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Collins challenges Muller on collusion and conspiracy findings

Former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday defended the integrity of his Russia investigation during a dramatic congressional hearing and reiterated that he had not cleared President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice or, as the president has said, totally exonerated Trump.

Mueller appeared for eagerly anticipated testimony at the first of two back-to-back congressional hearings that carry high stakes for Trump and Democrats who are split between impeaching him or moving on to the 2020 election.

The former FBI director, who spent 22 months investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and Trump’s conduct, appeared first before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, praised Mueller and said no one, including Trump, is “above the law.”

The committee’s top Republican, Doug Collins, said the facts of the Mueller report are that “Russia meddled in the 2016 election.”

Collins asked Mueller a series of rapid-fire questions on the differences between collusion and conspiracy.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly assailed the inquiry as a “witch hunt” and an attempted “coup,” accused Mueller of having conflicts of interest and called the special counsel’s team of lawyers “thugs” with a Democratic political agenda. Trump is hoping to move beyond the Russia investigation as he runs for re-election in 2020, with a large field of Democratic candidates competing for their party’s nomination to challenge him.

(Production: Kia Johnson)

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