The Slatest

Who Is Aaron Zebley, Robert Mueller’s Sidekick for Wednesday’s Testimony?

Aaron Zebley and Robert Mueller
Former deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley with former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

As former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress today, he has his top aide Aaron Zebley by his side for advice over the course of the questioning from lawmakers.

Zebley has had a long and distinguished career as an FBI agent and a federal prosecutor. After graduating from the College of William & Mary and University of Virginia School of Law, Zebley was assigned to the FBI’s I-49 squad, which at the time was investigating the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Zebley traveled to South Africa in 1999 to track down suspect Ali Mandela. As journalist Garrett Graff chronicled, Zebley learned that Mandela was not in Cape Town upon arrival, but did inadvertently discover that one of the bombers, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, was hiding out in the city. Zebley and his partner were able to apprehend Mohamed by setting up a sting in a refugee visa renewal office.

Zebley became a key figure in the bureau’s investigation of 9/11, helping to lead a probe into Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the plotters of the attacks. He would later testify in the 2006 trial of Moussaoui, which concluded in a life sentence without parole for the al-Qaida operative.

Zebley left the FBI for a brief time to serve as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia’s National Security and Terrorism Unit. In 2011, then–FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed Zebley to be his chief of staff. When Mueller left the FBI, Zebley went to work as the senior counselor in the Justice Department’s National Security Division and then joined his former boss at the law firm WilmerHale in 2014. At the firm, Zebley assisted Mueller with an investigation into NFL player Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident and with the settlement for Volkswagen’s emissions scandal.

In 2017, Zebley left his job at WilmerHale, which paid $1.4 million per year, to assist Mueller in his role as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. When Zebley joined the team, conservatives cried foul as he had represented Justin Cooper while at WilmerHale. Cooper is a former adviser to Bill Clinton and helped Hillary Clinton set up her infamous private email server. On Tuesday, Trump attacked Mueller’s decision to have Zebley assist him at the hearing:

Zebley has reportedly been helping Mueller prepare for his testimony.