Op-Ed

‘No one’ cares about the Russia probe? That’s fake news

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders underplayed significance of the Russia investigation.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders underplayed significance of the Russia investigation. Getty Images

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump will not address the ongoing investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia because no Americans care about the issue.

At Monday’s White House briefing, Sanders said:

“We spend more time on that than we do any other topic despite the fact that time and time again, poll after poll says that frankly no one cares about this issue, and it’s certainly not the thing that keeps people up at night.”

Sanders did not cite a poll showing that “no one” cares about the Russia investigation. The likelihood of a reliable poll existing with results showing that zero people care about the Russia investigation is highly unlikely.

And it was also surprising, if not inconsistent, to see Sanders point to polls as proof that Americans don’t care about the Russia probe despite how often Trump surrogates dismiss polls when they do not paint the Trump White House in a favorable light.

When asked last fall about Trump’s constantly low approval ratings in a Fox News poll, Sanders said:

“The numbers that we’re focused on are the ones that actually impact day-to-day life for all Americans. That’s what we’re focused on, certainly not silly polls that frankly weren’t much use to us in the election and certainly I don’t think are now.”

What is of much use now is a recent Washington Post-ABC poll showing just how interested the American people are in the Russia investigation.

The poll found that nearly half — 49 percent — of Americans believe Trump tried to interfere with the Russia investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice. And about a quarter — 26 percent — of Americans believe there is “strong evidence” supporting their belief.

Half of Americans believe the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, according to the poll.

That’s not quite “no one.”

The poll was released the week The Washington Post confirmed that Trump wanted to fire Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe, in June after news reports that the special counsel was investigating potential obstruction of justice. The president only backed off after White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign in protest.

Those more likely to agree with Sanders may assume that these Americans are among those who voted against Trump in 2016 or disapprove of his current job performance.

But sizable percentages of the demographic groups that helped elect Trump think his campaign colluded with Russia, including:

▪ More than a quarter — 27 percent — of Americans who identify as “conservative.”

▪ More than one in 10 — 13 percent — of Republicans, and nearly one in five — 19 percent — of those who lean Republican.

▪ More than a third — 36 percent — of white non-college Americans.

▪ More than four in 10 — 43 percent — of Americans 65 and older believe Trump interfered.

▪ More than a third — 36 percent — of white men believe he interfered.

One of the reasons so many Americans want to know about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election is because there is concern from both sides of the aisle that Russia could interfere in future elections. Also, a high rate of disapproval for Trump’s job performance among the majority of Americans could be connected to concerns about the integrity of the president’s campaign.

While there may be consensus in the White House that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, they have some work to do to convince millions of Americans that there was no interaction between Trump’s team and the team of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Eugene Scott writes about identity politics for The Fix. He previously was a breaking-news reporter at CNN Politics.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post

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