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Monday, September 26, 2022

Investigate Hunter Biden? Some Democrats say yes. Investigate Trump? Most Republicans say no.

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Since the public became aware of the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate at the beginning of the week, the former president’s defenders have repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of an investigatory double standard. Trump’s home got searched — but not Hillary Clinton’s, when it was learned that she was operating a private email server? Trump is being probed — but not President Biden’s son Hunter, who is known to have engaged in dubious business dealings? Just another example of how Trump is treated unfairly.

It’s not, of course. Clinton’s house wasn’t searched in part because there was no obvious need to; her cooperation with the FBI included turning over a server on which the email system was hosted. And Hunter Biden is being investigated, as has been reported.

But this idea that Democrats skate while Trump is pilloried persists, in part because it’s so useful for Trump to promote it. His casting of himself as a perennial victim has been enormously effective at reducing Republican support for investigating his actions.

As new polling from Fox News makes clear.

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The Trump-friendly cable-news network has a well-respected polling arm that consistently produces interesting analyses of the public mood (even if those results aren’t always prominently featured on the network). In its most recent iteration, the pollsters asked a pair of questions evaluating support for politically loaded investigations, including one of Hunter Biden.

First, the pollsters asked how important it was that Congress and the Justice Department probe the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats said it was “very important”; 9 in 10 said it was at least somewhat important. Among Republicans, though, 4 in 10 said it was even somewhat important.

Compare that with a Justice Department investigation into Hunter Biden’s “dealings with foreign governments,” as the poll put it. Overall, more respondents viewed this as important than investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, 73 percent to 65 percent. But that’s because Democrats are far more likely to say it’s important to investigate the president’s son than Republicans are to say it’s important to probe the riot.

The Capitol riot isn’t a great proxy for the search at Mar-a-Lago, obviously, both because it’s been going on for an extended period and because it touches on Trump only indirectly. The search of Trump’s estate occurred recently enough that we don’t have much in the way of polling on it, but we do have a related question that emerged earlier this year when we first learned that the Justice Department was investigating Trump’s removal of material when he left the White House.

In February, YouGov, conducting a poll for the Economist, asked Americans whether they supported a Justice Department probe into possible violations of the Presidential Records Act. About 6 in 10 Americans said they did — including 8 in 10 Democrats but 3 in 10 Republicans.

In other words, 61 percent of Democrats think it’s at least somewhat important to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings. By contrast, 29 percent of Republicans — half as many — approved of investigating Trump’s possibly possessing documents in violation of federal law in February. Forty percent of Republicans think it’s important for Congress and the Justice Department to get to the bottom of the Capitol riot.

Again: Trump has done a good job of stoking (and leveraging) his party’s hostility to avenues that might prove to him to be personally problematic.

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