A majority of Americans — 59 percent — say in a new survey that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the 2016 campaign has not yet uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though in reality, Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments.
That’s according to a new survey from Navigator Research that looks at Americans’ view of the probe and ought to reshape the debate over the Russia investigation’s role in both media coverage and Democratic Party messaging.
To be as clear about this as possible, Mueller’s investigation has absolutely uncovered evidence of crimes:
- Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and a key Trump campaign surrogate, pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators in December.
- Rick Gates, a top aide on the Trump campaign and a longtime business partner of Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to false statements and one count of conspiracy.
- George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, pleaded guilty to false statements.
- Alexander van der Zwaan, a London-based Dutch attorney, pleaded guilty to making false statements about his contacts with Gates and an unnamed Ukrainian.
- 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies have been indicted on conspiracy charges, and some on identity theft charges, related to Russian social media and hacking efforts.
- Richard Pinedo, a California resident, has pleaded guilty to an identity theft charge related to the Russian indictments.
- Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair, is facing two separate indictments — one in DC about conspiracy, money laundering, false statements, and failure to disclose foreign assets; and one in Virginia about tax, financial, and bank fraud charges.
One can interpret this pattern of behavior in a few ways. One is that Mueller is steadily putting in place the building blocks of a huge, mafia-style takedown that will end with Manafort “flipping” under pressure and new indictments coming against members of Donald Trump’s family and damning evidence about Trump himself. Another would be that when placed under a microscope by an aggressive prosecutor, several Trump aides turn out to have been involved in financial malfeasance only loosely related to the Trump campaign and Trump himself did nothing wrong. But there is definitely evidence of crimes — including some serious ones — by a range of figures, some Russian and some Americans and some working at a very high level in Trumpworld.
Yet despite what most Americans perceive to be a very steady drumbeat of Trump-Russia news, the majority of the public is completely unaware of these critical facts.
That suggests that the press as a whole has not done a good job of actually conveying factual information to our audience, that Democrats’ messaging on the investigation has not been clear enough on the most damning point (Trump, even if otherwise innocent, is guilty of hiring crooks and trying to prevent an investigation into their activity), and that Trump’s counterstrategy of muddying the waters around the investigation has been fairly successful.