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Poll: Voters back Russia special prosecutor

Poll: Voters back Russia special prosecutor

Following President Donald Trump’s intelligence disclosure, voters have limited faith in his ability to “handle highly classified national security information,” according to the poll. | Getty

Voters are applauding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and any connections to Donald Trump’s campaign.

But, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, voters aren’t ready to begin the constitutional process of impeaching the president and removing him from office.

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Nearly two-thirds of voters, 63 percent, either “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with the Justice Department’s decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe, the poll shows. Only 21 percent of voters disagree with the decision to appoint a special counsel.

The vast majority of Democratic voters, 80 percent, support the decision to appoint an outside prosecutor — but so do half of Republicans and 58 percent of independents.

On impeachment, 38 percent of voters want Congress to begin the process of removing Trump from office. A plurality, 46 percent, do not want impeachment proceedings against Trump. Sixteen percent of voters don’t know or have no opinion.

Most Democratic lawmakers have discounted the possibility that Congress will work actively to remove Trump, at least given the current state of the investigation. But Democratic voters are more eager to move forward, the poll shows: More than two-thirds, 68 percent, want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings now.

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Comparatively, only 12 percent of GOP voters and 33 percent of independents want Congress to launch impeachment efforts.

"The Democratic base is not taking allegations against President Trump lightly," said Morning Consult Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "Sixty-eight percent of Democrats think Congress should begin impeachment hearings. Furthermore, 48 percent of Democrats think that investigating Trump and Russia should be the number one priority for Congress."

The poll, conducted last Thursday through Monday, comes after a string of negative press coverage for Trump — with much of it surrounding the Russia investigation and Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Voters are recoiling at some of these scandals, the poll shows. A 56-percent majority calls Trump sharing highly classified national security information with Russian government figures in the Oval Office “inappropriate,” while only 19 percent say Trump’s disclosure was “appropriate.”

Following Trump’s intelligence disclosure, voters have limited faith in his ability to “handle highly classified national security information,” according to the poll. Only 43 percent feel “very” or “somewhat” confident in Trump’s ability to handle classified information, while 51 percent say they are “not too confident” or “not confident at all.”

The poll also shows voters tilting against Trump firing Comey: 33 percent say his decision was appropriate, while 41 percent say it was inappropriate — roughly equal to a week ago.

Trump and his

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Trump ditches his feud in gracious visit with the pope

Pope Francis with President Donald Trump.

Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican. | AP

‘I won't forget what you said,’ the president says as their meeting came to a close.

By Louis Nelson

05/24/2017 05:54 AM EDT

President Donald Trump visited Wednesday with Pope Francis, one of his highest profile feuding partners from last year’s campaign, exchanging gifts in a meeting that the president labeled “fantastic.”

Trump’s stop at the Vatican comes amid an eight-day, multi-nation trip, his first as president. Trump also met Wednesday with Italian political leaders, but the visit with Pope Francis was widely considered one of the trip’s crucial moments, given the rhetoric the two men had hurled at one another from across the Atlantic during the presidential election.

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The president was effusively gracious to the pope throughout the meeting, according to the traveling pool of reporters who were allowed to observe some of Trump’s time with him, thanking him repeatedly as they exchanged gifts. Trump again told the pope, "Thank you. Thank you. I won't forget what you said,” as their meeting came to a close.

“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” Trump wrote on Twitter following his visit.

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Trump was accompanied at the meetings, which a traveling pool of reporters was briefly allowed to see, by senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who is also a White House adviser. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, First Lady Melania Trump and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster were also among the U.S. delegation.

The president presented Pope Francis with a first edition set of books written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a bronze statue that the White House said “represents hope for a peaceful tomorrow.”

“This is a gift for you. These are books from Martin Luther King. I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope.

The pope, in return, gave Trump a set of his own writings, including his 2015 encyclical on climate change and the environment. Also among the pope’s gifts to Trump was a copy of this year’s World Day of Peace message, which the Pope said he had personally signed for Trump. The president told Pope Francis that “I’ll be reading” what he was given.

Also among the gifts for Trump was a medal made by a Roman artist with an olive branch on it, which the pope said symbolized peace. The president responded by telling Pope Francis that “we can use peace.”

The meeting, which the pool report noted was stiff at its start, marked a dramatic warming between the two leaders, who have regularly been at

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Townsend: Trump team approached me for FBI director

Fran Townsend, the former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, confirmed to POLITICO that the Trump administration has approached her about replacing ousted FBI Director James Comey.

In this week’s episode of the Women Rule podcast, Townsend revealed her thoughts about being thrust into the middle of the controversial job search after President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey earlier this month.

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“I’ve talked to folks in the administration about it,” she told POLITICO’s Carrie Budoff Brown about the role.

A woman has never led the investigative agency, and Townsend noted that her candidacy for the job is itself “history-making.”

“The fact that women are in that mix says a lot about how far we’ve come. That hasn’t been true before,” she said. “Regardless of whatever decision is made, we have begun to shatter a glass ceiling about what is the population of people who are qualified and competitive to hold such a position.”

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Townsend was not the only woman to make the short list, either. While former Sen. Joe Lieberman has emerged as the frontrunner for the post, former Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Alice Fisher was briefly a contender, before she pulled her name from consideration last week.

As for whether she’d take the job if offered, the former Bush official demurred: “You know what? I learned in the White House I don’t do hypotheticals,” she said, “but I will say I was quite honored and quite flattered to be approached.”

