AP NEWS

Messer: Russia probe politicized

March 20, 2018

U.S. Rep. Luke Messer said Monday that most Indiana residents are tired of hearing about the federal investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election.

Messer, R-6th, described the investigation as “highly politicized.”

“I think it’s important we get the facts out about what truly happened with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. And yet when you talk to most Hoosiers, they’re exhausted by all this palace intrigue,” Messer said in an interview. “I haven’t spoken to one Hoosier who believes the Russians made them vote for a presidential candidate.

“We need to get this investigation wrapped up, get the facts out and move on,” he said during an interview at the downtown Starbucks.

Messer was in Fort Wayne to campaign for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Indiana’s May 8 primary election.

The Journal Gazette asked Messer whether he is concerned that Trump seems to be threatening or bullying the Justice Department and the FBI over the Russian interference investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“I think that most Hoosiers see this for what it is: a highly politicized investigation,” Messer said.

He said investigators who made campaign donations to a presidential candidate in 2016 should have been disqualified from taking part in the probe. According to media reports last summer, three members of Mueller’s team had made contributions to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter that the Mueller team includes “13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters” but no Republicans. On Monday, he tweeted in apparent reference to the investigation, “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

A Pew Research Center poll of 1,466 adults taken March 7-14 showed that 61 percent of respondents were confident Mueller would conduct a fair investigation. The same survey showed that only 42 percent of respondents were confident the Trump administration will make a “serious effort” to prevent Russia from influencing future U.S. elections.

“My focus is the same focus I hear from most Hoosiers. They are focused on this president’s results,” Messer said when asked about Trump’s recent comments on the investigation. “They are excited by the economy, they appreciate the tax cuts, they are excited to see America back with a strong standing around the globe, ISIS is on the run, North Korea is now talking about coming to the table and discussing nuclear disarmament.”

Axios/Survey Monkey polling results released March 8 gave Trump a 53 percent approval rating among Hoosiers. Morning Consult polling gave Trump a 49 percent approval rating in Indiana in February. 

Messer, a Greensburg resident, is competing with former state lawmaker Mike Braun of Jasper and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, of Brownsburg, for the GOP Senate nomination. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Granger in the Nov. 6 general election.

Messer came to town for a meet-and-greet event at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters.

Greg Pence, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, was supposed to have campaigned with Messer on Monday but did not make the trip. Messer said the two will campaign together Friday in central Indiana. Greg Pence seeks the Republican nomination for Messer’s seat in the House.

bfrancisco@jg.net