Russia developments have little effect on Trump’s base

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: A new "Washington-Post"/ABC News poll shows 60 percent of Americans believe Russia tried to influence last year's election, and 41 percent believe the Trump campaign intentionally aided those efforts. The poll also shows President Trump's approval rating has dropped to 36 percent. Dig deeper into those numbers, and you'll see America's partisan divide.

To discuss that and more, "NewsHour Weekend's" Jeff Greenfield is here in the studio.

Jeff, the conversations that have happened since we had this revelation, Donald Trump Jr. exposing his own email, saying here's the meeting, et cetera, how does this play with Trump's base?

JEFF GREENFIELD, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's as if it didn't matter and this is a constant. We have been talking about this almost — it feels like almost on a weekly basis. In that poll, fewer than one in 10 Republicans think it was anything bothersome about the Russia-Trump family connections. And what that tells you is that they have accepted Trump's fundamental argument that if you see or read something about me negative about Russia, it's fake by definition.

And I think what that means is as the press has moved further and further to say, you know, there's something here, what you see is some conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer say, yes, this is serious. But they never were for Trump in the first place. If you look at Hannity, "Fox and Friends" and "Breitbart" and that poll number, what you see is among Trump's real supporters, they just aren't buying that anything happened here.

SREENIVASAN: Can anything change that?

GREENFIELD: You know, in a normal world, in normal political world, I'd be kind of confident saying, well, yes, you know, if the Republicans in Congress begin to get really tough on Trump, say, what's going on here. We really bothered by this. This is a hostile foreign party here, what's going on, that that would have an impact among the base.

But one of the curious things we're seeing is that among Trump's supporters, they're not all that happy with the Republicans in Congress anyway. I mean, you've seen declining poll numbers about what Republicans think of the Republican congressional leaders, you've see some really sharp attacks on the part of Breitbart and some of the radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, say, you know, you guys aren't fighting hard enough. You might want — you might be raising taxes on us. They're not blaming Trump.

So, if the Republicans begin to say in Congress, this Russia thing is bothering us, I'm not sure the Trump people are going to take that as an occasion to leave the reservation.

SREENIVASAN: Well, let's talk a little bit about health care, which is in the news today. It looks like it's going to be postponed at least another week. If it doesn't come up for a vote, or if it comes up for a vote and doesn't pass, any consequence for the president?

GREENFIELD: For Trump? See previous answer.

(LAUGHTER)

SREENIVASAN: Ibid.

GREENFIELD: In the non-Trump us universe, if a president runs on a key promise, I'm going to repeal and replace this terrible, and give you something great, and it fails, it would clobber him. And that's what happened to Clinton when his health care plan failed. A year later, they lost the Congress, the Democrats.

But once again, and this one I think is really something we've never seen before, because Donald Trump is not seen as a legislative master, not keen on the details. In fact, we've had Republicans in meetings with him kind of polite in saying, he doesn't really know much or care much what's in the bill. He has said, give me something and I'll sign it.

So, if it were to fail, who do — who do the Trump folks blame? The president or do they blame the congressional leadership? That's where I think the fallout will happen.

SREENIVASAN: All right. Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much.

GREENFIELD: OK.

Recently in Politics