocy also falsely claimed Zelinsky resigned from the Department of Justice during the segment; he quit not the agency but the case and is currently an assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland. But no one on Fox’s prime-time shows mentioned the testimony.