President Donald Trump has relied on repeated lies (e.g., a spy was on his campaign), catchphrases (“no collusion”) and media attacks in an attempt to defuse the Russia investigation. It’s not working, and one can conclude a good deal of the reason has to do with his own obsequious performance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The latest Quinnipiac poll reports:
“American voters believe 51 - 35 percent ‘that the Russian government has compromising information about President Trump.’ … The Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was a failure for the U.S., voters say 52 - 27 percent. The summit was a success for Russia, voters say 73 - 8 percent. Trump was not acting in the best interest of the U.S., voters say 54 - 41 percent… . A total of 68 percent of American voters are ‘very concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about President Trump’s relationship with Russia, while 32 percent are ‘not so concerned’ or ‘not concerned at all.’ “
It is very telling that voters overwhelmingly trust our intelligence community over Trump (63 percent to 25 percent) and think he is too friendly with Russia (55 percent vs. 37 percent who say he’s about right - and only 1 percent thinking he is not friendly enough!). The public is very much supportive of our allies (88 percent) and NATO specifically (78 percent). Fifty-five percent of voters have figured out Russia is an adversary, and only 5 percent think it’s an ally. (Thirty-seven percent say neither.) In addition, 66 percent don’t believe Trump’s excuse that he misspoke about Russian interference, 60 percent think it was a bad idea for Trump to meet alone with Putin, and 54 percent think he is weak on Russia.
On the investigation itself, the picture is much more mixed, but Trump’s efforts to discredit the probe and smear law enforcement seem to have failed:
“Trump did not collude with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election, American voters say 48 - 39 percent. But voters are divided on whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, as 46 percent say it did and 44 percent say it did not.
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a fair investigation into possible collusion, voters say 55 - 31 percent.
“This investigation is ‘legitimate,’ 54 percent of voters say, while 40 percent say it is a ‘witch hunt.’
“A total of 63 percent of voters are ‘very concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ that the Russian government may try to interfere in the 2018 elections, as 36 percent are ‘not so concerned’ or ‘not concerned at all.’ “
Trump’s overall job approval is down to 38 percent (lower than in many other polls), which one might expect if voters think he’s letting Russia call the tune.
As we have come to expect, Republicans, unlike virtually every other segment of the electorate, stick by him no matter what the question (e.g., Mueller’s fairness, Trump’s Helsinki performance). However, Republicans should be concerned how his overall performance is views by independents (32 percent approve to 61 percent who disapprove), women (31 percent to 64 percent) and college-educated voters (36 percent to 61 percent).
Given these results and the dismal GOP numbers heading into the midterm elections, it is no wonder Trump is now crazily suggesting the Russians will interfere on behalf of Democrats. That raises the question as to why he’s been so lax in defending our election system, but more to the point it should serve as a warning signal that Trump might claim the 2018 midterm results are illegitimate.
The good news here is that by large majorities the American people haven’t been snookered by Trump’s pro-Putin propaganda. The bad news is that Republicans have - raising the question as to whether the country should trust them with government oversight, national security and/or foreign policy. Voters who want a president who is strong on Russia, defends American interests and sticks by allies will have to look elsewhere in 2020.
Jennifer Rubin is a columnist with The Washington Post.