None of the data sites are tracking impeachment polls so there’s no handy list of numbers for me to compare this to. But 29 percent is the weakest support for impeachment I can recall seeing from any major pollster. Less than a week ago, ABC/WaPo found 37 percent in favor of impeachment — another bad number for Democrats and the Resistance, but one that’s nearly 10 points higher than what Quinnipiac’s seeing today.
I’ll say again here what I said in that post: For most of the public, collusion was clearly the whole ballgame as far as Mueller and Russiagate went. If you don’t have POTUS conniving with Putin to try to rig the election then you’ve got nothing. The obstruction material, although sleazy, just isn’t enough to warrant cutting Trump’s term short.
Support for impeachment had been holding steady in Quinnipiac’s surveys at 35 percent in December and March, a figure far too low to convince Democrats to go through with it but a solid base potentially on which they might build if Mueller came back with evidence that Trump had conspired with Russia. Now that the report is in, impeachment is beneath 30 percent.
Indies are at 70 percent opposition. The only subgroups in favor are Democrats and blacks and each is below 60 percent support. Even those numbers are more easily explained by residual default anti-Trumpism than some sharp new concerns about POTUS raised in the Mueller report. Worse yet for lefties, when Americans are asked whether Congress should at least continue to investigate Trump with an eye to potentially impeaching him, a majority is against that idea too — 47/51, with independents split at 45/53. Most people seem to be done with Russiagate.
And they don’t appear to be under any mistaken impressions about what Mueller found. A majority of 51/38 say correctly that Mueller did *not* clear Trump of all wrongdoing, the president’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding. When asked whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation, the answer is a pretty solid yes:
Democrats have spent the past 48 hours insisting that Bill Barr gamed public opinion for Trump in his summary by declaring that POTUS didn’t obstruct justice. If that was his intent, he obviously did a poor job. The 54/42 split here is in line with the results to this same question in many previous polls, suggesting that Barr’s verdict didn’t do much to dissuade people who already suspected Trump of obstruction. (Clearly Mueller’s detailed findings on obstruction didn’t do much to persuade them either.) The ABC/WaPo poll this week that found support for impeachment at 37 percent also found a plurality of Americans saying that Trump obstructed justice, further proof that it’s not any belief about Trump’s alleged innocence on obstruction that’s driving opposition to impeaching him. On the contrary, in response to another question from Quinnipiac, 57 percent (including 60 percent of independents) said they believe he committed crimes *before* becoming president. People think he’s a shady character. Just not shady enough to justify tossing him out of office.
If there’s any remaining impulse by Pelosi and Schumer to pursue impeachment after all that, this should get rid of it:
It’s one thing to do something unpopular like impeaching Trump if you’re enacting popular policies otherwise. It’s another thing to do it if most people would consider it a form of dereliction of duty by shirking more important work, of which there’s already anecdotal evidence. There’s just no way reluctant congressional Democrats are going to pursue impeachment, at this point probably even if Bob Mueller were to come before them and state explicitly that he viewed his obstruction findings as an impeachment referral to Congress. That’s the only thing that could conceivably force their hand, but with the polling this bad, even that’s likely not enough to build majority support for getting rid of Trump.
Still, Pelosi has an angry Trump-hating base to appease. What do you do if your own supporters are hungry for impeachment but the polls are telling you that going after Trump would backfire politically? Well, you might … try impeaching one of his deputies instead.
Democrats are rightly concerned about the optics of impeaching Donald Trump. “There’s a valid strategic theory among Democrats that a presidential impeachment, particularly one that fails to convict in the Senate, aids the re-election of President Trump,” Steve Israel, the former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told me. With just 39 percent of Americans in favor of impeaching Trump, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, the fear is that Democrats will appear overzealous—just as Republicans did in 1998 when impeaching Bill Clinton.
Impeaching the attorney general, on the other hand, could be a creative way for Democratic leadership to placate the progressive and activist wings of the party. Because Barr is a lower-value target, Democrats argue, impeaching him would come with fewer risks. Still, Israel cautioned, Democrats must tread carefully to avoid being labeled the “the impeachment party.” “What’s revealed at [a Barr] impeachment trial may actually increase the pressure to go higher,” he said. “For some, he could be the appetizer to the main course. Which is why impeachment as a political strategy instead of a constitutional imperative is a bad idea.”
They could scapegoat Barr for Mueller’s failure to deliver Trump on a silver platter. Barr’s earned a lot of brownie points on the right over the last few weeks but he’s not some core MAGA figure from 2016 whose impeachment might energize Republican voters. House Dems could impeach him for “lying” or for not releasing Mueller’s executive summaries when Mueller requested that he do so (Mueller’s testimony would be useful to this effort), trust that Barr would easily win a removal vote in the Senate, and expect that MAGA Nation won’t be too angry or motivated to vote by the process since, after all, Barr isn’t Trump and he won’t end up losing his job in the end. Think of it as a “token impeachment.” Wouldn’t surprise me if Democrats strongly consider it, especially if Mueller has something disparaging to say about Barr when he finally testifies.