Donald Trump’s Russia scandal just became real in the minds of Americans, and there’s no going back

Mainstream non-political Americans have spent all year hearing one side accuse Donald Trump and his campaign of having been criminally in bed with Russia during the election, and the other side insisting that it’s all “fake news.” That’s left some people in the middle unsure of what to make of the scandal, instead choosing to ignore it until they see it get bigger or fade away. Now we’re seeing evidence that these people are finally starting to pick a side – and it’s bad news for Trump all around.

New polling from CNN reveals that the first arrests in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal have caused a huge spike in the number of people who think the scandal is the real deal. A large majority of Americans now believe that Trump’s campaign did something wrong with Russia during the election, and that Trump knew about it. This sea change has come about simply because a few people in the scandal – including the highest ranking person in his campaign – were arrested. The public perception is about to radically shift again.

It’s not even clear that the average American knows or understands what Trump’s people were charged with, as “money laundering” is poorly understood, and doesn’t exactly sound like something out of a Law & Order episode. The simple fact that they’ve been arrested has been enough to cause a large number of Americans to conclude that the Trump-Russia scandal is real. Today we got word that Robert Mueller is preparing to arrest Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on kidnapping related charges. Once that arrest happens, and word spreads that one of Trump’s top guys was plotting to kidnap a guy un Pennsylvania just before Trump took office, it’s going to cause a whole lot more people to conclude that the Trump-Russia scandal is indeed very real.

Every political expert has estimated that Donald Trump’s base is around 15% to 20% of the country, yet his approval rating is in the thirties. There are clearly a sizable number of people who are outside Trump’s base, but are still giving him passive support or benefit of the doubt. Those are the people who will continue to bail on him as the Trump-Russia scandal gets more blatantly ugly. Trump can’t survive on his base alone. No president gets by on a 20% approval rating. Once he loses everyone else, he’s finished in the court of public opinion – which will mean he’s finished altogether.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report