Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
A month ago, Vice President Mike Pence called on special counsel Robert Mueller to wind up his investigation. Considering that Mueller has been on the job for a year, after picking up an investigation that was already at least ten months old, and has yet to produce anything other that some bullsh** process crimes, the indictment of thirteen Russians who might not exist, the indictment of one Russian company that did not exist during the 2016 campaign, the indictment of another Russians company that is kicking his ass in court, and prosecuting Paul Manafort on financial crimes that had been investigated a decade earlier and which the Justice Department had elected to not prosecute, that seemed like an eminently reasonable idea:
“You know, our administration has been fully cooperating with the special counsel and we’ll continue to. What I think is that it’s been about a year since this investigation began,” the vice president told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “We’ve fully cooperated in it and in the interest of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up. And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”
At the time I noted a CBS poll that showed 53% of Americans believed that Mueller’s investigation was politically motivated:
A Politico/Morning Consult poll out today, shows the same:
Months of sustained conservative attacks led by President Donald Trump and his allies has harmed Mueller most among Republicans, with a record 53 percent now saying they view the lead Russia investigator in an unfavorable light. That’s a 26-point spike since July, when the poll first started asking voters whether they viewed Mueller favorably or unfavorably.
Mueller’s unfavorable numbers have hit highs among both Democrats and independents, at 24 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Thirty-six percent of all registered voters are also seeing Mueller unfavorably, which represents the highest level since the polling first raised the topic 11 months ago. Back then, 23 percent of all voters said they viewed Mueller negatively.
“Robert Mueller’s disapproval rating is at its highest point since Morning Consult and Politico began tracking the Special Counsel,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s managing director. “A key driver of this movement appears to be Republicans. Today, 53 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable impression of Robert Mueller, compared to just 27 percent who said the same in July 2017.”
Voters interviewed for the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll also have changed direction on whether they think the Mueller investigation has been on the up and up. In the latest survey, 40 percent of voters said it had been handled unfairly, compared to early February when 34 percent said the probe wasn’t being handled fairly. The percentage saying the investigation was being done fairly remained unchanged from February at 38 percent.
And members of Congress are keenly aware of what is going on in the public and in particular with the GOP electorate:
Republican Sen. John Thune says special counsel Robert Mueller should “start winding this down.” Speaker Paul Ryan says “we want to see this thing come to its conclusion.” And House Majority Whip Steve Scalise says he fears Mueller’s probe is “becoming a witch hunt.”
A growing number of Republicans in senior leadership positions, who all profess that Mueller should have no artificial deadline for his Russia influence probe, have also begun to sprinkle in another suggestion: It’s time to wrap it up.
“Wrap it up” has become the message of choice for lawmakers trying to straddle the line. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) sent the message shortly after Thune spoke to Fox News, telling CNN that “I’d like to see them wrap it up.” And the GOP’s Missouri Senate nominee, Josh Hawley, followed suit last week in urging Mueller to “wrap it up and present his evidence.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Mueller protection bill won’t reach the floor and that the special counsel isn’t in danger of being axed by the president…
“Let them walk through their investigation. But I think, if there is no collusion, it’s time to wind this down,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s looking to succeed Ryan next year, told CNN last week.
All of this is important when considering the viability of Mueller’s continued help-the-democrats-win-the-House effort. The only number in the polling that really matters is what the feeling on Mueller is in the GOP electorate. With a majority of Republicans now saying that Mueller’s time is past, he stops being untouchable. If the disapproval number ever get’s close to 60%, Mueller is toast. In fact, given the disapproval numbers, the “unfair” number, and the ambivalence of Congress to Mueller, I think Trump could very well pardon Mike Flynn. If Mueller succeeds in revoking Manafort’s bond on Friday, I think the chance of a pardon there goes sky high.
Mueller needs to focus on answering the key question in his charter: did the Trump campaign actively collude with the Russian government in order to win the 2016 campaign. He should hand off his outstanding jaywalking tickets to other prosecutors, shut up shop, and head for the beach.
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