Vladimir Zelenko, a doctor who has pushed hydroxychloroquine usage for coronavirus to the White House and on Fox News, now may have the Justice Department looking into his efforts, after conservative podcaster Jerome Corsi mistakenly sent a former Mueller prosecutor an email.
Corsi – who styles his name as “Dr. Corsi” because he has a political science degree – sent an email on April 20 to those he calls his “tele-health” partners about public relations and business opportunities for Zelenko because of his work on hydroxychloroquine. Instead of emailing Zelenko, however, Corsi mistakenly copied federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, a former special counsel’s office investigator now based in Maryland.
Zelinksy and his colleagues in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office had considered charging Corsi with lying during the investigation into President Donald Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone.
The Washington Post first reported on the email and possible investigation.
When Zelinsky responded to Corsi, asking him if he had a lawyer for the matter, Corsi said he realized Zelinsky must be investigating. It’s unclear, however, what an investigation may be focusing on, or even if it’s a serious inquiry. A spokesperson for the Maryland US Attorney’s Office wouldn’t confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation. Zelinsky and Zelenko did not respond to requests for comment.
Corsi spoke about the accidental email in a three-hour video posted to YouTube on Thursday, after The Washington Post inquired about the situation.
“All these emails this morning and all my text messages, we have copied and sent to Zelinksy,” Corsi said in his Thursday podcast. “Everything Zelinksy wants to see, we are voluntarily handing over to him as quickly as we can. … If he wants my computers, he can have them; my cell phones, he can have them.”
Corsi told CNN on Friday he was certainly surprised when he realized he had emailed Zelinsky. He reiterated that he has cooperated with Zelinsky’s requests.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Corsi said.
“The doctors can prescribe hydroxychloroquine or anything else if they want to,” he said. “I’m not qualified to give medical advice.”
Zelenko has drawn attention in New York, in right-wing circles and from the Trump administration for experimenting with hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus. President Donald Trump has touted the use of the drug as a potential treatment. But the Food and Drug Administration has said the drug has not been shown to be “safe and effective” for treating the illness, and its usage for coronavirus patients has risks of severe complications, even death, the FDA has said recently.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has said it is continuing to use the anti-malarial drug to treat coronavirus cases in a manner “consistent with current FDA guidance.” The FDA said on April 24 that hydroxychloroquine and the related medication chloroquine should be used for coronavirus only in clinical trials and for treating certain hospitalized patients.
In a video provided to CNN where Zelenko speaks about medications to use with coronavirus, he describes the “confusion” of governments considering the drug.
“When I know something l will let you know. I’m in contact with the highest levels of the federal government right now,” Zelenko says in the video. “So if they respond to me, I will let you know.”
Corsi said he believes Zelenko made an innocent error in touting he had FDA approval.
“I went through a process of trying to educate Zelenko on his mistake,” Corsi said. “The FDA is like a Good Housekeeping seal, and you can’t say you have one if you don’t have one.”
Corsi’s lawyer, David Gray, said his client’s account of what transpired was correct.
“Everything he said is accurate to my understanding,” Gray said. Gray said they provided Zelinsky with materials Thursday. So far Zelinksy’s team has not asked for an interview.
Corsi also reflected on his past interactions with Zelinsky. During the Mueller investigation, Corsi testified to a federal grand jury, then made public a plea agreement he had refused to sign in which he would have been charged with lying about Stone’s efforts. He was never charged with a crime.
Stone, however, was, and his efforts to use Corsi as a back channel to reach WikiLeaks in 2016 and became a key point at Stone’s criminal trial. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress about the back channel.
“Dr. Zelenko hasn’t been through what I’ve been through with the law enforcement authorities,” Corsi added. “I try to be much more careful with what I’m saying.”
Zelinsky had been the lead prosecutor from the special counsel’s office on Stone’s case, and had stayed in Washington to try the case last year after Mueller’s investigation ended.
He was one of four trial prosecutors to quit the case after Attorney General William Barr intervened to soften the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for Stone, after Trump tweeted about the case. Zelinsky returned to his position in Baltimore, where he’s working on fraud and public corruption cases, including ones related to coronavirus, for the Maryland US Attorney’s Office.
The Justice Department has focused on investigating a wide swath of crimes related to the pandemic, so far largely about fraudulent offers of vaccines and cures, as well as computer crimes, price-gouging and hoarding of supplies. Zelinsky hasn’t appeared in any public active Covid-related cases yet, according to federal court records.