Not that it’s going to influence Bub Mueller one way or the other (nor should it, at least in theory, if we were living in more normal times) but it sounds like the public is quickly reaching the burnout phase when it comes to the Russia, Russia, Russia investigation. The LA Times reports on the results of a new CBS poll showing that a slim majority of Americans now view the investigation as being politically motivated. This is bad news for the Justice Department and, in reality, bad news for the country. The only person it’s really not bad news for is President Trump.
Though the investigation has reached deeper into his inner circle, Trump’s approval ratings lately have ticked slightly higher, despite remaining at historic lows for a president serving during a time of economic growth.
Also, more Americans seem skeptical of the investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign’s possible involvement, according to a CBS News poll conducted this month. A slim majority of 53% said the case is politically motivated, up from 48% in December.
That shift in sentiment mainly owes to growing skepticism among Republicans, reflecting their receptivity to Trump’s repeated attacks on what he calls the Mueller “witch hunt” that are regularly echoed by conservative media. As the president faces a possible subpoena to testify, more Republicans see no reason for him to cooperate with prosecutors. And with the prospect of a long fight ahead, perhaps even a constitutional crisis, Trump’s solidifying of his base would give him the political armor he needs.
The “bad news” I referred to above comes in a couple of forms. In order to be able to do their job effectively, our law enforcement agencies really do need to have the belief and support of the American public. Having their credibility undermined could reasonably be interpreted as the beginnings of a constitutional crisis. And if the public loses faith in the idea that justice truly is blind, well… let’s just say that’s unequivocally a bad thing.
But if the FBI and the special counsel are in such a dire position, they have themselves to blame, at least in part. If there was actually suspicion of a possible crime involving the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 election, why would we even know about it until they had enough information to be ready to start hauling some people in? The entire affair has been leaking like a submarine with a screen door since day one and they’ve allowed the case to be tried in the media without any clue where this road was leading.
By the time Mueller’s team was talking about NDA payments to strippers and business deals which some Trump associates may have entered into before they were even part of the campaign, can you blame people for shrugging their shoulders when the next leak showed up in the New York Times? If Mueller has some big cards to play which we haven’t heard anything about yet, perhaps this situation will change. But with elections approaching fast, the entire Russia investigation is morphing from what Democrats viewed as a golden opportunity into an albatross around their necks. Rich Lowry recently wrote about this at the New York Post, pointing out that a few of the cooler heads in Democratic circles are frantically trying to get their more excitable colleagues to cool their jets a bit.
Many elected Democrats, per Amy Klobuchar, seem to realize that the most politically promising attack against Trump is as a stereotypical Republican plutocrat implementing all the same textbook GOP policies, rather than as a Kremlin tool. But left-wing cable personalities, much of the mainstream press and the Democratic base are much too vested in Russia to ease off, and the amount of attention they devote to it is overwhelming.
The Mueller probe has been covered like it’s a major scandal, with a missing 18 ¹/₂ minutes every other day, when it is only an investigation.
It holds the possibility of uncovering a major scandal — if, that is, one exists. A symptom of the Russia obsession is to consider that a given, when there is not yet any public proof.
As Lowry notes, rushing to attach a “gate” to every new rumor being fed to Trump’s opponents in the mainstream media is having a predictable result. When everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal. And if Mueller doesn’t have any concrete results to deliver, the entire thing is going to be looked at as yet more swamp-related, beltway nonsense. If that happens, both the Justice Department and the public will be poorer for it. And this CBS poll is showing things beginning to tip precisely in that direction.