- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2017

Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided over whether they would support the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller as a means to end his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to a new poll.

A Public Policy Polling survey found that 44 percent of Republicans support firing the special counsel while 24 percent oppose it. The majority of Democrats, 71 percent, oppose dismissal of Mr. Mueller.

The findings were released Thursday as the Mueller investigation has come under heightened attack by Republican lawmakers who have raised concern about political bias on the part of investigators.

The poll surveyed 862 registered voters on Dec. 11 and 12, before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Mr. Mueller’s investigation and said Wednesday during testimony he gave to the House Judiciary Committee that he saw no reason to fire him.

The partisan divide among voters also emerged when respondents were asked how they feel about the FBI.

Democrats were largely supportive of the bureau, with 66 percent approving of its work. Among Republicans, approval was at 27 percent.

Republicans have in recent weeks stepped up attacks on Mr. Mueller’s investigation, fueled by disclosures that a top FBI official was removed from the team after investigators uncovered text messages he exchanged with another employee expressing anti-Trump sentiments.

Democratic lawmakers were critical of Republicans’ focus on the text messages, accusing their counterparts of working to deflect attention away from the special counsel investigation and to delegitimize Mr. Mueller’s work.

“It is clear to me after listening to three hours of questioning that none of this is about text messages. It is rather a full-fledged, irresponsible, and dangerous attempt on the other side to attack and undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, while questioning Mr. Rosenstein on Wednesday.

Republicans and Democrats are also divided on whether they think Russia wanted Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to win the 2016 election.
Republicans were more divided in their assessment — 36 percent thought Russia wanted Mrs. Clinton to win, 31 percent thought Russia wanted Mr. Trump to win, and another 33 percent reported being unsure.

Democrats by and large — 82 percent — believed Russia wanted Mr. Trump to win the election. Among independents, 32 percent thought Russia preferred Mrs. Clinton while 52 percent thought Russia backed Mr. Trump.

In January, the U.S. intelligence community released a report expressing “high confidence” that Russia carried out an influence campaign targeting the presidential election that sought to denigrate Mrs. Clinton and “harm her electability and potential presidency.” The report also found that the Russian government developed a clear preference for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Mueller’s team is working to investigate the Russian meddling campaign and any potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign.
Results were again mixed when voters were asked whether they believe the Trump campaign worked with the Kremlin.

Eighty-three percent of Democrats believe member of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian officials to help Mr. Trump be elected. Only 13 percent of Republicans agree with that assessment.

The poll has a 3.3 percent margin of error.

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