When Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on Wednesday, he won’t be alone, according to a plan disclosed just the day before. Seated beside him will be Aaron Zebley, who served as the special counsel’s deputy in the two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Zebley, at Mueller’s last-minute request, was added to testify before the House Judiciary Committee as a witness, but will only be there to advise his former boss during questioning, according to the New York Times. As of Tuesday evening, discussions were underway to have him accompany Mueller’s second appearance, before the House Intelligence Committee.
Zebley is a former federal prosecutor and a longtime FBI agent who was chief of staff to Mueller when he was director of the FBI. He worked in the FBI’s counterterrorism division for seven years as part of a team who “chased suspected members of al Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks” and he is credited with getting one of the conspirators to confess in the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa,” the New York Times reported in January.
When Mueller left the FBI to join the WilmerHale law firm in March 2014, Zebley followed him just a week later. “He served as Mueller’s right hand during major investigations, including one that Mueller led into the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident in 2014,” according to Wired.
After Zebley joined the special counsel’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives in 2017, becoming Mueller’s closest associate and serving as an intermediary between the office of the special counsel and the Justice Department, Trump accused him and other staffers of being supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Zebley had previously represented former Clinton aide Justin Cooper, who helped set up a private email server for Clinton when she was secretary of state.
Trump lashed out at the “last minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress”
Congressional Republicans also objected to Zebley’s late addition to the hearing, which has been highly anticipated for several weeks.
“This apparent stunt is unsurprising in light of the Democrats’ repeated attempts to circumvent, misrepresent and flout the rules and procedures governing this committee’s business,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said in a statement. “If Democrats believe it is the special counsel’s responsibility to testify to his report, they have no ground for outsourcing that duty at the expense of our committee’s integrity.”
But Democrats countered that they sought Zebley’s testimony long before Mueller requested his aide join him on Capitol Hill. And they agreed that Zebley’s role would be restricted to advising Mueller as his lawyer, instead of testifying as a witness.
“Aaron Zebley was the Deputy Special Counsel and had day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office,” a spokesman for the special counsel’s office confirmed in a statement Tuesday. “He will accompany Special Counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearings, as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.”
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