In other words, welcome to 1998. A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC shows that Americans still aren’t sold on impeaching of Donald Trump. Voters approve of investigations by Congress into the 2016 election and the White House, but strong skepticism exists that the House can do so without overreaching.
Whatever you do, don’t tell Tom Steyer:
The American people have mixed feelings about investigating President Trump, with clear majorities wanting newly empowered Democrats to dig into his personal finances and foreign ties but most believing that Congress should not begin impeachment proceedings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. …
Six in 10 adults support the party using its congressional authority to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns, the survey shows. Similar majorities support Democrats investigating suspected financial ties between Trump and foreign governments, the president’s relationship and communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as possible collusion in the 2016 campaign.
And yet a 46 percent plurality suspect Democrats will “go too far” in their inquiries of Trump, while just over one-third think they will handle it about right.
The trend on impeachment has moved in Trump’s direction, by the way, despite Steyer’s multimillion-dollar campaign. Last August, the result was a 49/46 plurality in support of impeachment proceedings beginning in the House. In just five months, that has flipped 18 points in the gap in this series.
Today’s results pretty much mirror the experience of 1998, when Republicans attempted to impeach Bill Clinton on grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from a civil suit. Voters were disgusted by Clinton’s behavior, but Republicans overplayed their hand in the end. Independent prosecutor Ken Starr was widely seen as having overreached in his report, although no one actually doubted the perjury and obstruction of justice allegations; Clinton had to settle those by writing a big check and losing his law license for several years. When removal went nowhere in the Senate, voters punished the GOP in the midterms, dealing them an unexpected setback and giving Clinton new political momentum in his final two years in office.
They’re almost equally cynical about Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe now. Once burned, twice shy:
Half of Americans report they have “just some” confidence or none at all that the Mueller report will be fair and evenhanded, and 43 percent say they have at least a good amount of confidence in its fairness.
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. The poll was taken before Roger Stone’s dramatic arrest and indictment, but after Mueller publicly contradicted a Buzzfeed report that claimed Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. That demonstration of fairness apparently didn’t make much of a dent in the public consciousness. Almost a third of Democrats (32%) express little to no confidence in Mueller’s investigation, which increases to 53% with independents and 70% with Republicans.
Again, this likely reflects a long history of embarrassing failures by special counsels and independent prosecutors prior to Mueller. It might also reflect the fact that Mueller, while racking up indictments on process crimes and old-news corruption involving Paul Manafort, has yet to produce any indictment that speaks at all to the core Russia-collusion hypothesis of the 2016 election. After nearly two years, Americans want to, ahem, MoveOn and get back to business. They’re tiring of impeachment talk and unending and unproductive investigations — and with the presidential election cycle now starting, many will lose even more interest in outside intervention when voters can have their own say in the matter.
Addendum: Support for the border wall is unchanged from two weeks ago, 42/54. That’s still a high-water mark for support over the past two-plus years, and the lowest level of opposition. A year ago in this polling series, support was 34/63. A strong majority (54%) believe that the US is doing too little to prevent illegal immigration, with only 24% believing that we are doing the right amount. Republicans score ten points higher on voter trust on this issue, too, 49/39. That’s something to watch in the current budget negotiations.