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Most Republicans believe FBI, Justice Dept. trying to ‘delegitimize’ Trump: Reuters/Ipsos poll

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly three out of four Republicans believe the FBI and Justice Department are trying to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, a sharp turn for a party that has historically been a strong backer of law enforcement agencies.

Overall, most of the public still believes that Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, allegations that Moscow and Trump have repeatedly denied.

The Feb. 3-5 poll found that Americans were sharply divided along party lines over a federal investigation into potential ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, a controversy that has hung over his year-old presidency.

Trump has called the probe a witch hunt and accused the top leadership of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department of being biased against him. The dispute has caused an extraordinary breach between the White House and law enforcement and deepened partisan rancor.

Some 73% of Republicans agreed that “members of the FBI and Department of Justice are working to delegitimize Trump through politically motivated investigations.”

But three in four Democrats said they believed a competing narrative that “members of the Republican Party and the White House are working to delegitimize the FBI and DOJ in the investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 presidential election.”

The poll findings appear to reflect the influence that Trump wields among Republicans, who have long reserved some of their highest levels of trust for the country’s law enforcement agencies.

Nearly 84% of Republicans said in a January 2015 Reuters/Ipsos poll that they had a “favorable” view of the FBI.

Last month, 91% of Republicans said they had a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the country’s law enforcement agencies, compared with the 75% who expressed a similar level of confidence in the Trump administration and 47% who said the same about Congress.

Erroll Southers, a national security expert and former FBI agent, said Trump had shown an uncanny ability to shape his supporters’ views of the world in a way that benefits him. By hammering at federal investigators, Southers said, Trump was inoculating himself from any political fallout that may follow.

”It’s a win-win for him,“ Southers said. ”If he’s exonerated, he wins. If he’s not, he explains that the FBI is corrupt and it’s all a witch hunt, and he wins.

 “And his base will be even more energized.”

Lloyd Billiter Jr., a retired Texas oilfield services worker who participated in the poll, said he thought the FBI had become too political and “their people have gone astray.”

Billiter, 64, said he was shocked to hear reports that investigators said critical things of Trump, and he would not believe anything that comes out of the Russia investigation unless it comes with a trove of evidence.

 “Show me the proof,” he said. “I’ve put them on probation. You have to earn my trust back.”

Ron Krebs, a foreign policy expert at the University of Minnesota, said people usually looked to political leaders and the media for guidance on how to view issues and organizations they do not know much about. He said public trust in the FBI could further erode unless there was a bipartisan effort in Congress to support the investigation.

 “The real question is how long this will last,” Krebs said. “How long will Republicans in Congress move in lockstep with the president?”

But among Americans overall, the latest poll showed that people did not appear to have changed their minds about the Russia investigation.

Fifty-two% of all adults said they believed Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the election and that it was likely “authorities will find evidence of an illegal relationship between the Trump administration and Russia.”

Those percentages have not changed since the last time the poll asked those questions in 2017.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English across the United States. It gathered responses from 2,251 adults, including 941 Democrats and 827 Republicans, and had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2% percentage points for the entire sample and 4% percentage points for both the Republicans and Democrats.


US House committee votes to release Democrats’ Russia memo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives committee voted unanimously on Monday to approve the release of a classified document that Democrats say will rebut a contentious Republican memo alleging FBI bias against President Donald Trump.

The vote will send the 10-page Democratic memo to the White House as soon as Monday night, giving Trump until Friday to decide whether to allow its release.

If he declines, after approving the release of the Republican memo despite strong objections by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it could set up an angry dispute pitting the White House and many of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress against Democrats, law enforcement and intelligence agencies. A week ago, Republicans, who control a majority on the committee, joined together to block the release of the Democrats’ memo and approve the Republican memo, despite unanimous Democratic opposition.

But Republican committee members said on Monday they were comfortable with releasing the Democratic document now that it had been reviewed by House members.

The Republican memo accused senior FBI and Justice Department officials of not revealing that portions of a dossier used in seeking a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page were partly paid for by Democrats.

Trump allowed its release to the public last Friday.

Democrats said the Republican memo was intended to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, and that Trump might try to use it to justify firing Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at Justice, who signed off on at least one warrant application for Page.

The dispute, an extraordinary breach between the White House and law enforcement, has also deepened partisan rancor over congressional investigations of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, prompting concern about lawmakers’ ability to produce unbiased reports.




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