Carson City – With ballots still being counted from Tuesday’s midterm election, the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions inspired roughly 50 people from around the region to gather in front of the Nevada State Legislature on Thursday November 8 at 5:00 p.m. in conjunction with a nationwide protest. According to organizers, the aim of the protest was to raise awareness and protect the Mueller investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
NCN’s Roger Moellendorf attended the rally and recorded several interviews with protesters. Listen to the audio and read quotes below.
Robert Mueller is a former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and oversees the United States Department of Justice Special Counsel’s Office.
During the 2016 presidential campaign US Senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions was an early and staunch Trump supporter and surrogate, so on March 2, 2017, Trump appointee US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from supervision of investigations into the Trump campaign.
On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. According to Comey’s testimony before congress, Comey said Donald Trump asked him to drop an FBI investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Due to the Sessions recusal, on May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Mueller Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice to investigate the matter of collusion with the Russians and potential obstruction of justice.
The investigation has netted numerous incitements and several guilty pleas and has yet to conclude, but yesterday President Trump summarily appointed Matthew G. Whitaker as acting Attorney General, and protesters in Carson City and across the nation are concerned that Whitaker in his new authority will end the Mueller investigation.
According to numerous reports, the Department of Justice announced soon after the Whitaker appointment that the acting attorney general will be in charge of all investigations under its purview, which apparently includes the investigation of Russian meddling and Trump campaign collusion.
Worth noting: According to the Appointments Clause of the US Constitution, (See Article 2, section 2, clause 2) the Senate would have to hold hearings and vote to confirm Matthew Whitaker. The salient distinction is drawn between the term “principal” and “inferior” officers. A principal officer reports directly to the president and no other, and an inferior officer reports to someone other than the president. The Trump Administration complained that Robert Mueller was appointed without congressional oversight, but Mueller does not report directly to the president, so he in fact can be appointed without congressional confirmation, and Whitaker cannot.
The nationwide protest Thursday was organized in a matter of hours. Moveon.org appeared to be the primary organizer on a national level. Laura Hale was an organizer who lives in Carson City and volunteers for the organization Indivisible Northern Nevada.
“We are trying to raise awareness about the danger of Trump trying to fire Mueller or to somehow undermine the Meuller investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election,” said Hale. “With the essential firing yesterday of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, we now have acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker who has already demonstrated his opposition to the Mueller investigation. He has been on the record saying that the scope is too broad, that Mueller should not be investigating associates of Trump. That he should not be investigating Trump organization finances, and those are key issues you know we’ve have several indictments through the Mueller investigation in those areas, so those things all tie back to the essential question of whether there was interference and how that came about. Who coordinated, whether it was the Trump Administration or any other organization because basically that would be treason,” Hale said.
Hale added that she has been concerned that when both houses of congress were under Republican control the president has not been held accountable.
“Our democracy is really at risk when you have a president who is not held accountable and seems to believe that he is above the law, and that’s what we’re out here saying, no one is above the law, and if we don’t stop this now, we’re really going to have a constitutional crisis,” Hale said.
For Hale, concern over the Sessions ouster is not a partisan issue.
“Some people might think this is a partisan issue, but this is our democracy, and it serves everybody,” Hale said. “Not just the people who are out of power or the people who are in power, we have the right to come out and protest, and we need to make sure our voices are heard.”
Two men at the rally wished to remain anonymous but offered comment to Roger Moellendorf.
“I’m fired up because I think the president has picked somebody who is unqualified to run that office, and he does not have the character or qualities to do it, and not only that, he’s already come out, it’s already been published come out that he already has a position against continuing the investigation, so that fact that he has already said that the investigation should be terminated. That Mueller is operating outside constitutional prerogatives. They assume that the president has prerogative to do everything, and so my concern is that we’re headed into an autocracy. That we’re going to be run by a tyrant and some henchman, and frankly, these guys sound more like mafia or mob people than they do like citizens of the United States, so I get to come out here tonight, and in community, talk with some people I know, and explain to each other what we would like to see changed.,” he said.
Irshad Tabani is a political science student at UNR who participated in the protest.
“I think it’s important for young people to be engaged in the political process, and think its very important to have our voice heard because often we aren’t the one making decisions in the county, and I think we aught to be because we are the next generation to take over,” Tabani said.
For Tabani, the rule of law is at issue.
“I study political science at the university, and one of the things that motivates me as a political scientist is the fact that I see the norms of our democracy disappearing as Trump continues doing what he does,” Tabani said. “What this particular protest is about is preserving the rule of law, which is incredibly important for democracy as well as enforcing the rules of this country. If the president is not accountable for those rules, then we should care about them.”