Confusion Bubbles Up About Role Of Mueller Aide In Capitol Hill Testimony

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13:  Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 13, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the oversight of the FBI.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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With Special Counsel Robert Mueller set to testify before Congress on Wednesday, there is now confusion over whether or not a longtime aide of his will testify alongside him as well.

On Tuesday, conflicting reports surfaced about Aaron Zebley, an attorney who worked as Mueller’s chief of staff at the FBI and who worked on the special counsel team.

The confusion began Tuesday morning when Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee — before which Mueller is scheduled to testify — put out a statement accusing Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) of trying to sneak in an extra witness at the last minute.

“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,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) 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.”

Hours later, a New York Times congressional reporter published a story saying that Mueller had asked the House Judiciary Committee to allow Zebley to testify before the committee as a witness.

“If the aide, Aaron Zebley, were to take an oath to testify, he could be questioned by lawmakers on the panel,” the story reads. “But under House rules, the arrangement could disqualify him from privately conferring with Mr. Mueller during the hearing — a role he could play if he were not sworn in.”

Other reports, issued after the New York Times story, suggest that Zebley will remain in a silent role.

CNN reported that Zebley would appear next to Mueller as a counsel at the hearing, citing a source on the House Judiciary Committee. Politico similarly reported that Zebley would appear as Mueller’s counsel at the hearing.

Two Mueller aides have already cancelled plans to testify with the special counsel amid pressure from DOJ officials, the Washington Post reported. The DOJ also “objects” to Zebley’s potential appearance, the story indicates.

Mueller is also set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. It’s unclear if there are discussions around Zebley appearing for that hearing as well.

The former special counsel hired a spokesman to represent him in press inquiries about his testimony. But even Jim Popkin, the representative, did not quite clarify things further for TPM.

Popkin told TPM that, “Aaron Zebley was the Deputy Special Counsel and had day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office. He will accompany Special Counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearings, as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.” It is not clear whether Zebley will appear as a counsel or as a witness.

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