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Majority of Americans Sees Russia Investigation as Politically Motivated

FBI Director Robert Mueller gestures at the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing about the FBI on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2013. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Slightly over half of Americans see Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as politically motivated, a new CBS News poll shows.

Approximately 53 percent of Americans say Mueller’s investigation is politically motivated while 44 percent think it is justified, according to the survey of 1,101 adults from across the country contacted by telephone in the first week of May. A much greater majority of Americans, 76 percent, wants to see President Trump cooperate with Mueller if he is asked to sit for an interview. This marks a cooling toward the investigation since January, when 84 percent said that Trump should cooperate with any requests for an interview Mueller might make.

The difference between the beginning of the year and now is starker among Republicans, just 53 percent of whom think the president should cooperate with a Mueller interview, compared with 73 percent in January. Most Americans and nearly all Democrats would like to see the Russia investigation reach its natural end, but many Republicans want Congress to force its stop.

President Trump has criticized Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as a “witch hunt” and accused investigators of having conflicts of interest. Mueller is particularly interested in why Trump fired former FBI director James Comey, who was investigating collusion at the time, and whether the president was ever considering pardoning former national-security adviser Michel Flynn for lying about his contacts with Russia.

The special counsel hopes to interview Trump in person, possibly under oath, which critics say is a move calculated to trap him into perjuring himself. The president’s legal team is working to prevent a verbal interview.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now on Trump’s legal team, said Monday that Mueller shot down Trump’s lawyers’ offer for the president to submit answers in writing.

Mueller has indicted four former Trump associates so far, and three have accepted plea bargains.

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