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Post-ABC poll: Majority of Americans support Mueller’s probe of Russia, Trump campaign

Special counsel Robert Mueller told the president's lawyers that Trump's a subject in his probe, not a target. The Post's Carol Leonnig explains the difference. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Charles Dharapak/The Washington Post)

A clear majority of Americans support special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged collusion with President Trump’s campaign, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

The results show backing for inquiries into Trump’s orbit on several fronts.

Nearly 7 in 10 adults say they support Mueller’s focus on possible collusion with Russia. Sixty-four percent say they want the special counsel investigating Trump’s business activities. And a 58 percent majority supports investigating alleged payments by Trump associates to silence women who say they had affairs with him.

The broad public mandate for Mueller’s investigation comes as many Trump allies are calling for the president to thwart the special counsel’s work. Trump has considered ousting the Justice Department official overseeing the probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — a move that some Trump associates hope would cripple the inquiry.

Trump this week blasted the Russia investigation as “never ending and corrupt.”

The poll was conducted Sunday to Wednesday, with interviews overlapping the FBI’s Monday raid of the home and office of Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney. Agents seized communications between Cohen and Trump, as well as records related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump. The Cohen inquiry was opened by the Manhattan-based U.S. attorney’s office following a referral from Mueller.

Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations

Mueller was appointed to investigate any links between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as any other matter directly arising from that probe. While Mueller has subpoenaed Trump Organization documents related to business activities in Russia, there has so far been no confirmation that his investigation has expanded to cover Trump business activities that do not relate to Russia. There is also no indication that Mueller’s team is exploring accusations by women about Trump’s personal conduct.

Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey last May has also been probed by Mueller and is receiving renewed attention with the release next week of Comey’s book and several media interviews surrounding its publication.

James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false

The Post-ABC poll finds Americans’ views of Comey include division and indifference, with 3 in 10 seeing him favorably, just over 3 in 10 unfavorably and the rest offering no opinion. But by 48 percent to 32 percent, Comey is seen as more believable than Trump, and adults disapprove of Comey’s firing by a similar margin, though a sizable share chose neither or have no opinion.

Views of Comey’s firing are heavily colored by partisanship.

Almost three-quarters of Democrats, unsurprisingly, disapprove of Trump’s decision to fire Comey, while 70 percent of Republicans approve. Half of independents disapprove of Trump’s action.

Almost half of Democrats, 47 percent, are favorable toward Comey, while most Republicans — 56 percent — are unfavorable toward the former FBI director. Independents are exactly split, 30 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable.

Support for Mueller’s investigation also splits sharply across partisan lines. Over half of Republicans oppose the probing of each subject tested in the survey. A narrow 51 percent majority of Republicans oppose Mueller investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government in 2016, while a larger 62 percent oppose investigation of Trump’s businesses, and 64 percent oppose investigating if there were hush-money payments to Trump’s alleged mistresses.

Democrats are more united, with over 8 in 10 expressing support for Mueller investigating each issue. Independents undergird support for Mueller’s probe, with 7 in 10 saying he should investigate Russian interference, 65 percent saying he should examine Trump’s business activity and 59 percent saying he should probe alleged hush-money payments.

Beyond Mueller’s probe, a narrow 51 percent majority say the question of whether Trump engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct is an important issue, while 46 percent say it’s not. Opinions overall are fairly similar to two decades ago when Post and ABC polls found nearly half saying repeated misconduct was an important issue for President Bill Clinton.

But the partisan balance has flipped. The share of Republicans saying sexual misconduct by the president is an important issue has fallen from 70 percent under Clinton to 25 percent under Trump, while the issue has grown in importance among Democrats, from 38 percent under Clinton to 75 percent under Trump.

Men and women differ significantly on two questions about Trump’s relations with women. Women are 14 percentage points more likely to say it’s important whether or not Trump engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct, 58 percent compared with 44 percent for men. And women are 15 points more likely to support Mueller investigating hush-money payments to women who say they had affairs with Trump, 65 percent to 50 percent.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 8-11 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults reached on cell and landline telephones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.