Two-thirds of Americans want the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to conclude before the mid-term elections in November.
The CNN poll “comes amid rebounding approval ratings for both President Donald Trump and [special investigator Robert] Mueller for their handling of the investigation, and a growing share of voters who say the investigation will matter to their vote this fall” reports the news channel.
While support for ending the probe before the midterms is likely to be seized upon by the Trump administration as positive proof that public opinion has turned against Mueller, “that is where they would be making a major mistake”, says CNN’s editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.
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“Because if you look at any question in the CNN poll - other than the one about when people want the probe to end - and you see piece after piece of evidence that Trump is losing the public relations war on Russia”.
Of those questioned, 70% believe the president should testify before Mueller, while the former FBI director has enjoyed a sizable bump in the polls, with 47% now saying they approve of his handling of the Russia investigation, up from 41% in June.
However, Mueller is on the clock with 66% saying he should try to complete his investigation by November’s congressional elections, although this percentage is lowest among Democrats, who are more likely to favour giving Mueller the time he needs to complete the probe, reports The Hill.
Unfortunately for the 30% of voters who say its conclusions will be “extremely important” to how they cast their ballot in November, “the Justice Department generally does its best to avoid taking action in such a way that it might influence an election”, says The New York Times.
“Functionally, this means that voters will likely be left to make up their minds about how seriously to take the possibility of collusion without any further guidance from the special counsel’s office”, says the paper.
“In the championship chess match that is the Russia imbroglio, President Trump and the White House are hoping that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has stumbled into what players call ‘time trouble’,” says NPR.
“Mueller, they believe, doesn't want to make any major moves or announcements after Labor Day [3 September], because he's sensitive to criticism that he might improperly influence the midterm election. If that's so, Mueller has roughly three weeks to do whatever he's going to do and then — who knows? Simply go quiet until after Election Day? Or wrap up his inquiry altogether?” says the public broadcaster.
But while the Russia investigation continues to hang over Trump, there was some good news in the CNN poll for the embattled billionaire after he polled higher than one of his predecessors at the same point in their presidency for the very first time.
Trump's overall 42% approval rating outpaces Jimmy Carter's and Bill Clinton's ratings of 39% each in the August of their second year in office, and even narrowly tops Ronald Reagan's 41% rating in August of 1982.
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