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Analysis | Trump allies call trial a 'sham.' Public opinion isn't cooperating.

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Top Republicans are showing up at Donald Trump's Manhattan criminal trial not just to help him skirt his gag order, but also with a message: Not only is this a sham, but it's a sham everyone can see.

"The conviction or acquittal — either way, the American people see this as a sham, and rightfully so," one of those Republicans, Sen. J.D. Vance (Ohio), said Tuesday on Fox News.

"I think everybody in the country can see that [sham] for what it is," said another, House Speaker Mike Johnson (La.).

Added a third, Vivek Ramaswamy, on Tuesday night: "I think many Democrats and many independents across this country understand watching this trial that this is a political sham."

This does not in fact appear to be the case. Polling has consistently shown that Americans, while somewhat skeptical of the proceedings, are not adopting Trump's claims of persecution.

And in fact, there is now some evidence they could be moving in favor of the prosecution.

Post law enforcement reporter Tom Jackman details how GOP representatives speaking on behalf of former president Donald Trump may be violating his gag order. (Video: The Washington Post)

We regrettably don't have a ton of recent polling as Trump's trial has kicked into gear over the past couple of weeks. But what we do have is a new Yahoo News/YouGov survey released Tuesday, which showed new highs in the percentages of Americans who believe that:

Here's how those numbers have tracked since Trump's March 2023 indictment. Notice the increases since last month's poll, which was conducted mostly before the trial began with jury selection:

Most of these numbers are right around 50 percent, which suggests the verdict remains out for many in the court of public opinion. But what's also notable here is how few Americans take the opposite views.

Just 22 percent, for example, say Trump didn't falsify business records. So while Americans said by a 19-point margin in March 2023 that Trump falsified the records, they now say so by a 30-point margin.

Americans saying by a 30-point margin that Trump did the thing he's accused of would seem to, at the very least, undercut the idea that this is all a baseless exercise.

Additionally, just 24 percent say either that Trump didn't falsify records or that he did so but it's not a crime. The margin by which Americans say Trump committed a crime has increased from nine points in March 2023 to 23 points today.

And just 37 percent disapprove of the trial. That's been more or less consistent over the past 14 months, but approval has ticked up. So, contra the claims of Vance and Johnson, Americans now approve of the indictment and trial by double digits.

Perhaps the most striking new number, though, comes with respect to Trump's gag order and the jail threat he faces.

While these Republicans have sought to highlight the idea that Trump's free speech is under attack — including by saying precisely the things that have gotten him in trouble — that view doesn't appear to have caught on in any significant way.

In fact, a YouGov poll last week for the Economist showed Americans saying 51 percent to 34 percent that jail would be an appropriate punishment should Trump continue violating his gag order.

Trump going to jail for violating his gag order is supposedly something of an un-crossable line for his prosecutions — and the apparent impetus for Trump's allies arriving in droves at his trial. But the data we have suggest Americans would be good with such a drastic step by a double-digit margin.

These are just a couple polls from the same pollster. And it's worth waiting for others, conducted after the testimony of Daniels and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has registered.

It's also worth acknowledging that concerns about the fairness of the trial persist for many Americans. A New York Times poll released Monday showed voters in six key states said 49 percent to 45 percent that they didn't think Trump would be able to get a fair trial. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll last week showed Americans said 44-39 that they didn't think the trial had been fair to that point.

But these and other polls suggest some of that concern comes from the left, which worries about Trump being given special treatment and/or evading accountability yet again. So it's not all people worried about Trump being railroaded. And even if it were, that's not a majority view.

This suggests that the tale being spun by these Trump surrogates outside the courthouse hasn't caught on. Americans might not be huge fans of this prosecution, but they apparently see the basis for it.

Which might explain why the surrogates are suddenly so keen to show up and drive that message — and even to say the kinds of things the judge has warned could taint the proceedings.

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