More Americans trust Mueller than Trump on the Russia investigation

A majority of Americans don't believe Trump's denials when it comes to Russia

Published February 27, 2018 8:24AM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Despite spending nearly a year trying to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, President Donald Trump is still trusted a whole lot less than the man looking into potential connections between his 2016 campaign and the Russian government.

Fifty-eight percent of voters have either a lot of trust or some trust in Mueller's ongoing probe into the Trump-Russia scandal and 57 percent say they have either little or no trust in Trump's denials, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University Poll. Only 28 percent respondents had little or no trust in Mueller and only 36 percent had a lot or some trust for Trump.

This isn't to say that Mueller is particularly popular. The same survey found that Mueller has a 37 percent favorable rating and a 23 percent unfavorable rating, giving him a net positive of 14 points. That said, Trump's favorable rating is slightly lower than Mueller's (34 percent) and his unfavorable rating is more than twice as high (59 percent), giving him a net negative of 25 points.

One possible reason why Mueller is more trusted than Trump is that, prior to his appointment as special counsel, Republicans themselves praised the former FBI director. Former House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, described Mueller as "a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted," according to USA Today. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he would "welcome his role at the Department of Justice" while Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, expressed satisfaction at Mueller's appointment "for bringing in an independent voice to help bring clarity to this situation." Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., perhaps summed up the consensus best when they wrote in a joint statement that Mueller "will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence."

Yet once it became clear that Mueller's probe might actually yield unfavorable conclusions about Trump, many Republicans started changing their tune about him. The most conspicuous example was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who took less than a month to stop liking Mueller after his appointment last year.

It also probably hasn't helped Trump that, while the Mueller investigation has done its best to stay out of the spotlight, Trump has gone out of his way to discredit or end all investigations into his activities with Russia. In May he spent over a week wishing to fire former FBI Director James Comey before doing so due to his concerns about whether Comey was sufficiently loyal. He was also reported to have wanted to fire Mueller but backed off when his aides made it clear that he might not politically survive the blowback.

Either way, the end result is that 75 percent of Americans are taking the recent charges filed by Mueller (and most of them believe they are "very" serious), up from 63 percent in March 2017. As far as most Americans are concerned, Trump still needs to be held accountable for whatever happened between his campaign and Russia in 2016 – and they're not going to let a smear campaign against the man investigating Trump get in the way of that.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Newt Gingrich Robert Mueller