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WASHINGTON —President Donald Trump’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll is up to 46 percent, the highest it has been in that poll since the earliest days of his presidency.
Some Republicans say the time is right for the president to move on from the aftermath of the Russia probe, led by special counsel Robert Mueller. But it seems neither Trump nor his Democratic critics are in any hurry to let the issue go.
On the campaign trail in Florida Wednesday, President Trump made sure to remind his supporters about the outcome of the Mueller report.
“Did you see what just happened, by the way? No collusion. No obstruction. No anything!” Trump said to cheers at a rally in Panama City, Florida. “They want to do what they are doing, which looks so foolish. And maybe I read it wrong, but I think it drives us right on to victory in 2020 because people get it.”
What report found
The Mueller report found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.
Mueller did not reach a conclusion on the issue of obstruction of justice, but he pointedly did not exonerate the president either, a claim Trump often makes.
The president still likes to gripe about the Russia probe on Twitter. On Sunday, Trump tweeted:
Republicans: Move on
The president’s Republican allies in Congress have closed ranks around the idea that it is time for the country to move on.
“It’s over. I mean, I can understand why our friends on the other side are disappointed. They have been trying to look for some way to overturn the 2016 election for two long years,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters earlier this week.
Democrats including Senate leader Chuck Schumer have countered that the president and his Republican allies have no interest in preventing another Russian attack on the U.S. election system in 2020.
“This Russian interference or any foreign government interference in our election erodes at the root of our democracy and could actually topple the mighty oak that has been our republic for 200 years, and they are doing absolutely nothing,” the New York senator said.
Congressional Democrats have also vowed to keep the pressure on with oversight hearings and investigations.
They are also moving toward citing Attorney General William Barr with contempt of Congress for not producing an un-redacted version of the Mueller report.
“They are stonewalling the American people from all information and this cannot be,” said Democrat and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York.
On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she agreed with Nadler’s view that the country now faces a “constitutional crisis” over the Trump administration’s resistance to congressional oversight, particularly demands coming from the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
But it is also clear that Democrats remain divided over whether to pursue Trump’s impeachment.
“We won’t go any faster than the facts take us or any slower,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol Thursday.
Last week, Pelosi told reporters at a speaking engagement in Massachusetts that she is being cautious because “impeachment is one of the most divisive and dividing paths that you can take. And if you go down that path, you have to have a prospect for success.”
Republicans control the Senate, making any Democratic impeachment bid a long shot, according to University of Miami legal expert David Abraham.
“An impeachment proceeding that enjoys zero Republican support will be effectively portrayed in the presidential election as more of this ‘witch hunt’ by sore losers.”
As a political issue, many analysts said the Russia investigation appears far from over and could figure prominently in next year’s presidential campaign.
“Democrats are very unhappy with the president while many Republicans are very happy with him,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “So that is a formula for enthusiasm even though it may not be a very pretty sight, it is likely that we are going to see people wanting to turnout in this next election.”
So far, the president’s poll numbers do not appear to be suffering in the wake of the Mueller report. But it has also been clear for some time that the strong U.S. economy has done little to boost Trump’s standing in the polls, according to George Washington University expert Matt Dallek.
“His ceiling is pretty low, around 44 percent of the public. He has never cracked 50 percent, the first time in the history of polling that a president has not gone above 50 percent approval. But his floor is also pretty solid, pretty hard and he has rarely gone below 36 percent.”
Both Republicans and Democrats expect Trump will continue to proclaim vindication in the Russia investigation right through next year’s presidential campaign.
And for their part, Democrats will persevere with their oversight hearings and may eventually have to make a decision about whether to press the issue of impeachment.
But in the end, it is U.S. voters who are likely to render a final verdict on Trump when they go to the polls in November of 2020.
Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.