Mueller deputy Aaron Zebley will accompany him at House hearings

Former special counsel Robert Mueller will have one of his closest deputies accompanying him for his high-profile testimony on Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees after the panels gave the OK for Aaron Zebley to join as Mueller's counsel.

A Judiciary Committee aide confirmed the change Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before Mueller was slated to appear before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. 

Late Tuesday evening, an Intelligence Committee aide also said Zebley would be accompanying Mueller and would be sworn in at the second hearing Wednesday afternoon.

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Republicans first broadcast the possibility of Zebley’s appearance as a witness Tuesday afternoon on Twitter and elsewhere, claiming his late addition could run afoul of House rules.

Zebley is not expected to testify but will be there to advise his former boss as he faces a deluge of questions from Republicans and Democrats on the special counsel’s 22-month investigation. 

Mueller is scheduled to testify in back-to-back hearings before the Judiciary and Intelligence panels beginning at 8:30 a.m. 

When asked whether Zebley would also join Mueller for the Intelligence Committee’s hearing earlier Tuesday afternoon, Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSupreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote McConnell, White House lawyer huddle on impeachment strategy MORE (D-Calif.) said that he expected Mueller would be joined by someone in the special counsel’s office but that the panel was still discussing “precisely in what capacity that person will appear with him.” 

“I think it is certainly a desire of the special counsel to have one of his team present with him during the hearing. We are in discussions with them about that, and what that would look like, but our intention is that Mueller do the testifying and not have someone else do it for him,” Schiff said at a Center for American Progress event in Washington, D.C.

Mueller spokesman Jim Popkin told The Hill in a statement that Zebley’s appearance had been a matter of discussion with the committees over more than a week of negotiations.

“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," Popkin said.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDemocrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote Democrats object to Meadows passing note to Jordan from dais Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE (R-Ohio), a prominent Judiciary member, first tweeted that it was possible Zebley would also appear at the witness table on Wednesday while blasting Democrats for changing the rules “right before kickoff.”

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsImpeachment obliterates tinges of comity in House Overnight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week Trump invites Judiciary Republicans to gathering after they missed White House party during impeachment markup MORE (Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, also said in a statement it was possible Zebley would testify and criticized Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJudiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers MORE (D-N.Y.), asserting the last-minute change would “jeopardize whether tomorrow's hearing complies with the rules of the House.”

Republicans have not since vocalized objections at Zebley appearing as Mueller’s counsel.

Still, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE lashed out at the developments, tweeting Tuesday evening that it was “unfair” that Zebley be permitted to accompany Mueller.

“Just got back only to hear of a last minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE with his testimony before Congress tomorrow. What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before. VERY UNFAIR, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. A rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.

Zebley was one of Mueller’s closest associates who worked on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference and potential obstruction by President Trump. Zebley previously served as Mueller’s chief of staff at the FBI. 

Zebley is one of two deputies on the special counsel’s team from whom House Democrats had sought closed-door testimony in addition to Mueller’s public appearance. As of last week, the closed-door testimony was off for the House Judiciary Committee, while the House Intelligence Committee was still negotiating with the Justice Department regarding the testimony.  

In recent days, Mueller has been preparing for his testimony with a small group of attorneys from the special counsel’s office at his former law firm of WilmerHale, Popkin told The Hill in an interview Monday evening.  

House Democrats had sought Mueller’s testimony on his investigation for several weeks. Mueller resisted a voluntary appearance before Congress, eventually leading the committees to subpoena him last month. 

Mueller was initially expected to testify on July 17, but his appearance was postponed one week to allow for an additional hour of questioning by the Judiciary panel in exchange for more time for the former special counsel to prepare. 

Updated at 9:35 p.m.