Lo­cal pro­test­ers de­cry Ses­sions’ re­moval

De­mon­stra­tors call for pro­tec­tion of Robert Mueller probe

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Karl Richter

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is not above the law and Congress must pro­tect the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble wrong­do­ing by his elec­tion cam­paign, pro­test­ers as­serted Thurs­day in down­town Texarkana.

Eleven peo­ple gath­ered in front of the fed­eral court­house to raise their voices in re­sponse to Trump forc­ing Jeff Ses­sions to re­sign his post as at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“Stand up! Fight back!” the pro­test­ers chanted un­der over­cast skies, with rain show­ers in the fore­cast.

On Wed­nes­day, Trump re­quested Ses­sions’ res­ig­na­tion and named Ses­sions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whi­taker, as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral. Crit­ics of the ad­min­is­tra­tion see Ses­sions’ re­moval as likely a first step to­ward shut­ting down a probe led by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller. Mueller is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cam­paign’s pos­si­ble co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

“We are here to­day be­cause we be­lieve in the rule of law and we have a pres­i­dent that doesn’t. We are here to­day to say enough is enough. We stand with Amer­i­cans across the coun­try to con­front Pres­i­dent Trump’s bla­tant ef­forts to in­ter­fere and shut down the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. We are here to stand up to Don­ald Trump,” or­ga­nizer Jo Ann Du­man read from a pre­pared state­ment.

Congress in­clud­ing Rep. Bruce Wester­man and Rep.

John Rat­cliffe—Repub­li­cans who rep­re­sent Texarkana, Ark., and Texarkana, Texas, re­spec­tively—must act to de­fend the in­de­pen­dence of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Du­man said. And be­cause Whi­taker has made pub­lic state­ments crit­i­cal of Mueller, he should give up con­trol of the probe.

“Through­out the last two years, Pres­i­dent Trump has acted as if he is above the law by re­peat­edly threat­en­ing the rule of law and any­one who tries to hold him ac­count­able. The press, Spe­cial Coun­sel Mueller and we the peo­ple have all been at­tacked by this pres­i­dent.

“Our min­i­mum re­quest is that Matthew Whi­taker re­cuse him­self from any­thing to do with the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. We want Congress, in­clud­ing our own rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Rat­cliffe and Wester­man, to stand up for the rule of law and pro­tect the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Du­man said.

Rox­anne Aaron ex­pressed a sense of ur­gency re­gard­ing Trump’s ac­tions since he took of­fice.

“I’m here be­cause democ­racy is frag­ile, and I’m here be­cause my chil­dren and their chil­dren need to live in an Amer­i­can democ­racy, and it’s slip­ping away. I see our side notic­ing it, but I don’t see the right side notic­ing it be­cause their lead­ers that they’ve elected are en­abling Trump and stay­ing quiet about all this. I’m wor­ried about the fu­ture,” Aaron said. Stephanie Span­hel agreed.

“I think that it’s im­por­tant that we rep­re­sent,” Span­hel said. “If we don’t stand up now, we’re not go­ing to have any­thing to stand up for.”

The protest was one among many na­tion­wide ar­ranged by a coali­tion of pub­lic-in­ter­est or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing anti-Trump group In­di­vis­i­ble and lib­eral hub moveon.org, call­ing it­self the No­body Is Above the Law net­work.

Ac­tivists have had protest plans in place for months, ready to ex­e­cute on short no­tice if Trump ever acted to cur­tail Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The weather likely kept many of the 67 peo­ple ex­pected to at­tend from com­ing, Du­man said.

“There are hun­dreds of groups all across the coun­try, many of them larger than ours. I wouldn’t doubt that there may be some smaller,” Du­man said.

It was im­por­tant to add her voice, even if the lo­cal group was a small one, Cait Bar­ber said.

“I knew that there prob­a­bly wouldn’t be a big crowd, but I fig­ured if I didn’t show up, then I was con­tribut­ing to it not be­ing a big crowd,” Bar­ber said.

Gayla Dodd drove 80 miles from her home near Talco, Texas, to at­tend. She wore a Hal­loween witch cos­tume to mock Trump’s la­bel­ing of the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a “witch hunt.”

“It just seems to rea­son to me, if a per­son is in­no­cent, they will want to do any­thing and ev­ery­thing they can to prove that they are in­no­cent. If you’re in­no­cent, then wel­come an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. To me that only proves they’re hid­ing some­thing,” Dodd said.

Trump’s move ended al­most two years of ten­sion with Ses­sions, one of his ear­li­est sup­port­ers and most stal­wart ex­ecu­tors of his pol­icy agenda.

Ses­sions was among the first prom­i­nent Repub­li­cans to en­dorse Trump dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign, form­ing a bond that led to his ap­point­ment as at­tor­ney gen­eral. But he fell afoul of Trump by re­cus­ing him­self from over­see­ing Mueller’s probe be­cause his heavy in­volve­ment in the cam­paign cre­ated a con­flict of in­ter­est. Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein then took over su­per­vi­sion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment Wed­nes­day put him in charge.

Trump has pub­licly crit­i­cized Ses­sions, who soon af­ter his re­cusal of­fered a res­ig­na­tion that Trump did not ac­cept, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports. Trump later con­sid­ered ask­ing for Ses­sions’ res­ig­na­tion be­fore Tues­day’s elec­tion, but ad­vis­ers con­vinced him not to do so.

Staff photo by Hunt Mercier

■ Pro­test­ers chant at the front of the Down­town Post Of­fice and fed­eral build­ing on Thurs­day in Texarkana. They met on Thurs­day evening to demon­strate against the forced res­ig­na­tion of for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

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