By July 17, 2017 Read More →

With Trump/Russia story heating up, expert and locals weigh in

By WILSON R. HARVEY

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va.  — The latest development in what could be described as a noisy first year for the presidency of Donald Trump came earlier this week, when reports surfaced that his son, Donald Trump Jr., met in 2016 with a Russian lawyer whom he believed to have negative information on Hillary Clinton, his father’s then-opponent.

With news later in the week, such as the fact that a former Soviet military officer-turned lobbyist was at the meeting, contradicting Trump Jr.’s original account, the story has again raised questions about whether or not President Trump or his surrogates colluded with the Russian government during the campaign cycle.

“It’s still an unfolding story, but as it unfolds it seems to get worse and worse for the president,” said Dr. Patrick Hickey, a professor of political science at WVU.

And matters could continue to get worse, according to Hickey. He pointed out that people such as U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has access to top secret information in his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have repeatedly said they expect more “shoes to drop.”

With the word “impeachment” having entered the mainstream lexicon rather early in the president’s term, Hickey cautioned against buying into the likelihood of such a consequence for Trump.

“Impeachment is a political process,” he said. “When you look at (former President Richard) Nixon, the real reason he had to resign is that he lost all political support. It was a two-year process, where at first Republican voters and Congress stuck with him, but as the story unfolded he started to lose that support.”

Now, as then, Hickey said that the partisan divide in both the country and Congress will likely ensure Trump has solid job security. Though an aggregate of polls compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight shows that the president’s approval ratings have consistently remained a shade under 40 percent, those numbers have remained fairly steady under the barrage of scandal facing the administration.

“Now that he’s actually the president and we see more of these cases, he’s losing support from independents, but he still has Republican support,” Hickey said. “Without more direct evidence of wrongdoing by the president, it seems that 40 percent of the country is sticking with him.”

Despite the perceived unlikelihood of impeachment anytime soon, Hickey did note that the 2018 midterm elections could turn the tide if Democrats were to win power. He said that if negative leaks about the president continue or the economy takes a turn for the worse, liberals could recoup recent congressional losses.

“But as it is right now,” he said, “it might be a status quo election where Republicans keep control.

Some locals, however, seem to think the recent news is overblown.

“My take on it is it’s just hyped up,” Mike Sarsfield, of Fairmont, said. “I think it was legal to meet, from what I understand. People might not like the optics of it, but in the past people have done that.”

Sarsfield also said that his opinion hasn’t changed since the election, despite the new information about Trump Jr.

“I’m in the same spot I was,” he said. “I would vote the exact same way. I just think everyone is so polarized. I don’t think you’ll ever see any type of compromise in the near future.”

Likewise, Bridgeport’s Kim Burly said she also feels that the media has over-exaggerated the Trump-Russia stories and noted that she hopes investigations into the matter will soon be closed.

“You pick and choose; you try to follow it,” she said. “It seems like a barrage of information. I really don’t know what to make of it. I think the American people voted, and I don’t think the election was tampered with as much as the news likes to make it seem, but I don’t know.”

But Buckhannon’s Courtney Trader said her opinion has changed since the election. Once solidly in Trump’s corner, she said she isn’t so sure now.

“He was who I wanted ever since he announced he was running in the primaries,” she said. “Given everything that has been piling up, though, I feel like if we were to vote now, I wouldn’t vote at all. I definitely wouldn’t vote for Hillary, but I don’t think I would have voted for Trump either.”

But she mirrored the comments of Hickey when she considered the possibility of impeachment.

“With Republicans in control of Congress, I feel like it’s just Democrats overreacting,” Trader said. “I doubt it would happen. I feel like he would have to do something extremely bad, because there’s nothing really tying the president to these things.”

And for others, like Aleah Dye of Big Bend, the recent news has proven particularly striking.

“I think Donald Trump Jr.’s actions serve to further solidify the mass of accusations against his father,” she said. “By participating in those meetings, he crossed a very serious line and acted inappropriately and seemingly without any clearance.”

In Dye’s opinion, the younger Trump’s meeting could make impeachment even more realistic.

“Considering all the legal intricacies of the Russia case, Donald Trump’s being found guilty would certainly warrant impeachment,” she said. “No doubt about it. Others have been impeached or had impeachment considered for much less.”

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