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A fifth of Republicans think their 2024 front-runner broke the law

The incidents in which President Biden and former president Donald Trump were found to be in possession of documents marked as classified are similar in the way that “There Will Be Blood” is similar to “Air Bud.” They are movies and they ran in theaters and … maybe there’s a dog in “There Will Be Blood”? But in plot and complexity and impact, they are simply incomparable.

So it is with the two documents cases. Biden’s lawyers found marked documents in an office in D.C. and turned them over to the government. A similar search at his home found other documents. Both locations were also searched by the FBI.

Trump’s case is much more complicated. The National Archives, recognizing it was missing material, contacted Trump after he left office in 2021. For months, they tried to negotiate a return of material. In early 2022, several boxes were turned over, including material marked as classified. That prompted a Justice Department investigation, which led to a subpoena, which led to Trump’s team turning over other material, which led to the government realizing there was still more at Mar-a-Lago, which led to the search warrant, which led to finding more material, which led to a federal indictment on charges related to the retention of documents and obstruction.

And “Air Bud” is about a doggy who plays basketball!

Even condensing the Trump situation into that paragraph was challenging. Trump’s allies and enablers don’t even try. When the Trump situation is discussed in right-wing media (which it often isn’t), the treatment is cursory or compared at the “they’re both movies” level with Biden’s. The effect is that Trump supporters are more likely to view Biden’s situation as the more problematic.

Something we can assert thanks to polling from Fox News.

On Wednesday, the cable news channel released data evaluating views of Trump, Biden and the legal system. (Standard, important stipulation: The bias shown in Fox News’s broadcast programming is not reflected in its polling, which is reliable and objective.) It found that most Americans think Trump violated the law in his handling of classified material while Biden didn’t.

Among Republicans, though, that’s not the case; they are much more likely to say Biden violated the law than that Trump did. Among those who say they plan to support Trump in the 2024 Republican primary, that divide was even more pronounced.

Somewhat amazingly, 1 in 5 Republicans said that they agreed Trump had violated the law. Among Trump primary voters, 6 percent did. In each group, two-thirds said the same of Biden.

Fox News also asked whether respondents felt that Trump’s hoarding classified material threatened national security. While more than half of respondents said it did, just under 1 in 5 Republicans agreed. Interestingly, so did 1 in 8 Trump 2024 supporters.

Part of the issue is that Republicans are deeply skeptical of the independence of the Justice Department — a sentiment eagerly stoked by Trump for almost entirely self-serving reasons. Only a quarter of Americans told Fox News that they generally trust the government, with Democrats as the only group in which a majority held that view. Only about a third of Republicans said they had much confidence in the Justice Department at all.

That’s reflected when Fox News asked respondents about their views of the department’s handling of two cases: Trump’s and the plea deal reached with Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Republicans generally thought the Justice Department has been too tough on Trump. (No one thinks it has been too tough on Hunter Biden.) Most Americans, and particularly Republicans, think the Justice Department’s decision-making in each case was motivated by politics.

That so many Republicans think Trump violated the law or put national security at risk comes as less of a surprise when you consider another question in the Fox News poll. A plurality of respondents figured that Trump’s legal woes wouldn’t have any effect on his chances in a general election, should he win the Republican nomination. Two-thirds of Republicans said either that the legal issues wouldn’t have any effect or would help Trump.

It seems like a safe bet that his legal issues might not move the needle much. I mean, 9 in 10 Democrats already think he broke the law. One in 8 of his current supporters think he put national security at risk! Who’s the swing voter here who suddenly changes his mind?

Besides, ain’t no rule that says someone under federal indictment can’t run for president.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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