AP NEWS

Inside the Beltway: Voters doubt Mueller can ‘trap’ Trump

December 5, 2018

For those who are keeping count, the proverbial “Mueller investigation” began on May 17, 2017, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, “the No. 2 Justice Department official, appoints former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” according to a helpful Reuters timeline of the big doings. If we do all the math, that means that on Dec. 17, the investigation will have gone on for 19 months.

The investigation has mesmerized journalists, who have produced hundreds of stories about it. Major news organizations have made the investigation a whole subgenre, bolstering the topic with advisories, explainers, alerts, fluctuating polls, videos and op-eds even as critics like talk radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh have insisted from the beginning that the investigation has yielded “nothing.” Protesters who back the probe have taken to the streets waving signs with the motto “Save Mueller.”

Others mull the cost. President Trump recently has suggested that the investigation has cost $40 million; a speculative estimate based on available figures by the nonpartisan fact-checker PolitiFact put the cost at ”$27 million or so.”

Americans, meanwhile, appear to be unconvinced.

“Hope breeds eternal in the hearts of Democrats, but other voters see little chance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation trapping President Trump,” notes a new survey from Rasmussen reports.

It found that 50 percent of all likely U.S. voters believe that charges against Mr. Trump are “unlikely.” Still, 42 percent believe that Mr. Mueller’s probe could lead to criminal charges against the president, with 22 percent who say that possibility is “very likely.”

The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Dec. 2-3.

TRUMP BUMP

American small business owners are more optimistic about business conditions now than at any other point during the last 15 years, says a new Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, which gauges the sentiments of retailers who hold down Main Street around the nation.

“As we head into the end of 2018, small businesses are continuing to indicate that they are thriving and hopeful for the future. With owner optimism hitting its highest level in the 15 years Wells Fargo has been conducting this survey, we are excited to see what this will mean for their continued capital investment and growth,” says Wells Fargo spokesman Andy Rowe.

See the numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.

EVOLVING DEMOCRATS

The Democratic Party may soon experience a genuine identity crisis. A substantial new survey reveals this news: “Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Texas Democrat, is considered one of the top Democratic contenders for the White House in 2020 even among more well-known potential hopefuls.”

Uh-oh. That startling news about the newly elected, skateboarding, former punk rocker comes from a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, exclusive to The Hill. Here’s what they found:

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden leads the group of White House hopefuls with 28 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Bernard Sanders in second place at 21 percent.

Mr. O’Rourke is in third place with 7 percent.

“Beto is the kind of fresh face who could shake up the Democratic race,” said Mark Penn, co-director of Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll. “He starts off by blowing past some well-known names. Biden loses support upon his entry.”

So do some other eager Democrats.

“Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kamala Harris of California as well as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who are all openly considering 2020 campaigns all polled in the low single-digits,” Hill reporter Lisa Hagen writes in her analysis.

EVOLVING REPUBLICANS

Amid chaotic culture wars and competitive politics, the Log Cabin Republicans have affirmed their presence on the political landscape; the group was founded 41 years ago to represent gay conservatives and Republicans, and has been active ever since.

“We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty. Log Cabin Republicans represents an important part of the American family taxpaying, hard working people who proudly believe in this nation’s greatness,” the organization says in its mission statement.

In past years, the grass-roots group launched a $1 million campaign to “defend” the Constitution, and organized 45 special interest chapters around the country to support Second Amendment rights. “Without the ability to defend yourself, there are no gay rights,” Gregory T. Angelo, president of the group at the time, told Lifezette in 2016.

It more recently hosted a “Spirit of Lincoln” national event at a historic hotel in the nation’s capital featuring Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland. On Wednesday, the group will screen a documentary chronicling the history of Log Cabin Republicans, hosted by Arent Fox, a D.C. law firm that has long provided it with legal council.

“This film truly captures the spirit of Log Cabin Republicans and depicts the years of dedicated service from its leadership,” says Jerri Ann Henry, executive director of the group, the nation’s largest orgainzation representing “LGBT conservatives and their straight allies.”

FOXIFIED

Fox News Channel continues to dominate the entire cable world as the most watched network throughout the day, claiming 12 of the top 30 cable telecasts overall in total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Fox News also bested its rivals, remaining No. 1 in cable news with 2 million prime-time viewers, compared to 1.9 million for MSNBC and 1 million for CNN.

Fox Business Network, meanwhile, aced CNBC drawing the top ratings throughout the day, according to Nielsen. “Lou Dobbs Tonight” has remained the top-rated program in business news for the 117th consecutive week, while “Varney Co.” marked 80 weeks as the most-watched opening market program on television.

POLL DU JOUR

84 percent of small business owners expect their company’s financial situation to be very or somewhat good in the next year.

80 percent rate their company’s current financial situation as very or somewhat good.

74 percent rate their company’s cash flow as very or somewhat good.

55 percent report increases in revenue over the past 12 months.

33 percent say they are more optimistic about their business’ future going into 2019 than they were going into 2018.

Source: A Wells Fargo/Gallup poll of 601 small business owners conducted Nov. 8-14 and released Tuesday.

Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin

AP RADIO
Update hourly