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 SchiffTrump whistleblower complaint involves Ukraine: report Democrats to seek ways to compel release of Trump whistleblower complaint Whistleblower complaint based on multiple incidents; watchdog won't disclose info 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 JordanDemocrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' The Hill Interview: Sanford says Trump GOP doing 'serious brand destruction' Trump slams Democrats as 'shameful' after Lewandowski hearing 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 CollinsMcBath passes on running for Senate Leaders of House antitrust investigation to meet with Zuckerberg GOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan 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 NadlerPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime Lewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media 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 TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it 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 MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation 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.