LEESBURG, Va. – House Democrats pushing for the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference say they are not hearing much interest on the subject from their constituents back home.
A redacted version of Mueller's report is expected within days. In a letter March 24 summarizing Mueller's findings, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the special counsel had not found a conspiracy involving President Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government. The special counsel also did not make a determination about whether Trump's actions during the investigation amounted to obstruction.
Despite the Washington intrigue over the Mueller report, many Democrats say they're not hearing much about it at town halls or in the grocery store aisles when they return to their districts.
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said he usually runs into someone who brings up the subject every day.
But "the vast majority of what I hear is about kitchen-table issues," Kildee said. "People just talk about their own situation."
The issue of the Mueller report barely came up at a three-day House Democratic retreat in suburban Virginia that ended Friday.
Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders projected a focus on day-to-day issues, such as lower prescription drug prices, better roads and equal pay, they believe will resonate with voters in 2020 just as they did last year when they won back the House.
"We didn’t run on obstruction of justice. We didn’t run on the chaos crisis and confusion that comes out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. every day," Democratic House Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters at the retreat. "We ran on health care. We ran on infrastructure. We ran on bringing our democracy to life.”
But when they did mention Mueller – usually in response to reporters' questions – Democrats were not shy about calling on Barr to release the full report and promising to conduct the necessary oversight its findings deserve.
"We want to see the Mueller report," Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday. "There was an assault on the integrity of our elections in our country, the basis for our democracy. There is no doubt about that."
It's a careful balancing act that recognizes how entrenched public opinion is on Trump and the Mueller investigation.
A Fox News poll last month, completed before the special counsel delivered his report to Barr, found that 70% of respondents said their opinion about Trump probably would not change no matter what Mueller concluded. Conversely, only 21% said their opinions of the president could be changed based on the report.
Those poll numbers suggest Democrats may make inroads in swing districts by promoting solutions to everyday problems rather than pushing the need to keep investigating Trump.
"That is not to say we don’t (value) the Mueller report and the assertion, which has been confirmed by almost everybody, that the Russians interfered with our election," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday. "But it is, for most people, not the issue they wake up every morning thinking about. They wake up thinking, 'Do I have a job? Do my kids have a decent education? If I get sick today, can I get to a doctor or a hospital?' And those are the issues we’re focusing on."
Trump has used Barr's letter to build a public case against Mueller and the Democrats. The president has trumpeted the "no collusion" finding and slammed the two-year probe he often derided as a witch hunt.
"In fact, it was an illegal investigation that should never have been allowed to start," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "I fought back hard against this Phony & Treasonous Hoax!"
So, it has now been determined, by 18 people that truly hate President Trump, that there was No Collusion with Russia. In fact, it was an illegal investigation that should never have been allowed to start. I fought back hard against this Phony & Treasonous Hoax!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2019
Kildee, the Michigan congressman, said there's a danger of going too far either way.
"None of us – 10 years, 20 years from now – want to look back at this moment and say you know we really should have done something to rein this guy in," he said of Trump. "But in order to be in a position to continue to advance our agenda, we better realize that most folks don’t think about that stuff all the time. They need to see us going to battle with them.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: As the Mueller report looms, Democrats find voters would rather talk 'kitchen-table' issues