Poll: Trump finances fair game in Russia investigation

Posted at 5:16 AM, Aug 10, 2017

Seventy percent of Americans believe the federal investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election in the US should be able to look into President Donald Trump's finances, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Sixty percent of those polled view the probe as a serious matter that should be fully investigated, and a significant minority, 38%, view it as an effort to discredit Trump's presidency. By a roughly two-to-one margin, those polled disapprove of the way Trump is handling the Russia probe (59% disapprove, 31% approve).

Trump has frequently called the investigation headed by former FBI director Robert Mueller and congressional inquiries a "witch hunt" in tweets, and his firing of FBI director James Comey led to the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department investigation.

The President's handling of the investigation merits far lower approval ratings within the GOP than his overall performance so far does. While 83% of Republicans say they approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency so far, just 56% feel the same way about his handling of the Russia investigation. Democrats (81%) and independents (59%) mostly disapprove of Trump's handling of the investigation.

Still, Republicans are more likely than others to say Trump's finances ought to be off-limits to the investigation (52% feel that way, 41% believe his finances should be on the table). Among Democrats and independents, large majorities say that whether the President had any financial dealings with Russia is a fair question (91% of Democrats and 72% of independents say that).

The poll was conducted last Thursday through Sunday, in the wake of news that federal investigators working on the probe are looking in to whether Trump and his associates have financial ties to Russia.

And news emerged Wednesday that FBI agents raided the home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in late July, seizing documents including financial and tax records.

Only about half of Americans (51%) say Mueller will be able to conduct a thorough investigation free from outside influence, 40% say he will not be able to do that and 10% are unsure. Republicans (49%) and Trump supporters (52%) express greater skepticism about that than Democrats and those who disapprove of Trump (32% each).

Partisanship seems to drive overall views of the Russia investigation as well, according to the poll. While 87% of Democrats call the investigation itself a serious matter, just 23% of Republicans agree.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation is a rare exception to the partisan divide. Overall, 67% say Sessions did the right thing by stepping away from the investigation, 27% say he did the wrong thing. More than six in 10 across party lines (62% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 72% of Democrats) consider it the right move.

Perceptions of Russia as a threat to the US are largely unchanged since a March CNN/ORC poll. Overall, 35% call Russia a "very serious" threat and another 37% consider the country a moderately serious threat. The "very serious" share (up an insignificant one point since March) remains at its highest level since a 1983 assessment of the Soviet Union found that 49% considered it a "very serious" threat.

This CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone August 3 through 6 among a random national sample of 1,018 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.