It seems, in retrospect, almost inevitable that America would take from the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III exactly what it wanted to. We’ve repeatedly pointed to a poll released by Fox News prior to the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation showing that most Americans didn’t expect the results of that investigation to change their minds about President Trump and — admittedly with details still withheld — there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that many minds were changed.
The Associated Press and their polling partners at NORC offered a remarkable bit of data showing how Mueller’s probe looks to Americans in this brief window between its conclusion and our knowing what it says. Over the course of much of the past two years, Democrats have held consistently higher confidence in Mueller’s work. With the release of the letter from Attorney General William P. Barr last month, though, in which Barr suggests that Trump was largely cleared of the most serious allegations against him, views of Mueller’s probe converged.
The more remarkable finding in that AP-NORC poll is something that didn’t change. From March 2017 — before Mueller’s work began — through April of this year, views of whether Trump or his team had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government have essentially been set in stone.
For all that we’ve learned about over the past two years, American views of the Trump campaign’s behavior on this metric remains fixed.
It will be interesting to see how the release of the full (albeit redacted) Mueller report affects partisan views of Mueller’s work. There appears to be broad consensus that the report should be made public and consensus generally that Congress should get access to a version without redactions. (They aren’t.)
Most Republicans think Congress should see only a redacted version, but a third agree with the overall majority that Congress should see the whole thing.
Why? Because Republicans are confident that Mueller showed exactly what Trump has been saying, just as Democrats remain confident that Trump’s culpability runs much deeper than he’d admit.
What we know about the Mueller probe so far hasn’t moved those opinions. We keep speculating that something else might, that the full Mueller report or some other new information coming to light might push Democrats toward a more generous view of the president or Republicans to a more skeptical one.
Why we keep thinking that’s likely is a mystery in and of itself.