In Indiana, Trump's Supporters Remain Loyal Despite Legal Troubles
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
For President Trump, the end of August has been intense. There was the verdict in the tax and bank fraud trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort - guilty on eight felony counts. It was the first trial stemming from the Russia investigation. In another court the same day, his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and implicated the president. And then Trump was heavily criticized for his muted response to the death of Republican Senator John McCain. But for the president's loyal supporters in Evansville, Ind., another week of controversial stories has not made much of an impression, as NPR's Sarah McCammon reports.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: At a campaign rally in a crowded arena last night, President Trump returned to what's becoming a familiar attack on the nation's top law enforcement officials.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now.
MCCAMMON: He didn't mention special counsel Robert Mueller, who's investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he threatened to get involved if officials don't straighten things out, as he put it.
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TRUMP: What's happening is a disgrace.
MCCAMMON: That message seems to be getting through to Republican voters here.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Do you need to see a menu, hon?
MCCAMMON: At the Pie Pan Restaurant in Evansville, 58-year-old Derek Smith was wearing a Team Deplorable button in honor of Trump's impending visit. He thinks Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have been singled out by investigators.
DEREK SMITH: Just because they're associated with Trump.
MCCAMMON: Smith likes everything Trump is doing - cutting taxes, pushing for a border wall. And he doesn't think much of the Russia probe. If someone spent months investigating you or me, Smith says, they'd dig up something.
SMITH: I'm sure they would find things in my life that I wouldn't be too happy about them writing about. But all in all, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. I'm only interested in what he's done for the country.
MCCAMMON: I'm guessing you haven't paid hush money to anybody, though.
SMITH: Well, not yet. I wish I had a reason to (laughter).
MCCAMMON: Around the corner, Margaret Effinger was eating breakfast with her sister-in-law. The 77-year-old also likes Trump's immigration policies and says he's being unfairly scrutinized.
MARGARET EFFINGER: I think it's like he says. It's a witch hunt - maybe. But I just think it's gone on for so long that it needs to be gone.
MCCAMMON: Across town at the Vanderburgh County Republican headquarters, Kevin Harrison was getting ready to carpool over to the Trump rally with friends. Harrison is a retiree who volunteers with the local GOP. He says the Russia investigation is a fishing expedition.
KEVIN HARRISON: I personally think it's just a lot of white noise.
MCCAMMON: Harrison likes Trump's combative approach to trade, and he's solidly behind the president.
HARRISON: I didn't vote for chief Boy Scout. I voted for someone to run my country and to be the leader of the free world and to do what I think is important. Do I care about all this other little peripheral stuff? Means absolutely nothing to me and a whole lot of people just like me.
MCCAMMON: Polls suggest a lot of Republican voters are skeptical of the Russia investigation, but a clear majority of Americans support Mueller according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. On another issue, Trump's response to Senator John McCain's death, Harrison says he would have liked to have heard a few more words from the president. But Harrison didn't pay much attention to the controversy, including the part where the White House temporarily raised its American flag to full-staff before lowering it again in McCain's honor. Harrison says the flag at his house is still down.
HARRISON: I just knew myself that whenever he had died, instead of waiting to see whether the flag should go up or down, I went ahead and put it at half-staff.
MCCAMMON: Trump visited Evansville on a day when flags around the city, at an American Legion and a local grocery store were still at half-staff. Trump often takes rhetorical shots at McCain. But as he rallied supporters in the hours after a memorial service was held for McCain, Trump said nothing about the senator. Instead he focused his attacks on those who are still living and investigating his allies. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Evansville, Ind.
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