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Experts: Mueller report release may not sway views on President Trump

About 300 Trump supporters gathered outside Trump Tower

About 300 Trump supporters gathered outside Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 23 to celebrate the end of the Mueller probe. Credit: Sipa USA via AP/Michael Nigro

WASHINGTON — Most Americans think the redacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller expected to be released in the next couple days is very important, but polls and experts say they may not significantly change their views of President Donald Trump after they see it.

Some people are shifting their view on Trump’s relationship with Russia after Attorney General William Barr’s March 24 letter said Mueller decided after his lengthy investigation not to file charges against Trump for criminal conspiracy or obstruction.

And polls show many others are withholding judgment until the report is out.

Yet in the three weeks since Barr issued his four-page summary of conclusions, Trump’s favorability ratings in most polls have hardly budged, rising just a half of 1 percent or less as of Friday in the Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight averages of polls.

“There was no movement of any significant nature as a result of Barr's summary of the Mueller report,” said Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a phone interview.

Mark J. Rozell, dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, said, “Unless there are some explosive revelations in the final released report, I suspect that opinion will continue to be highly polarized no matter what is in it.”

Take Wayne Galvin of Great Neck, a Trump supporter who retired from the apparel and accounting industries, and Joseph Darrigo of Miller Place, a critic of the president and retired educator who worked in the Middle Country School District.

They agreed in phone interviews on the importance of the report but on very little else.

“We’ve already learned that there was no collusion, no conspiracy with the Russians and the Trump campaign,” Galvin said. And on whether Trump obstructed the probe, Galvin said, “If [Mueller] didn’t find a crime, how can someone obstruct an investigation of nothing?”

Darrigo, however, said, “Everybody, myself included, should reserve judgment” until they’ve seen the report. “I hope to learn whether there was obstruction of justice or not,” he said, “because to me, that’s the worst of the potential sins.”

Many people hope the report offers clarity on Mueller’s indecision on whether Trump obstructed the Russia investigation.

“I would like somebody to say, clearly, the facts,” said Trump supporter and retiree Ray Manzo of Hicksville. “Don't say that the president isn't exonerated, or he is exonerated. Say that so and so did this, so and so did that … and let the people decide for themselves.”

Still, poll after poll shows that while Americans may live in the same country they come from different worlds when it comes to Trump, Mueller and politics as Trump whips up fury against an “illegal … witch hunt” and Democrats insist the report might show Trump wrongdoing.

On Trump’s performance, 90 percent of Republicans approved of it, 92 percent of Democrats disapproved and independents split, a March 29 NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll found.

And while 83 percent of Democrats said the Russian government tried to sway the 2016 election, 54 percent of Republicans said it didn’t, a March 30 Washington Post/Schar School of Policy and Government poll found.

The Post poll also found 76 percent of Democrats think Trump committed serious wrongdoing, but 81 percent of Republicans said they think he didn’t. Independents split on the question.

But there are indications that some views of Trump could change.

Those who said they have doubts about Trump’s presidency dropped to 36 percent after Barr’s letter, down from 48 percent in February, a March 31 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported.

But it also found 40 percent said Barr’s letter didn’t clear Trump, while 29 percent said it did and 31 percent weren’t sure.

The report isn’t likely to change Galvin and Darrigo’s core views of Trump.

“We know that the whole thing was a hoax,” Galvin said. Besides, Galvin said, he likes Trump because he is a real New Yorker and not a politician: “He talks to you straight up.”

Darrigo said the report “might change my opinion” on Trump's culpability on collusion and obstruction.

“But is it enough to change my overall impression of him? No, absolutely not,” Darrigo said. “I’m inclined to disbelieve everything our president says because he has such a horrible track record with the truth.”

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