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Voters relieved, but unmoved, after Mueller report release

Americans spoke to NBC News about Trump in New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina and elsewhere across the country.
Image: Mueller Report
Special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as released on April 18, 2019.Jon Elswick / AP

MANCHESTER, N.H. — It was a lot of information for Cate Tanzer to process all at once. The long-awaited report from Robert Mueller had just hit airwaves and the information was being described in real time.

"Wait," she said, stunned while watching the findings unfold from an MSNBC-tuned laptop alongside an NBC News reporter in a local diner on Thursday and trying to get it all straight. "Trump said he was 'effed' or Sessions said he was 'effed'?" (She was referring to President Donald Trump's panicked reaction upon learning of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's appointment, detailed in the report.)

Either way: "We're watching history in the making," she said. "A lot of drama" after two years of investigating — and she was glad it was finally out.

From political hotspots across the country — Manchester, New Hampshire to Council Bluffs, Iowa; St. Petersburg, Florida, to Columbia, South Carolina — Americans expressed relief at finally seeing the report, even if the two-year-long-probe's findings didn't do much to change their already existing beliefs about Trump and his administration.

In downtown Columbia, South Carolina, Mimi Draft told NBC she was "doubtful" anything in the report would change her negative opinion of the president.

"I live in a blue bubble," she conceded, but in her eyes, Trump had "started off on the wrong foot" all together from his early days promoting the birther movement. What she'd seen from him since had only cemented her negative opinion.

On the other side of the political spectrum, sitting outside at a cafe by the water in St. Petersburg, Florida, Bernie Angelo also remained unmoved.

"I don’t believe half of what I read," she said. "I do think it started out as a witch hunt, and that kind of threw me off, but there’s really nothing that could change my mind about him."

In Council Bluffs, Iowa James Binns said Mueller's report — based on Barr's synopses — was an answer to his prayers. "I had all the faith that President Trump was a good man," he told NBC. "He's been doing a good job. A lot of people don't think so, but I do. He hadn’t done anything wrong, and I think what the report shows is that he is indeed vindicated of any wrongdoing."

Moreover, Binns couldn't blame the president for his oft-tweeted, emotional reactions to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the election.

"If somebody accuses me of something I'm not doing, I, myself, get a little upset," Binns said.

Mulling over the finer points of Mueller's probe during brunch at Manchester's Airport Diner, friends William Feldmann and Shelly Heit agreed that they don't think Trump or his campaign ever colluded.

"Not because he'd say 'that's wrong' but I don't think they were organized enough to do that," Feldmann reasoned. "But the obstruction of justice greatly concerns me."

For them, hearing from Mueller himself could help clear this up — and help the country move on.

"I would be very happy to see Mueller come testify," Feldmann said, adding in a skeptical tone that if Mueller were to echo Barr and Trump's characterizations of his own report, he would "be perfectly happy with that" and ready to move on.

In Florida, Bernie Angelo's husband — a retired sports executive named Jerry — also seemed ready to move on, telling NBC he would be "absolutely" fine if this was the last day the media focused on Mueller and his investigation.

And while Republicans and Democrats alike have fretted over the investigations lingering impact — especially heading into a presidential election year — the probe isn't playing a role in Gulfport, Florida's Alan Wise warming towards Trump since not supporting him in 2016.

Wise said he wanted to see a good overview of the report to discover "how guilty or not guilty Trump is complicit in what happened there." That said, he's actually "more likely to support" the president in 2020.

"He's not perfect guy," Wise said of Trump. "I think he’s a despicable human being. But he’s done a lot of god things for country. We are seeing a lot of good things come out of the environment and business is good now. Interest rates are low. I think that’s good for the average American."

Months of interviews with Americans across the country paint an unclear picture of how deeply Americans have even been paying attention to the in's and out's of the probe. Reactions have seemed to break down along already-existing ideological and party lines, not just in Washington but across the country.

According to a March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 39 percent of Americans said they'd heard "a lot" about the Mueller story — a smaller share than those who said they had heard a lot about other big stories during Trump's political tenure, like the firing of James Comey (56 percent) and the release of the Access Hollywood tape (66 percent).

But for some voters, this reality is as good, if not slightly worse, than fiction.

"I'm an involved citizen and I love reading a juicy novel," South Carolinian Cindy Warren said of the Mueller report. Then, thinking of the report again: "Well, it's very meaty. It's actually kind of exhausting."

Ali Vitali reported from Manchester, New Hampshire. Garrett Haake and Kailani Koenig reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Shaquille Brewster reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Vaughn Hillyard reported from Council Bluffs, Iowa.