Politics

Trump’s Popularity Steady Despite Cohen and Manafort Woes

Two NBC/WSJ surveys found president's approval rating barely shifted despite legal troubles of former campaign chairman, former personal lawyer

President Donald Trump’s approval rating remains almost unchanged following a week brimming with bad news for his former personal lawyer and former presidential campaign chairman, according to back-to-back NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys released Sunday.

“We’ve had this enormous series of events, and these numbers don’t change very much,” said GOP pollster Bill McInturff, according to WSJ.

McInturff and Democratic pollster Peter Hart worked on the two surveys in the days before and after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen struck a plea deal and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight of 18 counts.

“For the 2018 Democratic strategy, the Manafort and Cohen convictions represent a fool’s gold opportunity rather than a silver bullet solution,” Hart said, pointing to the upcoming midterm elections in November, according to WSJ.

The first poll found that 46 percent of American voters approved of Trump’s presidential performance while 51 percent disapproved. The follow-up poll found that 44 percent of American voters approved while 52 percent disapproved.

News of Manafort’s convictions and Cohen’s plea deal broke August 21. The first poll of 900 U.S. voters was conducted August 18-22, and the second survey of 600 voters took place between August 22 and 25.

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Although mainstream media members and the president’s regular critics immediately pounced on the Cohen-Manafort news as proof that Trump was heading closer to impeachment proceedings and permeated the news cycle with their speculation, Trump’s popularity remained virtually unchanged.

Cohen claims that Trump told him to violate campaign finance laws in 2016 by paying off two women alleging affairs with Trump — Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — years before his presidential race.

Cohen reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors Tuesday on eight felony counts — two of which concerned campaign finance law violations. The president’s former lawyer pleaded guilty to facilitating payments to the two women.

Cohen now claims that he paid Daniels and McDougal with the “coordination and the direction of a candidate for federal office.” The unnamed “candidate” presumably is Trump.

“So the only issue here is whether or not there was a failure to report the contribution. That failure to report is attributable to the treasurer of the campaign, not to the president.”

Manafort was convicted on eight of 18 criminal counts related to financial and tax fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts. Although Manafort found himself in special counsel Robert Mueller’s crosshairs as part of the probe into allegations of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests, none of Manafort’s charges were linked to the campaign.

As for the campaign finance law violation speculation, Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz argued Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that Trump didn’t violate any campaign finance law.

“Look, I fully understand why so many people want, hope, that President Trump has committed crimes and impeachable offenses. But the evidence isn’t there,” Dershowitz said. “The president or the candidate is entitled to contribute anything he wants to his own campaign.”

Related: Trump Mocks Cohen but Feels ‘Such Respect for’ Manafort

“So the only issue here is whether or not there was a failure to report the contribution. That failure to report is attributable to the treasurer of the campaign, not to the president. And conspiracy is a very big stretch,” Dershowitz added.

Dershowitz said it’s “a stretch” to “make a conspiracy out of that when the law itself says the treasurer is responsible, not the candidate,” for failing to report a payment. The professor argued that this line of logic “is an example of precisely what we’re seeing, trying to stretch the law to fit somebody who many Americans hope and want to see commit a crime or commit an impeachable offense.”

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