A Cautionary Message For Democrats In Latest Poll Numbers
New poll numbers suggest that Congressional Democrats need to be careful about how aggressively they pursue their investigations of the Trump White House.
The latest poll from CNN and SSRS, which I already cited in my post regarding the President’s job approval, contains what clearly seems to be cautionary news for Democrats eager to proceed forward with aggressive investigations of the President and, potentially, impeachment:
The American public increasingly feels that Democrats in Congress are going too far in investigating the President — 44% say Democrats are doing too much on that score, up from 38% saying so in March. That shift stems largely from independents, 46% of whom now say congressional Democrats are going too far.
Congressional Democrats have called for Attorney General William Barr to testify this week, including in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and have issued subpoenas to try to gain access to the full, unredacted version of Mueller’s report and for former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. The Treasury Department recently missed a deadline set by House Democrats for turning over the President’s tax returns, and the Trump administration is fighting subpoenas issued for financial records from accounting firms and banks connected to Trump
Even with growing concern about overreach, majorities want Congress to investigate whether Trump committed obstruction of justice in the course of the Mueller investigation (58%) and to pursue legal action to obtain the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report (61%). The public is divided on Barr’s handling of the release of Mueller’s report — 44% approve and 43% disapprove, with a wide partisan gap.
About two-thirds still say Trump ought to release his tax returns (66%, including 52% who consider it important for the President to do). And most, 54%, say the President is not doing enough to cooperate with Democratic investigations.
The poll finds no change in the share of Americans who say they believe the President ought to be impeached compared with a March survey conducted before the completion of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Overall, 37% say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 59% say they do not feel that way. And while most who do back impeachment feel that way strongly (34% of adults strongly support impeachment, just 3% back it but not strongly), the share who strongly oppose it is larger (45% say they feel strongly that the President should not be impeached).
These poll results, of course, are largely consistent with other numbers that we’ve seen in the wake of the release of the Mueller report in mid-April. For example, recent polling has made it clear that the American public, by and large, does not want Congress to pursue impeachment against the President even though they believe the President lied about the matters that were under investigation by the Special Counsel. Additionally, Democrats who have been meeting with constituents during the recess that is coming to an end this week do not seem to be encountering the pressure to pursue impeachment notwithstanding the overwhelming disapproval of the President’s job performance and veracity expressed by these same voters.
The results of this latest poll should provide Democrats with yet more reason to be cautious about how they pursue charges against the President and how they conduct the investigations that they have already begun to pursue and those that may start up in the future. These numbers suggest that there is at least a sizeable part of the public that believes that Congress may be going too far in its zeal to investigate the President. While these numbers don’t constitute a majority of those surveyed, the number is large enough that Democrats would seem to need to be careful about how aggressively they pursue these investigations and about the scope of those investigations. Otherwise they face the danger of a situation where it appears to the public that Congress is more concerned with partisan warfare than it is with governing. This isn’t unlike the situation Republicans faced in the final years of the Obama Administration when they were launching multiple investigations of everything from the IRS to the Benghazi attack, all of which amounted to nothing.
All of this may change, of course, if Congressional investigations uncover information about the President, his Administration, or his businesses that is truly earthshattering. In the present climate, though, it’s unclear what exactly that would be. After nearly two and a half years of the Trump Presidency, one has to wonder what it could possibly be that would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to public opinion. While the President remains historically unpopular, his numbers have remained largely consistent since the early days of his Administration notwithstanding the outrageous rhetoric, the lies, the revelations regarding Russia, the revelations regarding the President’s involvement in a scheme to hide information from the public on the eve of the election, and the inflammatory rhetoric that has become a daily part of life in the Trump universe. What it all means regarding the President’s chances of being re-elected is not clear at this point but it’s also clear that the American public isn’t all that eager about a future where the business of Washington is increasingly tied up in endless investigations.
None of this is to suggest that Democrats in Congress should stop investigating the President, following up on the Mueller report, or looking at other matters involving the President such as his finances and his repeated violations of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. They have a Constitutional obligation to investigate these matters, and to oversee the Executive Branch, that overrides whatever the polls might say. At the same time, though, one cannot ignore the role that politics plays in all of this and Democrats need to be careful not to create the appearance that they are ganging up on the President and his Administration or that they are neglecting their own duty to govern. If they aren’t careful about how they proceed, they could end up seeing the whole thing backfire right on the eve of the 2020 election. And that’s only going to help the President.