Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the White House Thursday to call for the protection of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
A coalition of organizations, including MoveOn and Public Citizen, organized hundreds of protests that took place nationwide at 5 p.m. The demonstrations were a response to President Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday, which protesters in Lafayette Park said could jeopardize Mueller’s investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general, now oversees the Mueller investigation. He can approve or deny subpoenas, direct the scope of the investigation and decide if Mueller’s final report will be made public.
Just feet from the White House, protesters carried signs boasting phrases like, “no one is above the law,” “resist” and “criminal obstruction of justice.” The rally featured speakers from various progressive organizations.
Junior Jack McCann said he attended the protest because citizens should be able to hold public officials like Trump accountable. He added that he is not sure whether Trump is innocent or guilty of colluding with Russians, but he believes protecting the Mueller investigation is the only way to find an answer.
McCann said many of his friends took part in local demonstrations around the country, which gave him hope.
“It’s inspiring,” McCann said. “It’s good to see everyone out here. It’s good to be able to hold our representatives accountable and fight for a better democracy.”
McCann said he fully supports Congress passing legislation to protect the Mueller investigation, calling it “the most basic” action for public officials to take.
“I don’t want my president to be a felon,” McCann said. “But if he is guilty, we have a right to know.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a speaker at the rally, said in an interview that Whitaker does not have the authority as the acting attorney general to oversee the Mueller investigation.
“He does not have the constitutional authority, the legal authority or the moral authority to do anything to interfere with the investigation,” Raskin said. “There will be political and constitutional hell to pay if they try to interfere with the Mueller investigation.”
Raskin said the protesters at the rally demonstrated a “remarkable” energy considering many had just finished volunteering with campaigns in the midterm election.
Lisa Gilbert, the vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, said at the rally that Whitaker’s appointment was “unacceptable” because he has made previous statements criticizing Mueller’s investigation.
“This is a constitutional crisis waiting to happen,” Gilbert said. “This is nothing less than a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre.”
Gilbert said the Mueller investigation must continue to ensure foreign bodies don’t interfere in future elections. She called for Whitaker’s recusal and federal legislation to protect the probe.
In between speeches, Gilbert and other speakers led the crowd in chants like “Whitaker must recuse” and “guilty.”
“Trump thought that by waiting until after Election Day, our voices would be silenced when he crossed a red line on the Mueller investigation,” she said. “Well look around — he was dead wrong.”