Trump’s War On Mueller Is Backfiring And Splintering The Republican Base

Recent polls indicate the majority of Americans don't believe Trump's attacks on Mueller, and it's taking a toll on Republican voters.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP)

The Story: A new ABC/Washington Post poll found that Trump’s disapproval rating has hit a new high, while the approval for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to rise, hitting 63%.

The poll had some other noteworthy findings, all indicating that Trump’s disinformation campaign against Mueller isn’t working.

Another notable finding in this poll is the fact that only 78% of Republicans support Trump. That’s below the 80% Trump has maintained for most of his presidency and the almost 90% he’s maintained in recent months. The poll also showed that there is a good percentage of Republicans that support the Mueller investigation.

This poll was conducted between August 26 to 29, right after the week Trump’s former personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to felony counts that implicated President Trump and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of 8 felony counts.

This comes after an AP poll taken the previous week found Trump’s approval on the downswing, and his “strongly approve” numbers hitting significant lows.

The Context: From their false FISA surveillance scandal to their hearing with FBI Agent Peter Strzork to the effort to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump, House Republicans, and conservative media have long endeavored to undermine the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (which the President is a subject of). This effort has expanded into a broad initiative to discredit the DOJ, FBI, and the U.S. Intelligence Community as a whole.

The approach President Trump has had towards the investigation has always been a PR strategy, not a legal one. It’s an argument for the base so that in the event of impeachment from a post-2018 Democratic House, GOP Senators won’t vote to remove him from office. It appears this approach is actually splintering the Republican base.

The Analysis: President Trump’s war on the Department of Justice and Special Counsel Robert Mueller has become a centerpiece of his political platform. Trump spends more time bashing the Mueller investigation than he does promoting his policy agenda. We now have a couple polls that tell a similar story. There was already evidence that indicates the Republican Party itself is shrinking, and now we have evidence that Trump’s base is shrinking down to his most staunch supporters. The aforementioned polls show that Trump’s attacks on Mueller are creating a litmus test: if you still support Trump, it means you’re effectively anti-Mueller.

If you do the math, the Republicans who oppose Mueller’s probe are almost in line with “strongly approve” numbers. Looking at the AP poll, that 18% that strongly approves of Trump within that 38% who approve, makes up about 47% of his support. This new ABC/WaPo poll found that 61% of Republicans oppose Mueller’s investigation, and 32% support it. What the polls are beginning to show is that the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump remains low and those who support Mueller’s probe also tend to not support Trump. This wasn’t always the case. This swing in polls might have been triggered by President Trump’s mid-July Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which took place right after Russians were indicted for their attack on American democracy. Not only did the American people have a chance to see Trump’s capitulation to Putin with their own eyes, there was a stark shift in media coverage in its aftermath.

President Trump has drawn a line in the sand: either you’re with him or you’re with Robert Mueller. It’s beginning to look like his strategy is backfiring spectacularly, just as people are tuning in ahead of the midterms. Not only is Trump galvanizing Democrats, he’s putting his supporters in a tough position as the evidence of his potential crimes mount. One can only assume that this will only get worse for President Trump, as we anxiously wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conspiracy and obstruction of justice reports to drop.

Opinion // Donald Trump / Republican Party / Robert Mueller / Russia Investigation