Grounds for impeachment or a ‘witch hunt’?: How the left and right see the Trump-Russia firestorm so very differently

President Donald Trump in Florida.

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President Donald Trump in Florida.
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REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

  • The Russia controversy has dogged President Donald Trump since he took office in January.
  • He has repeatedly disparaged the Russia investigation as a politically-motivated “witch hunt.”
  • His far-right media allies and some Republican lawmakers agree, while other conservative legislators believe the investigation is credible and should see the finish line.
  • But Democrats universally support the investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller. Some believe Trump’s conduct could even be grounds for impeachment.

Almost one year into his first term, President Donald Trump has been plagued by controversy, whether it be over his policies on North Korea and the Middle East, the level of turnover in the West Wing, or his tweeting habits.

But perhaps nothing has dogged Trump’s young presidency more than the ongoing congressional and Department of Justice investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.

Russia’s interference in the race is currently being investigated by the House and Senate intelligence committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to oversee the bureau’s probe after Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May.

As the special counsel’s investigation gets closer to ensnaring the White House, Republicans and Democrats are waging an intense battle over whether the probe is infected with political bias against Trump, whether a second special counsel should be appointed to investigate Trump’s former political opponent, or whether Mueller needs to be protected as he examines whether the president committed impeachable offenses.

Here’s how different sides see the Russia investigation:


Trump’s staunchest allies in the right-wing and far-right media sphere, like Fox News opinion commentator Sean Hannity, were largely opposed to the Russia probe and Mueller’s appointment to lead it from the start.

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Sean Hannity.
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Mike Segar/Reuters

Hannity has accused Mueller of “trying to take down President Trump” and has ramped up calls for the special counsel to resign over what he perceives as bias against Trump on Mueller’s team.

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Robert Mueller.
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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


He has also echoed Trump’s view that the investigation is a “witch hunt” and asked that a special counsel be appointed to investigate former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her alleged Russia ties.

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Screenshot / Fox News

Source: Business Insider


Hannity’s remarks have largely been reinforced, and vice versa, by other far-right media outlets Breitbart News and Infowars, both of which have repeatedly questioned the objectivity of the Russia probe and called for Clinton to be investigated.

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A screenshot of Breitbart’s “Russia conspiracy theory” category page.
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Breitbart/Screenshot

Sources: Breitbart News, Infowars


“What type of arrogant people openly cover up for Hillary, kill criminal investigations into her, and then go around and admit they’re political and hate Trump?” Infowars founder Alex Jones said December 6.

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Alex Jones interviewing Matt Drudge
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YouTube/screengrab

Source: Infowars


Conservative commentators escalated their criticism of the Russia probe after it emerged that Mueller ousted an investigator over the summer for exchanging anti-Trump texts with a colleague.

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Fox News host Tucker Carlson frequently criticizes the Russia probe and accuses the media of treating Clinton with leniency.
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Fox News

Source: Business Insider


Former FBI agents and federal prosecutors pushed back on the characterization, saying that it’s perfectly acceptable for investigators to have political views, as long as they don’t interfere with the investigation.

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Andrew Weissmann is a seasoned prosecutor on Mueller’s team. Last week, it emerged that Weissman praised former acting attorney general Sally Yates for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban. Weissman also attended Clinton’s election night party last year.
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Jeff Mitchell/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


As the investigation began gaining more steam under Mueller, Trump’s allies reportedly began urging him to fire the special counsel.

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Source: PBS


The majority of Republican lawmakers in Congress and mainstream conservatives respected the credibility of the Russia investigation and Mueller’s appointment in the beginning.

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Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner.
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CNN

Source: The Washington Post


“By having someone like Bob Mueller head the investigation assures the American people that there’s no undue influence, be it here or be it at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, or within the Justice Department or FBI,” Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said in May.

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Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Source: The Washington Post


“It would be a disaster” if Trump fired Mueller, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Politico in June. “There’s no reason to fire Mueller. What’s he done to be fired?”

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Source: Politico


Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told Politico that firing Mueller, would “certainly be an extraordinarily unwise move.”

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Source: Politico


Sen. John McCain of Arizona told Politico in June: “He’s a very much trusted individual and had an outstanding record as head of the FBI.”

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks about his resistance to the so-called “Skinny Repeal” of the Affordable Care Act in Washington on July 27, 2017.
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REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Source: Politico


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has largely refrained from discussing the Russia probe, and House Speaker Paul Ryan said in November that Mueller should be allowed to complete the investigation.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Source: CNN, Talking Points Memo


Even some of Trump’s most stalwart mainstream conservative allies praised Mueller. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said shortly after his appointment that he was a “superb choice” with “honesty and integrity.”

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Newt Gingrich.
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Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Source: Twitter


Gingrich reversed his position in June, tweeting that Republicans were “delusional” if they believed Mueller would be fair. “Time to rethink,” he added.

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Newt Gingrich.
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John Moore/Getty Images

Source: Twitter


In recent weeks, several Republican lawmakers, including some who initially supported Mueller, have questioned whether the investigation is totally unbiased, particularly in light of the the investigators’ anti-Trump texts.

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Thomson Reuters

Source: Business Insider


“How can, with a straight face, can you say that this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give President Trump a fair shake?” Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio asked deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Lawmakers also intensified calls for a second special counsel to investigate alleged bias within the FBI and DOJ, as well as whether the Steele dossier — an explosive collection of memos about Trump’s alleged Russia ties — was politically motivated.

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REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst

Source: Business Insider


“The country thinks we need a second special counsel,” said Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on Wednesday. “20 members of this committee, the judiciary committee … thinks we need a special counsel. All kinds of senators think we need a second special counsel.”

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Graham did not withdraw his support of Mueller, but said last week that it was “long past time” for a second special counsel to investigate Clinton, the Uranium One deal, the firm which produced the Steele dossier, and alleged bias in the FBI and DOJ.

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REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Source: Twitter


Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have almost unanimously defended the investigation.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat representing Connecticut, said last week that it was “absolutely necessary” to pass legislation protecting Mueller from being fired.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Source: Politico


Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who co-sponsored a bill with Graham that would protect Mueller, told Politico that there was a “sense of urgency to do this — not just for this moment in history, but to create more checks and balances within the system as a whole.”

Source: Politico


“We should make certain the integrity of the special counsel is protected,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters last week.


Some Democratic lawmakers have gone a step further and suggested that Trump should be impeached.

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Donald Trump.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Six Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment last month.

Source: The Independent


The lawmakers listed five reasons why Trump should be impeached, including his response to the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last August, and his decision to fire Comey in May.

Source: The Independent


“Given the magnitude of the constitutional crisis, there’s no reason for delay,” Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee told The Independent. Cohen was also one of the sponsors of the resolution.

Source: The Independent


Legal analysts have largely declined to offer judgment on whether Trump should be impeached, but most have underscored the importance of the Russia investigation and Mueller’s independence.

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Alex Wong/Getty

Source: Business Insider