Leaks, not Russia ties, worry Republicans

Rank-and-file Republicans are more concerned about leaks of conversations between Trump advisers and the Russian government than they are about the conversations themselves, according to a new opinion poll.

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The Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between February 16 and February 20, shows US President Donald Trump has shifted opinions within a party where national security has been a top issue since the Cold War, the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato says.

“Republicans have now put a higher priority on their partisan identification and support for their current leader than principles they have had for many decades,” Sabato said.

“We live in such a polarised era.”

The poll asked people to pick one of two statements that was “the most concerning to you”.

The first statement cited “reports that Trump advisers were in repeated contact with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election”.

The second cited “US intelligence agents leaking details of conversations between Trump advisers and the Russian government to reporters”.

Overall, 43 per cent of Americans said they were most concerned about reports of the contacts with Russia.

Another 39 per cent said they were concerned about the leaks and 19 per cent said they did not know.

However, people who identified with the Republican Party appeared to be much more troubled by the leaks.

About 57 per cent said the leaks were the bigger concern, while 23 per cent said it was the Russian contacts, and another 20 per cent did not know.

Trump asked his national security adviser Michael Flynn to resign in February after reports he had discussed US sanctions with a Russian diplomat while Barack Obama was still president.

Yet, while the media focused on the contacts with Russia, Trump blamed Flynn’s departure on “criminal” leaks.

“The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Trump said in a tweet.