14:40 GMT +319 November 2018
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    Protesters near the White House hold letters spelling Save Mueller after President Trump replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Mathew Whitaker, who has expressed hostility to the Russia probe.

    ‘Whitaker Must Recuse!’ Demonstrators Protest Against Mueller’s New Boss

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    Protests are planned in 54 US states and territories after former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned one day after the US midterm elections ‒ at the request of President Donald Trump.

    Many states are expected to see multiple protests across various cities.

    The president has been upset that Sessions recused himself from the special counsel investigation into whether there was collusion between members of the Trump team and Russia during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

    Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker, formerly the chief of staff to the attorney general at the Department of Justice, to be acting attorney general until he nominates and Congress confirms a permanent replacement for Sessions.

    Whitaker's statements in the media regarding the Mueller probe have alarmed activist groups opposed to the president. In the spring of 2017, Whitaker called the appointment of Mueller to take over the Russia probe "a little fishy" and "ridiculous."

    "Whitaker has made clear that he can't be an impartial overseer of this critical investigation. He has called the Mueller probe a ‘lynch mob' and publicly described how he would strangle the investigation," Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn Civic Action, one of the organizers of the protests, told Sputnik News.

    At the demonstration outside the White House in Washington, DC, one organizer told the crowd: "We are kicking off these protests. People nationwide are standing up, and there must be accountability for these rule of law affronts. This is nothing less than a slow motion Saturday Night Massacre. We must ensure that the investigation continues in order to protect our elections. Mueller must be allowed to continue his successful work and Matt Whitaker must never be allowed to oversee it."

    The Saturday Night Massacre refers to October 20, 1973, when the US Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than obey President Richard Nixon's order to fire special counsel Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal. Solicitor General Robert Bork, third in seniority at the Justice Department, assented to Nixon and fired Cox. But a new special counsel was appointed soon after, and the firing of Cox was found by a court to be illegal on November 14, 1973. The episode was pivotal in Nixon's downfall and eventual resignation in the face of impeachment in August of 1974.

    "Our message is clear: Whitaker must recuse! And Congress must act to protect the Mueller investigation," another organizer said.

    The first guest speaker was Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and close aide to Hillary Clinton. "We knew that [Trump] is a guy that acts guilty," she said, calling on the crowd to chant "guilty!" so that Trump "can hear it."

    "When you go after the prosecutor in your case, aren't you acting like you're guilty instead of innocent? If you're innocent, do you make moves to basically get rid of the prosecutor? Do you put a complete hack at the Department of Justice to oversee your prosecution if you're innocent?" Tanden asked.

    "We are obviously in a constitutional crisis," she said. "What [Trump] doesn't understand is that we work our a** off to make sure this guy has accountability when he breaks the law or impedes an investigation or sells our democracy to Russia."

    One protester told Sputnik News that he came out "to resist tyranny because we are in so much danger right now. Putin — a worldwide conspiracy of kleptocrats backing Putin is taking over our country in a very slow motion takeover."

    He said that Trump naming Whitaker as acting attorney general is "such corruption." "That is Trump firing justice itself."

    The protests were organized by MoveOn, Public Citizen and other groups.

    Mueller took over the Russia probe, which was launched in July 2016, under the mandate of investigating "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the [Trump] campaign," as well as "any other matters [that] arose or may arise directly from the investigation."

    Whitaker argued in an August 2017 CNN op-ed that Mueller looking into Trump and his family's finances goes beyond the scope of the investigation. 

    "By firing Jeff Sessions and putting in place a loyalist like Matthew Whitaker, Donald Trump is trying to take over a Special Counsel investigation that has already led to multiple guilty pleas and convictions," Galland said.

    "Trump's attempt to be his own judge and jury is inconsistent with the rule of law and democracy," she said, calling on Whitaker to, in essence, recuse himself as Sessions had.

    "For our democracy to work, no one — including the president — can be above the law," she said. "The people will not stand for this."

    "We will take to the streets in ‘#ProtectMueller' rapid-response protests around the country. We will not allow Trump to get away with obstructing this criminal investigation, and we will not allow Congress to abdicate its responsibility under the Constitution," she said. "We don't have dictators in America. Checks and balances and the rule of law must prevail."

    Protests are planned in most major American cities, according to a list of events on MoveOn's website.

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    Tags:
    special counsel, Russia probe, Russiagate, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Moveon.org, MoveOn, Department of Justice, Robert Mueller, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions
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