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POLL: Vast Majority of Republican Voters Unbothered by Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference

President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they meet in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

An overwhelming majority of Republican voters approved of President Trump’s performance during his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin Monday, according to an Axios/Survey Monkey poll released Thursday.

The findings, based on the responses of 2,100 Americans surveyed on Monday and Tuesday, reflect a drastic partisan divide over the question of whether Trump was overly deferential to Putin during the presser, as has been suggested by a disparate coalition of Trump allies and critics alike.

While 91 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents disapproved of Trump’s conduct, an overwhelming 79 percent of Republicans approved of the way he handled the press conference.

A CBS News poll released Thursday found slightly less support for Trump’s performance among Republicans. According to that poll, 32 percent of general respondents disapproved while 68 percent of Republicans approved.

Trump was harshly denounced by friends and foes following the Helsinki press conference for endorsing Putin’s denial of election meddling and publicly questioning why Russia would have any motivation to interfere in America’s domestic affairs.

After being harshly criticized by congressional Republicans and allies in the media, the president quickly backtracked Tuesday, emphasizing his confidence in the intelligence community while claiming he misspoke in suggesting Russia lacked the motivation to meddle in U.S. elections.

The administration has not been forthcoming with specifics about the content of Trump’s more than two hour meeting with Putin before the press conference, but Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said Wednesday that “verbal agreements” were reached on a variety of issues. Asked by reporters Wednesday if Putin and Trump reached any agreements with respect to military operations, Pentagon officials insisted they had no information to provide.

During the press conference, which took place days after the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials allegedly responsible for election interference, Trump and Putin discussed the possibility of a joint investigation into the alleged cyber crimes.

Despite the indictments, Trump has continued to describe Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt” — a characterization that has apparently been seized upon by Republican voters, 85 percent of whom believe the investigation is a “distraction,” according to the poll. The CBS News poll found that roughly half of Republicans believe the U.S. intelligence community’s claim that Russia was behind the election meddling verses 70 percent of Americans overall.

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