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Robert Mueller steps into spotlight at Russia probe hearings

Former Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller told lawmakers Wednesday he could not exonerate President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice and that the president’s claims that he had done so in his report are not correct.

Mueller, who previously said his report on the investigation was his testimony, faced congressional hearings Wednesday on his 448-page report.

Mueller is testifying in televised hearings. He released the findings of his two-year Russia probe in the spring.

He disputed Trump’s claim that Mueller was rebuffed in a bid to fill the post of FBI director.

The former special counsel was asked Wednesday if his investigation found the Russian government perceived a benefit if one of the candidates won.

“Yes,” he said.

“And which candidate would that be?” asked Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

“It would be Trump,” Mueller said.

U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) will be among the House Judiciary Committee members to question Mueller.

“I think I’m going to ask him what America wants the answers to,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News a few minutes before the hearings got underway.

Biggs said he read the lengthy report. He said the committee members would be trying not to step on each other’s toes during the questioning, when each member gets five minutes.

“At some point, it’s going to be obvious a lot of important information did not get put in that report,” Biggs said, “… as to how this whole (investigation) started.”

U.S. Reps. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) and Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) are also on the House Judiciary Committee and have the chance to question Mueller.

There are no Arizona members on the House Intelligence Committee, which was slated to question Mueller following the first hearing.

Mueller has warned that he will not stray beyond what’s already been revealed in his report.

The Justice Department has instructed Mueller to stay strictly within those parameters, giving him a formal directive to point to if he faces questions he does not want to answer.

On Tuesday, Democrats on the House judiciary and intelligence committees granted his request to have his top aide in the investigation, Aaron Zebley, sit at the table with him.

Zebley is not expected to be sworn in for questioning by the judiciary panel. But he will be able to answer questions before the intelligence committee, where, a committee aide said, he will be sworn in. The aide was not authorized to discuss the hearing preparations publicly and requested anonymity.

Trump complained Tuesday night about Zebley’s presence, calling him a “Never Trumper” and tweeting: “What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before. VERY UNFAIR, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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