Politics & Government

SC Republicans don’t care about Trump-Russia investigation

Watergate investigator talks about differences between Trump-Russia and Watergate

Gene Boyce, a Raleigh lawyer who served as assistant chief counsel on the Watergate Committee, discusses the similarities and differences between Donald Trump's connections to Russia and Watergate.
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Gene Boyce, a Raleigh lawyer who served as assistant chief counsel on the Watergate Committee, discusses the similarities and differences between Donald Trump's connections to Russia and Watergate.

Ken Spelde tracks Donald Trump’s presidential victories on a whiteboard that he keeps at work.

The 54-year-old Columbia resident says Trump deserves credit for boosting the economy, creating jobs, taking steps to curb illegal immigration and supporting the military.

But when he turns on the news, Spelde says, all he sees is a brouhaha over whether Trump or his campaign team colluded with Russia to influence last November’s election.

“They’ve been trying to bash him since he got in,” he said.

Spelde is one of many S.C. Republicans who are sick of the federal investigation that has dominated headlines and news cycles for months.

Some call it a partisan witch hunt that never would have been aimed at a Democrat like former President Barack Obama. They liken national news outlets, with their near-daily reports on the investigation, to the boy who cried wolf.

Those views have not changed with the release of emails showing Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, was eager to accept a mid-campaign offer of documents that would “incriminate Hillary (Clinton)” and be “very useful to your father.” That offer accompanied an email that said the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

S.C. Democrats, of course, see much, much more.

S.C. Democratic Party chair Trav Robertson, for instance, told The Buzz the emails further prove Trump’s campaign worked to “sell out our democracy.”

But if the Buzz has learned anything, it is that one party’s bombshell is another party’s dud.

“They called him up for opposition research. I think anybody would (accept) that,” Charleston County GOP chairman Larry Kobrovsky said. “Nobody on our side thinks that’s a smoking gun, whereas on the other side, they’re all salivating over it.

“To be fair, we did the same with Hillary (Clinton).”

S.C. GOP chair Drew McKissick said the topic is a waste of time.

“They’ve been investigating for 10 months now and haven’t thrown up the first bit of evidence of collusion. You have to wonder how long they’re going to beat their heads against the wall and waste time on stuff like this.”

The cavernous gap between those reactions illustrates the increasingly polarized U.S. political landscape, College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts said.

Party affiliation now dictates not only how you vote, but which news channel you watch, which social media accounts you follow and “how you’re going to interpret what’s going on in the news or public policy,” Knotts said.

Still, not all Republicans are dismissive of the Russia probe.

State Rep. Gary Clary, R-Pickens, said he sees parallels between the investigation and the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Clary echoed the frustration of U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, that Republicans, who control the White House and both houses of Congress, have seen their agenda thwarted by distraction after distraction.

“When you look at what’s been going on since January, it’s been nothing but damage control, and nothing is getting done,” Clary said. “It’s one news cycle after another.”

Tweet of the week

Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway went viral at mid-week, using flashcards during a Fox News interview to make the case that Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election.

Or, at least, that’s what The Buzz thinks she was doing. (It was a very confusing segment.)

Former S.C. Democratic operative Phil Bailey had one of the best reactions on Twitter, quipping: “Sesame Street has gotten terrible.”

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

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