The latest Washington Post-ABC poll shows that Robert Mueller, for now, enjoys overwhelming support for his investigation. He also gets high marks for the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Rick Gates. And in even worse news for President Donald Trump, nearly half (49 percent) of Americans surveyed think he committed a crime.
Mueller receives 58 percent approval and only 28 percent disapproval from Americans. Even among Republicans, nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent approve). A plurality of white men without a college degree (44 percent to 35 percent), a key Trump demographic, approve of Mueller's performance.
By a margin of 51 percent to 37 percent, Americans do not think Trump is cooperating with the investigation. Even among Republicans (57 percent to 21 percent), voters strongly approve (69 percent to 17 percent) of the indictments for Manafort and Gates. If the two are betting on pardons, they might think again. Not only would Democrats and quite a few Republicans see that as blatant obstruction (and possible grounds for impeachment), but voters themselves would likely react very negatively. In theory what seemed like a sure bet - "Trump will protect me" - in practice seems increasingly unlikely. (Trump, of course, could not pardon either of them for state crimes, only federal offenses.)
Ominously for Trump, Papadopoulos' plea and the two indictments suggest to a big majority (53 percent) wrongdoing that goes beyond these three. Thirty percent of Republicans agree.
And finally, by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent of Americans think Trump has committed a crime. Republicans by an 82 percent to 14 percent margin think he has not.
Several aspects of the poll stand out. First, despite the constant heckling from the White House and the onslaught from right-wing media, Mueller's reputation has remained solid. He has let his work do the talking, avoided any public comment and not responded to the raft of ridiculous assaults. Those in the Trump universe who thought they could take him down, as they do with political opponents, were kidding themselves.
Second, Trump will find it difficult, if not impossible, to fire Mueller now. In a face-off between a president with a historically low approval rating and widely seen as dishonest and the former FBI director-turned-tight-lipped prosecutor, Trump does not stand a chance.
Third, Trump's fate then is largely out of his hands. Whatever Mueller finds is likely to carry a great deal of weight with voters (and in turn, with Congress).
Fourth, Trump's sometimes comical effort to make all of this into a scandal about Hillary Clinton predictably has been a colossal failure. He provides talking points and programming ideas for Fox News, but to little effect. The regurgitated non-scandals about Clinton's reportedly nonexistent involvement with the Uranium One deal and her campaign's payment for the dossier matter not one bit to Mueller - or, it turns out, much at all to voters.
Trump has finally run into someone he cannot insult or intimidate and whose findings could well doom his presidency and ensnare his closest advisers and even family members. If not for the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, none of this was likely to come to pass. Trump might want to blame those who goaded him on (e.g., Jared Kushner), but the decision was his alone. No wonder he fumes and rages.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.