Most Americans aren’t ready to clear President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation, with a new poll showing slightly more want Congress to keep investigating after a special counsel’s report left open the question of whether he broke the law. A redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report is expected to be released Thursday.
About 6 in 10 continue to believe the president obstructed justice, according to poll released Wednesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The poll also finds greater GOP confidence in the investigation after Attorney General William Barr in late March released his letter saying Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but didn’t make a judgment on the obstruction question.
At the same time, the poll indicates that Americans are mostly unhappy with the amount of information that has been released so far from the nearly 400-page report.
Trump has repeatedly claimed “total exoneration,” after Barr asserted in his memo that there was insufficient evidence for an obstruction prosecution.
“It’s a total phony,” Trump said of all allegations to Minneapolis TV station KSTP this week. “Any aspect of that report, I hope it does come out because there was no collusion, whatsoever, no collusion. There was no obstruction, because that was ruled by the attorney general.”
Overall, 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, roughly unchanged from mid-March, before Mueller completed his two-year investigation.
But many Americans still have questions.
“It’s kind of hard to believe what the president says as far as exoneration,” said James Brown, 77, of Philadelphia, who doesn’t affiliate with either party but says his political views lean conservative. “And in my mind the attorney general is a Trump person, so he’s not going to do anything against Trump.”
The poll shows 35 percent of Americans think that Trump did something illegal related to Russia — largely unchanged since the earlier poll. An additional 34 percent think he’s done something unethical.
Brown says he remains extremely concerned about possible inappropriate contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, citing Trump’s past interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, and believes the president committed crimes of obstruction to cover up financial interests. “He’s not going to jeopardize his pocketbook for anything,” he said.
Still, the poll suggests Barr’s summary helped allay some lingering doubts within the GOP. Among Republicans, more now say Trump did nothing wrong at all (65 percent vs. 55 percent a month ago) and fewer say he did something unethical (27 percent, down from 37).
Glen Sebring, 56, of Chico, California, said he thinks the nation should put the Russia investigations to rest after reading Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. The moderate Republican credits Trump with helping to “double the money” he’s now earning due to an improving economy and says Congress should spend more time on issues such as lowering health care costs.
“It’s like beating a dead horse,” Sebring said. “We’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.”
Even as Trump blasts the Mueller probe as a Democratic witch hunt, poll respondents expressed more confidence that the investigation was impartial. The growing confidence since March was driven by Republicans: Three-quarters now say they are at least moderately confident in the probe, and 38 percent are very or extremely confident, up from 46 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in March. Among Democrats, about 70 percent are at least moderately confident, down slightly from a month ago, and 45 percent are very or extremely confident.
Still, majorities of Americans say they believe the Justice Department has shared too few details so far with both the public (61 percent) and Congress (55 percent). About a third think the department has shared too little with the White House, which has argued that portions of the report should be kept confidential if they involve private conversations of the president subject to executive privilege.
Democrats have been calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.
The poll shows that even with the Mueller probe complete, 53 percent say Congress should continue to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia, while 45 percent say Congress should not. A similar percentage, 53 percent, say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia.
“We don’t even know what we found yet in the probe. Until we do, Congress should definitely continue to push this issue,” said Tina Perales, a 35-year old small business owner in Norton, Ohio, who describes herself as Republican. “That little letter Barr sent out summarizing the report I think was completely BS. This Mueller thing is hundreds of pages, and he just sums it up like this? These things just don’t add up.”
Deep partisan divisions remain.
Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to believe Trump had done something improper and to support continued investigations that could lead to his removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has downplayed the likelihood of impeachment proceedings but isn’t closing the door entirely if there are significant findings of Trump misconduct.
On investigations, 84 percent of Democrats believe lawmakers shouldn’t let up in scrutinizing Trump’s ties to Russia, but the same share of Republicans disagrees. Similarly, 83 percent of Democrats say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia, while 82 percent of Republicans say Congress should not.