President Donald Trump consistently calls special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 presidential campaign a “witch hunt.” It turns out he holds the minority view.
We know that because of a Washington Post/ABC poll released today that shows 58 percent of Americans approve of the way Mueller is handling the investigation, while 28 percent disapprove. There is a sharp partisan division, with 78 percent of Democrats approving of Mueller’s conduct compared to just 38 percent of Republicans.
But that’s not all. Almost half of Americans — 49 percent — think Trump committed a crime in relation to Russia’s campaign to influence the election’s outcome, while 44 percent think he didn’t. Importantly, only 19 percent of respondents said there is any “solid evidence” to substantiate that Trump committed a crime.
The poll came out three days after Mueller indicted former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates on counts of money laundering and tax fraud — but not collusion with Russia. Hours later, the Mueller team revealed that George Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy aide, had lied about his interactions with Russians during the campaign. Mueller’s team also noted that Papadopoulos is working with the investigation as a “proactive cooperator,” which means he could be providing important information to Mueller’s team.
The poll found a bipartisan consensus about the severity of the Manafort and Gates case, however: 57 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats approve of the charges.
It’s interesting to see these numbers so early on in the investigation. After all, this is only the first week when the probe changed from a matter of politics to a matter of law. It’s possible that Americans will shift opinions as Mueller hands out more indictments and the White House digs in even harder against the probe. But for now it seems the administration’s attempts to discredit the investigation aren’t working.
One thing that seems nearly assured is no matter what happens from here on out, Trump is unlikely to change his mind.
The poll surveyed 714 people from October 30 to November 1, starting the day of the Manafort and Gates indictments. The margin of error is plus/minus 4.5 percentage points.