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Americans support investigating Trump, but many are skeptical that inquiries will be fair, new poll finds

The American people have mixed feelings about investigating President Trump, with clear majorities wanting newly empowered Democrats to dig into his personal finances and foreign ties but most believing that Congress should not begin impeachment proceedings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The public’s cautiousness extends to its expectations for the forthcoming report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has been examining ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Half of Americans report they have “just some” confidence or none at all that the Mueller report will be fair and evenhanded, and 43 percent say they have at least a good amount of confidence in its fairness.

[Read full poll results | How the poll was conducted ]

The survey was conducted Monday to Thursday, the day before Mueller’s team unveiled criminal charges against longtime Trump friend Roger Stone, accusing the political operative of lying, obstruction and witness tampering.

The poll results underscore the complex calculation ahead for Democrats and their new House leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), as they balance calls from core supporters to aggressively investigate and possibly even impeach Trump against the potential political backlash from other voters.

The impeachment question has gained attention in the days since the Democrats’ House majority was sworn in, with party leaders insisting they will wait to consider their options until after Mueller finishes his work and Trump declaring, “You can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job.”

Six in 10 adults support the party using its congressional authority to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns, the survey shows. Similar majorities support Democrats investigating suspected financial ties between Trump and foreign governments, the president’s relationship and communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as possible collusion in the 2016 campaign.

And yet a 46 percent plurality suspect Democrats will “go too far” in their inquiries of Trump, while just over one-third think they will handle it about right.

Meanwhile, public support for impeachment has dropped in recent months, the poll shows.

In the August Post-ABC poll, conducted immediately after Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other charges and personally implicated Trump in some of his acts, 49 percent said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Trump being removed from office, while 46 percent said Congress should not.

In the new survey, a smaller 40 percent support impeachment proceedings, while a 55 percent majority oppose them.

Partisans have long held sharply different views of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but the new Post-ABC poll shows many Democrats are uncertain about the special counsel’s final report. Just over 6 in 10 Democrats say they are confident the report will be fair and evenhanded, while slightly more than 3 in 10 report “just some” confidence or less.

Among self-identified independents, 40 percent are confident Mueller’s final report will be fair, while 53 percent express less faith. Confidence drops to 22 percent among Republicans.

It is not clear whether the public’s wariness toward Mueller’s forthcoming report reflects skepticism in the special counsel himself, anticipation of its findings or the nature of its release. A poll this month by the Pew Research Center found 55 percent of adults saying they are “very” or “somewhat” confident Mueller is conducting a fair investigation, attitudes consistent with surveys since late 2017.

The timeline for Mueller finishing his report is unknown, and it is uncertain how much of the report will be made public. Trump’s attorney general nominee, William P. Barr, told senators during his confirmation hearing earlier this month that he would release a summary of the report but that he did not know “what will be release-able” given department regulations.

In Congress, the poll shows House Democrats garner majority support from fellow partisans and independents for investigating possible collusion with Russia in 2016, as well as suspected financial ties between Trump and foreign governments. Roughly 8 in 10 Democrats and about 6 in 10 independents support Democrats probing Trump’s relationship with Putin, which has come under increased scrutiny following a Washington Post report that Trump concealed details of their face-to-face meetings.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans oppose Democrats investigating possible collusion, while nearly two-thirds oppose investigating Trump’s relationship with Putin and suspected financial ties with foreign governments. Roughly one-third of Republicans, however, support investigations on these latter issues.

Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns in line with the tradition of modern presidential candidates was widely unpopular during the 2016 presidential campaign, and the Post-ABC poll shows support for Democrats enforcing that norm. By 60 percent to 35 percent, more say Democrats should use their congressional authority to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns.

In their first week in control of the House, Democrats unveiled a bill requiring presidential candidates to release 10 years of tax returns and mandating more transparency for inaugural and transition committees, a law that would apply to Trump in a reelection run. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the idea was effectively dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Democrats may have difficulty balancing pressure for aggressive investigations and perhaps impeachment of Trump from their party’s base with the need to avoid alienating independent voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

A 64 percent majority of Democrats support Congress beginning impeachment proceedings against Trump — 55 percent support this “strongly.” Among political independents, a 45 percent plurality think Democrats will go too far investigating Trump, more than the 34 percent who think they will handle this about right, and 18 percent believe they will not go far enough.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 21-24 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, with 65 percent reached on cellphones and 35 percent on landlines. Overall results have a 3.5-percentage-point margin of sampling error for the full sample.