A group of protesters gathered on the evening of Nov. 8 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park to protest the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by President Donald Trump.
Sessions is to be replaced by Matthew Whitaker, an outspoken opponent of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Sessions had previously recused himself from the investigation—overseen by the Attorney General’s office—which some have speculated as the cause of his forced resignation, The New York Times reported. Whitaker’s appointment as an alleged attempt to interfere in the Mueller investigation has also raised concerns.
The protest, dubbed “Nobody is Above The Law,” is part of a nationwide series of protests against Whitaker’s appointment. Tens of thousands of protesters convened at city halls, courthouses and landmarks across the United States in defense of Mueller and any attempt to interfere with the investigation. These protests are part of a rapid response plan outlined by a network of liberal organizations known together as Nobody is Above the Law.
The network’s partners include Women’s March, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Service Employees’ International Union and the Working Families Party. Its website lays out a series of so-called red lines that could threaten Mueller’s investigation and details plans for massive protests should Trump cross them. These red lines include the firing of Mueller, the pardoning of key witnesses and “actions that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s current supervisor, or repealing the regulations establishing the office.”
“Donald Trump just crossed a red line, violating the independence of the investigation pursuing criminal charges in the Trump-Russia scandal and cover-up,” organizers stated in a post on Nov. 8. “Trump putting himself above the law is a threat to our democracy, and we’ve got to get Congress to stop him.”
“We’re here today to stand up for justice and to show our kids what it’s like to fight back against injustice and things we think are illegal and super harmful for our country and their future,” protester Rebecca Sanders said.
Fellow protester Miranda McCormack said she agreed, adding, “nobody is above the law.”
The controversy surrounding Whitaker’s appointment stems largely from an op-ed he wrote for CNN in August 2017, in which he claimed Mueller’s investigation was “going too far.” The New York Times also reported several incidents since 2017 in which Whitaker challenged or attacked the Mueller investigation via social media and in cable news appearances.
Sessions recused himself from the investigation in March 2017 following public backlash for failing to disclose in a Senate hearing that he had participated in two meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, The New York Times reported. Sessions claimed the failure to disclose was a simple oversight and the meeting was taken for legitimate purposes. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been overseeing Mueller’s investigation in Sessions’ place.
Trump has become increasingly hostile to Sessions over the past year. Sources reported Trump struggled to find enough Senate backing to fire Sessions. As the midterm election approached, Vox reported, more and more Republican members of the Senate began to hint at being open to replacing Sessions after the elections.
While Sessions’ resignation was the focus of the rally, many protesters said it was also a good way to express general frustrations with the Trump administration.
Rallier Jackie Tate said she was protesting “to protect democracy.”
“[There is a] general feeling of being infuriated with what’s happening, and it’s one of those things where I call, I vote, I email, I donate, but…it doesn’t feel like enough,” rally participant Allison O’Neill said. “Coming to these [rallies] feels like a bit of a recharge and a way to connect with people who want to be more involved and…it’s hopefully inspiring.”