Monday 23 April 2018

President left 'fuming and raging' as the American public put faith in Mueller

Chief investigator Robert Mueller. Photo: Reuters
Chief investigator Robert Mueller. Photo: Reuters

Jennifer Rubin

The latest 'Washington Post'-ABC poll shows that Robert Mueller, for now, enjoys overwhelming support for his investigation.

He also gets high marks for the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and of the adviser Rick Gates.

In even worse news for US President Donald Trump, nearly half (49pc) of Americans surveyed think that he committed a crime.

Mueller receives 58pc approval, and only 28pc disapproval, from Americans. Even among Republicans, nearly four in 10 (38pc) approve.

A plurality of white men without a college degree (44pc to 35pc), a key Trump demographic, approve of Mueller's performance.

By a margin of 51pc to 37pc, Americans do not think Trump is co-operating with the investigation.

Even among Republicans (57pc to 21pc), voters strongly approve (69pc to 17pc) of the indictments for Manafort and Gates.

If the two are betting on pardons, they might think again.

Not only would Democrats, and also quite a few Republicans, see that as blatant obstruction (and possible grounds for impeachment), but voters themselves would likely react very negatively if it were to happen.

In theory, what seemed like a sure bet - "Trump will protect me" - in practice now seems to be looking increasingly unlikely.

(Trump, of course, could not pardon either of them for state crimes, only federal offences.)

Ominously for Trump, Papadopoulos's plea, and the two indictments, suggest to a big majority (53pc) of wrongdoing that goes beyond just these three.

Some 30pc of Republicans agree with this.

Finally, by a margin of 49pc to 44pc, Americans think that Trump has committed a crime.

Republicans, by an 82pc to 14pc margin, think he has not.

Several aspects of the poll stand out.

First, despite the constant heckling from the White House and the onslaught from right-wing media, Mueller's reputation has remained solid.

He has let his work do the talking, avoided any public comment and has not responded to the raft of ridiculous assaults that seems to have been thrown his way.

Those in the Trump universe who thought that they could take him down, as they do with political opponents, were, it seems, kidding themselves.

Second, Trump will find it difficult, if not impossible, to fire Mueller now.

In a face-off between a president with a historically low approval rating, and widely seen as dishonest, and the former FBI director-turned-tight-lipped prosecutor, Trump does not really stand a chance.

Third, Trump's fate, then, is largely out of his hands.

Whatever Mueller finds is likely to carry a great deal of weight with voters (and, in turn, with Congress).

Fourth, Trump's sometimes comical effort to make all of this into a scandal about Hillary Clinton has, predictably, been a colossal failure.

He provides talking points and programming ideas for Fox News, but to little effect.

The regurgitated non-scandals about Clinton's reportedly non-existent involvement with the Uranium One deal, and her campaign's payment for the dossier, matter not one bit to Mueller.

As it turns out, it also matters not much at all to voters.

Trump has finally run into someone he cannot insult or intimidate.

Mueller is also a man whose findings could well doom Trump's presidency, and ensnare his closest advisers, and even family members.

If not for the firing of former FBI director James Comey, none of this was likely to have ever come to pass.

Trump might want to blame those who goaded him on (for example, Jared Kushner), but the decision was his alone.

No wonder he fumes and rages.

Irish Independent

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