President Trump effectively declared war on James B. Comey six weeks ago when he tweeted suggesting there might be tapes of their White House conversations.
Trump is losing that war.
The big headline on some newly released NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling data is that twice as many Americans believe former FBI director Comey as believe Trump when it comes to their accounts of Comey's firing last month. While 45 percent trust Comey more, just 22 percent trust Trump more, and another 21 percent trust neither. (And 8 percent trust both, which is an interesting/nonsensical position to take!)
Independents are more than 2-to-1 against Trump on this one, with 47 percent believing Comey and just 17 percent believing Trump. And perhaps even worse for Trump, just 50 percent of Republicans say they trust Trump more.
Democrats are notably more united against Trump than Republicans are for Trump; 76 percent of Democrats believe Comey more, in fact. That unity on the Democratic side and lack of unity on the GOP side suggest there are real questions among Republicans about their own party's president. Republicans aren't reflexively lining up behind Trump in this particular case.
Also notably, the number of people who disapprove of Comey's firing has risen from 38 percent in May — before Comey's testimony — to 46 percent today, with just 27 percent approving of his firing. That's again approaching 2-to-1 opposition to what Trump has done.
And Trump's deficits here were not a given. Whatever Boy-Scout image Comey has among political insiders, Americans weren't all that predisposed toward thinking he's great.
As The Post's Philip Bump noted last month, polling conducted before Comey's testimony showed people were in fact quite skeptical of him. A majority of Americans in a Washington Post-ABC News poll had only “some” or no confidence in what he said about the Russia investigation. Only about one-third had at least “a good amount” of faith in him.
The wounds of the 2016 presidential election, in which Comey angered both Republicans and Democrats at separate junctures, seemed to be fresh enough to color his testimony.
And the new NBC/WSJ poll still doesn't suggest Comey is hugely popular. It has 29 percent of Americans saying they have a positive view of him, and 29 percent saying they have a negative one. That's slightly better than last month, when Comey's split was 18/26, but not exactly fantastic.
In other words, Comey's testimony could just as easily have gone sideways on him. Yes, we already knew that Americans don't think Trump is particularly honest — a Quinnipiac poll this month showed they say 59-36 that he's not “honest and trustworthy” — but Comey brought his own baggage to his testimony from his actions during the 2016 election. And partisanship has proven a powerful thing when it comes to Trump keeping his political footing.
But in the Trump-tweet-inspired game of Whom Do You Believe, he just got his answer.
Amber Phillips contributed to this post.