President Richard M. Nixon in 1973; President Trump in January. (Left: AP; right: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) (From left to right: AP; Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/From left to right: AP; Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

President Trump exonerated himself. Attorney General William P. Barr dissembled to protect him. Republicans have practiced willful ignorance to avoid confronting the evidence in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. A clear majority of Americans don’t buy any of it, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Fifty-seven percent (though down from 64 percent in March) think Trump committed crimes before being elected, and 46 percent think he committed crimes since being elected, while 46 percent do not.

There is bad news for those trying to undermine Mueller or set up a credibility contest between Trump and other sources:

Mueller conducted a fair investigation, voters say 72 - 18 percent, including 65 - 25 percent among Republicans.

Voters say 51 - 38 percent that the Mueller Report did not clear President Trump of any wrongdoing.

American voters also say 54 - 42 percent that Trump “attempted to derail or obstruct the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election.” . . .

The news media is an important part of democracy, 66 percent of American voters say, while 23 percent say the media is the "enemy of the people." Republicans say 49 - 36 percent that the news media is the enemy of the people. Every other listed party, gender, education, age and racial group says the media is an important part of democracy.

By 52 - 35 percent, voters trust the media more than Trump to tell the truth about important issues. Republicans trust Trump more than the media 82 - 9 percent. Trusting the media more are Democrats 92 - 2 percent and independent voters 54 - 29 percent. ...

The U.S. Supreme Court is too influenced by politics, voters say 59 - 35 percent. Republicans are divided as 44 percent say the Supreme Court is too influenced by politics and 49 percent say it is not. Every other listed group says the Supreme Court is too influenced by politics.

Voters say 81 - 15 percent that the process of confirming Supreme Court justices is too political. Every listed group agrees by wide margins.

Employers should not be allowed to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or sexual identity, American voters say 92 - 6 percent.

Adding a question to the 2020 U.S. Census asking census participants if they are U.S. citizens is a good idea, American voters say 48 - 33 percent.

It’s odd that only 46 percent think he committed crimes while president, but 54 percent think he obstructed the investigation. Nevertheless, a majority do not approve of his performance (55 percent disapprove, 41 percent approve). The giant gender gap remains (“women disapprove 62 - 34 percent while men are divided, with 48 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving”).

What conclusions can we draw from these numbers?

For starters, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans support impeachment. By a 66 percent to 29 percent margin, they do not want to start impeachment. Other polling shows that more than half of voters say they will never vote for him. (Perhaps more pollsters should start asking voters if they want him to resign or not to run for a second term.)

The polling data also suggest that Trump’s attacks on the media provide no defense beyond his hard-core base. The president can rail all he wants at the news media, but a large majority still don’t like his performance and still won’t vote for him.

The figures also suggest that Barr is in a heap of trouble. It is impossible to believe Republicans will prevent Mueller from testifying. When he does and almost certainly disputes Barr’s version of events (e.g., Mueller did rely on the Office of Legal Counsel memo to avoid a prosecutorial decision. Mueller did not invite Barr to opine on indictment, Mueller was angry about the misleading four-page summary and let Barr know about it), the public is unlikely to side with Barr (and by extension the president). Even if Mueller does not increase the percentage of voters who think Trump is a criminal, Mueller’s testimony could very well be a stake through the heart of Barr’s career. Once the House hears from Mueller, the pressure to impeach Barr for misleading Congress will intensify (especially if Barr defies a subpoena and refuses to testify before the House).

Barr’s impeachment might be not just constitutionally justified, but also politically astute. The proceedings would help educate the public about the report, a Senate trial and/or House hearing with Mueller on the stand will shine a spotlight on the evidence of misconduct Mueller turned up, and Republicans once more will be in the position of defending the indefensible. And finally, the impeachment of an attorney general will underscore the ethos of deceit and lawlessness that permeates the administration. It will put Barr in the company of former attorney general John Mitchell, convicted but not impeached for Watergate crimes, and help vindicate the reputation of the diligent FBI agents and Justice Department attorneys whom Barr and Trump have smeared.

In sum, Democrats running for president should present their own agendas while Congress (at least Democrats) underscore Trump’s mendacity and make an example of a dishonorable attorney general. If voters mean what they tell pollsters, Trump is going to be out of office in two years, whereupon he can be prosecuted based on the road map that Mueller has provided.