Poll: 67 percent back appointing second special counsel
More than two-thirds of voters support appointing a second special counsel to investigate allegations of abuse at the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ), a new poll finds.
The latest Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey, provided exclusively to The Hill, finds that 67 percent support a second special counsel, including 75 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents.
“The public can best be termed as ‘pro-investigation’ in that they want Mueller to continue his investigation and overwhelmingly want a special counsel to investigate the FBI,” said Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll co-director Mark Penn. “This is a significant majority in favor of a new special counsel.”
Republicans have argued for months that a second special counsel is needed to probe the FBI and DOJ’s handling of separate investigations into Hillary Clinton and President Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has so far declined to appoint one, instead tapping John Huber, a U.S. attorney from Utah, to investigate whether it is necessary.
That move has angered Trump’s allies, but some Republicans argue that Huber will have many of the same powers as a special counsel or that he could still decide to appoint an independent prosecutor down the road.
Huber has subpoena and grand jury power and is working with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, whose report on the FBI and DOJ’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State is expected soon.
Republicans believe a second special counsel is needed to investigate allegations that the so-called Steele dossier, which was paid for in part by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was improperly used to obtain a warrant to spy on Carter Page, formerly a Trump campaign aide.
They say the FBI and DOJ hid from a surveillance court that the dossier of opposition research had been partially paid for by Democrats. Democrats say that there was ample evidence to warrant suspicion of Page, and the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey found that 56 percent of voters agree.
Former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing by Trump prompted the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, was among those who signed off on the Page warrant applications.
Fifty-seven percent of voters said Comey’s firing was an attempt by Trump to obstruct justice. Fifty-four percent said that Mueller should pursue obstruction charges against Trump even if the special counsel does not find any evidence of an underlying crime pertaining to collusion.
“Although there has been no change in the nearly 40 per cent who believe President Trump should be impeached, he should take caution in the finding that most consider the firing of James Comey to be obstruction,” said Penn. “This makes it a serious — but not impeachable concern he needs to better explain.”
Republicans also believe a second special counsel is needed to investigate former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for allegedly lying to investigators under oath about his contacts with the media and over political donations that his wife received.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe earlier this month after the FBI’s personnel office recommended he do so. Republicans say that McCabe had lied four times about his authorization to speak with the media, including to Comey, the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility and twice under oath to the FBI’s inspector general.
McCabe led the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified material, even after his wife received a large political donation from former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a Clinton ally. The Horowitz report is expected to be critical of McCabe on this point and other matters.
Most voters had not heard about the McAuliffe donation, but when told about it, 74 percent said that McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation and 57 percent view the political donation as evidence of potential corruption at the FBI.
“The poll continues to show how the different media covering the different storylines affects public opinion,” Penn said. “Only about a third knew about the contributions Andrew McCabe’s wife accepted from Terry McAuliffe and once told that they overwhelmingly believed McCabe may be guilty of corruption and should have recused himself.”
The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,340 registered voters was conducted March 27–29. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 2 percent other.
The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard/Harris Poll throughout 2018. Full poll results will be posted online later this week.
The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.