Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti said Monday that firing James Comey marked the point at which President Donald Trump became tied to the Russia investigation in the eyes of many of his voters.
Continetti appeared on the all-star panel on Fox News' "Special Report" to discuss Trump's latest poll numbers and the politics of the Russia investigation. A Monmouth poll released on Monday found Trump polling at just under 40 percent approval, and about 52 percent disapproval.
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Continetti said that Trump's decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey was pivotal for his approval ratings.
"I'd say the key number was the flip counties. This is what made Donald Trump president," Continetti said. "These are the Trump Democrats, the Trump independents, and the 40 percent number has been stable for about two months. What happened two months ago? Donald Trump fired Jim Comey."
Continetti said that reluctant Trump voters were not strongly approving of his performance because of the Russia investigation.
"I think there you see with the Comey firing onward, he's been unable to get out of the Russia morass and that's affected his approval among the soft Trump voter spread," Continetti said. "The people who voted for Donald Trump because he was in their view a better alternative than Hillary Clinton, but still aren't sold on him in the next coming years."
Host Bret Baier asked Continetti about a point made by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), who had said earlier that day that Trump has actually been tougher on Russia than Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama were with their failed Russian "reset" policy.
Continetti also said that Trump's foreign policy has not shown appeasement toward Vladimir Putin's government.
"I guess Senator Cotton is saying that actions speak louder than words," Continetti said. "I think he has a point, that other than the president's rhetoric and friendly tweets, when you get to the actual details of foreign policy, nothing has been done yet in order to really appease Vladimir Putin's government."
Later, Continetti said that Trump and the Republicans in Congress had a chance to make up ground on economic issues. The economy and jobs are issues that Trump is polling fairly well on, and Continetti said that the GOP could gain momentum by passing health care and tax reform bills.
"The key for Trump is: His top issue, which he has a large degree of support, is the economy and jobs. So one reason you have to get the health care vote done is you can move onto the tax cut," Continetti said.
"The terrain will be much better for this president and the Republican Congress," he said.
A vote on the Senate's Obamacare replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was postponed on Monday so that Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) could recover from surgery.