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A majority has long not believed Trump on Russia

Posted at 1:48 PM, Nov 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-29 15:48:30-05

President Donald Trump’s former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to lying to Congress about his business talks with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The White House and Trump shot back that Cohen can’t be trusted and the President alleged that Cohen is making things up to get a lighter prison sentence.

Who to believe is becoming a major element of what we know about special counsel Robert Mueller’s methodical Russia investigation, which Trump for months has attacked as a witch hunt out to get him.

A majority (56%) of Americans said the things Trump says publicly about the Russia investigation are mostly or completely false, according to an August CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Only 37% thought the things he says about the investigation are completely or mostly true.

The only groups where a plurality said Trump tells the truth regarding the Russia investigation were those who approve of the job he’s doing as President (77% of whom said that what he says about the investigation is true, compared with 14% who said it is false), Republicans (75% true, 19% false), conservatives (63% true, 31% false) and white non-college graduates (49% true, 46% false). Every other major demographic group or political subset said they think most of what he says regarding Russia is false.

The number who believed in August that he was telling the truth hasn’t changed significantly since the last time it was asked, in December 2017, when 35% thought Trump’s public statements on the Russia investigation were true and 56% said they were false. That poll was obviously conducted well before Cohen pleaded guilty Thursday and just before he pleaded guilty in August to tax evasion and other crimes not related to the Russia investigation.

Cohen says in his new plea that he lied to Congress in order to stay consistent with messaging from the Trump campaign and administration and to protect the President.

Trump called Cohen “very weak” while taking questions from reporters Thursday on the White House lawn after hearing about the guilty plea.

In an early October CNN poll, a third of Americans approved of the job Trump was doing in handling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, his lowest approval rating on any issue. In the same poll, Americans weren’t ready for the investigation to end. About 6 in 10 (61%) said they thought the investigation is a serious matter and should be fully investigated, with a third who thought it’s just an effort to discredit the President.