WASHINGTON – Americans in 99 congressional battleground districts – primarily represented by Republicans – would disapprove by a two-to-one margin if President Trump fires Russia special counsel Robert Mueller.
Lawmakers from both parties are increasingly concerned that Trump, who has railed against the investigation into possible collusion between his associates and Russians who sought to influence the presidential election, will fire Mueller.
The new poll of 1,000 adults by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, provided to USA TODAY, found similar margins of disapproval for the possibility of Trump dismissing Mueller in 70 districts held by Republicans and 29 held by Democrats that may be competitive in the 2018 midterm elections.
According to the survey, 44% said they would “strongly” disapprove of Trump firing Mueller.
The public opinion polls are especially timely after reports Mueller, a former FBI director, is tapping a federal grand jury in Washington to advance his investigation, in a sign the probe is intensifying.
It remains unclear how Trump will react to the news, first reported on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, though he has in recent weeks excoriated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself in the Russia investigation. While Trump cannot fire Mueller directly, some lawmakers fear he is trying to remove Sessions and appoint a new attorney general without conflicts in the Russia investigation who could do something about the special counsel.
On Thursday, Trump ignored a reporter’s shouted questions about whether he intended to fire Mueller, but the president has consistently called the probe a witch hunt and objected to reports Mueller may expand his probe to include his personal finances.
The prospect of Trump firing Mueller has concerned some members of Congress so much they are seeking legislation to block Trump him before they leave town for an August recess.
Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, on Thursday introduced a measure barring Trump from directly firing any special counsel.
According to the survey, if Trump were to fire Mueller, an even greater percentage of Americans, 67%, would support having Congress establish a special prosecutor whom Trump could not fire.
What's more, while Trump has affirmed the president's ability to pardon, a large 86% majority say Trump should not be allowed to pardon himself from criminal prosecution.
Sixty-nine percent also oppose Trump pardoning his aides or family members, while 27% would support such a move.
The poll includes battleground districts in traditionally Republican dominated states including in West Virginia and Alabama.
The poll was funded by a coalition of Democratic-aligned groups including American Bridge, End Citizens United, MoveOn and Stand Up America.