This week’s Women Rule episode dives deep into the experiences of Townsend and two other prominent women in the Bush White House, Candi Wolff, assistant for legislative affairs, and Julie Cram, deputy assistant and director of the Public Liaison Office. The three women reflect on their stints in the executive branch and offer up advice for the current Republican administration.

Here are the highlights:

2:17 Ten years removed from their posts in the Bush administration, the trio reflect on their stints in the White House.

Townsend says she doesn’t miss being “right in the middle of every crisis.”

Even though “serving was an absolute privilege,” the former Homeland Security adviser says her time in the administration was like “hitting yourself in the head with a hammer – you don’t know how much it hurts until you stop.”

4:45 Wolff discloses how she knew it was time to leave the White House.

“I was exhausted. I didn’t have the creativity. I felt like I wasn’t offering my best,” Wolff says. “The president deserved the best, and he deserved the best of me.”

6:40 The three discuss whether the women in the Bush White House had any strategies to support one another.

“There’s a sisterhood, right?” Cram says of the women in the administration.

But Wolff notes that “most of

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GOP turns to familiar foil amid Trump woes: Pelosi

House Republicans are turning to a reliable villain to rev up their listless base: Nancy Pelosi.

Afraid of the ripple effect of President Donald Trump’s early scandals, the GOP is looking to motivate conservative voters by painting all Democratic candidates with Pelosi’s “San Francisco liberal values.” It’s an old standby for Republicans, which they’re testing out again in special House elections in Montana and Georgia, where Democrats are running unexpectedly strong in GOP-friendly districts.

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“I think we’ll see if it works. I believe it still works,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers of Ohio said of the GOP focus on Pelosi.

Pelosi remains a deeply unpopular figure among GOP voters. She has only a 14 percent favorability rating with Republicans, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday. And she doesn’t do much better with independents — just 20 percent of those voters view her favorably.

But in what’s shaping up to be a tough environment for Republicans driven by Trump’s tumultuous administration, some Democrats are starting to think, or at least hope, that the Pelosi-bashing trick might be growing old.

“A national campaign, using her as the boogeyman, I don’t think it’s going to work anymore,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). “It’s a playbook that worked for them. And people tend to stay with what works until it doesn’t. … But I think it’s a hopeful smokescreen on their part that maybe [they think] will deflect from Trump.”

Republicans have long demonized Pelosi, even before she won the speaker’s gavel in 2006, in a strategy that her supporters say reeks of sexism. But the plan for the most part has been wildly successful, with the GOP controlling the House since 2010 and likely for the foreseeable future. And with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton gone but Pelosi still House minority leader, she’s Republicans’ primary Democratic punching bag.

This time, Republicans aren’t the only ones tuning in to see whether vilifying Pelosi is still a winning strategy. Pelosi’s caucus, restless after years in the minority under her leadership, is watching what happens now more than ever. And some are already privately demanding change if Democrats don’t pick up one of the special election seats up for grabs.

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“There’s a real widespread sense if the Republicans’ only attack on us is Nancy Pelosi, why are we leading with our chin?” said one House Democrat. “There’s a greater and greater sense that it’s time for a change in leadership.”

Pelosi’s advocates say any talk of a change in leadership is minor at most and completely unrealistic. And, they argue, Republicans are only targeting her because they have nothing to show for having all the power in Washington.

“The GOP brand is in tatters, and their top legislative priority, Trumpcare, polls at 17 percent,” said

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Republicans: Montana special election 'closer than it should be'

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Republican Greg Gianforte’s closing motivational speech to voters ahead of Thursday’s special House election in Montana is the same thing GOP strategists are whispering in private: “This race is closer than it should be.”

It’s a recurring nightmare of a pattern for Republicans around the country, as traditional GOP strongholds prove more difficult and expensive for the party to hold than it ever anticipated when President Donald Trump plucked House members like Ryan Zinke, the former Montana Republican now running the Interior Department, for his Cabinet. Gianforte is still favored to keep the seat red, but a state Trump carried by 20 percentage points last year became a battleground in the past few months.

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Democrat Rob Quist, a folk singer and first-time candidate, has raised more than $6 million for his campaign, including $1 million in the past week alone as energized Democratic donors pour online cash into political causes this year. Quist hopes that enthusiasm also contributes to an outsize turnout — as it did in special elections in Kansas and Georgia earlier this year — for the oddly scheduled Thursday election, happening just before a holiday weekend.

"I remember talking to people when it first started who said this was a slam dunk, Gianforte’s it. And it’s not there anymore,” said Jim Larson, the Montana Democratic Party chairman. “It is a lot closer than people ever thought it would be.”

Gianforte, a technology executive, has led consistently in polls for the special election, but Quist has narrowed that lead to single digits in recent weeks, according to private surveys. “Gianforte has an edge, but it’s not going to be a slam dunk,” said one national GOP strategist.

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Republicans have called on Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. to calm their nerves about turnout and prevent Democrats from having the only energized voting bloc in the special election. Both have rallied voters with Gianforte, and Pence recorded a get-out-the-vote robocall. Gianforte, who said little about Donald Trump when Gianforte ran for governor and lost in 2016, has cast himself as a willing and eager partner of the president this time around.

On Tuesday, surrounded by Trump stickers — and some Trump hat-wearing supporters — Gianforte said he was eager "to work with Donald Trump to drain the swamp and make America great again," invoking two of the president's campaign slogans. Pence's robocall may give another boost to Republican turnout efforts.

But the environment has changed since Trump’s presidential win last fall. One senior Republican strategist warned that, based on the party’s performance in special elections so far, if Republicans “cannot come up with better candidates and better campaigns, this cycle is going to be even worse than anybody ever thought it could be.”

“The fact that we're talking about

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