Mueller Asks for Aide to Appear as Witness During Hearings

WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III has asked that his longtime right-hand aide be sworn in as a witness during Wednesday’s hearing with the House Judiciary Committee about the special counsel’s investigation, according to congressional officials familiar with the request.

Democrats have yet to agree to the request, and Mr. Mueller is the only witness listed for the hearing, according to a committee spokesman. It was unclear if Mr. Mueller had made a similar request to the House Intelligence Committee, the panel holding the second of two highly anticipated hearings on Wednesday where Mr. Mueller is scheduled to testify.

If the aide, Aaron Zebley, were to take an oath to testify, he could be questioned by lawmakers on the panel, taking pressure off Mr. Mueller to respond to questions he may not be able or want to answer. But his presence would upend carefully laid plans by Democrats and Republicans over how to use their scant time with Mr. Mueller, a reluctant witness known for his concision while under oath.

There could be other consequences, too. Under House rules, the arrangement could disqualify Mr. Zebley from privately conferring with Mr. Mueller during the hearing — a role he could play if he were not sworn in.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller did not immediately comment and the congressional officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations, did not specify whether Mr. Mueller or his team explained the request.

Mr. Zebley has worked closely with Mr. Mueller for years. He worked alongside Mr. Mueller during his 22-month investigation, served as his chief of staff when Mr. Mueller was F.B.I. director and followed him into private practice at the WilmerHale law firm. He filled a similar role on the special counsel’s team, coordinating the team and serving as a go-between with the Justice Department.

The two panels had previously expected to talk to Mr. Zebley and another former member of the special counsel’s team, James L. Quarles III, in private sessions after the public hearings. But those meetings were canceled after the Justice Department objected.

Republicans quickly decried the possibility that Mr. Zebley could appear in public.

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the last-minute addition of a witness could violate House rules. He called on Democrats to reject the request.

“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,” he said.

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