About 250 people gathered outside the Hillsboro Civic Center on Thursday, Nov. 8, to march, chant and protest the firing of the nation's attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
Sessions' firing on Wednesday, Nov. 7, brings into question the future of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into President Donald Trump's campaign. Mueller has been investigating the Trump campaign and administration for more than a year, looking into allegations the campaign coordinated with Russian officials, as well as claims the president may have obstructed justice to stop the investigation.
Trump has long criticized Sessions — one of his earliest supporters — after Sessions recused himself from the investigation, citing his own involvement in Trump's campaign during the election.
Thursday's "No One is Above the Law" protest had been discussed for months, with organizers preparing in the event Trump made moves to shutter the investigation.
One such move came with Sessions being was fired. Sessions was replaced by Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general.
"What President Trump just did crosses a line in terms of meddling in an ongoing investigation about himself," said organizer Debby Garman. "It amounts to further crimes, as far as I'm concerned. These are untested times in this country."
After Sessions' recusal, the investigation was supervised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Whitaker has taken over supervision from Rosenstein.
It was that decision which led protestors into the street, organizers said. Whitaker will have the authority to decide whether or not Mueller's final report should be made public, and his authority gives him the power to subpoena the president — or not, in the investigation.
"The Mueller investigation matters to each and every American," said organizer Linda Mokler. "It is important that it is protected, that we get the truth and that our democracy stays as intact as it can be after the last couple of years."
Like Trump, Whitaker has publicly criticized the direction of Mueller's investigation, writing that Mueller had "come up to a red line" when investigators began looking into Trump's finances. Whitaker wrote in USA Today in 2016 that he wanted to indict Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, after she was wrapped up in a scandal involving her emails as secretary of state.
Thursday's demonstration was one of more than 30 protests held at the same time across the state, including protests in Portland, Beaverton and McMinnville, as well as locales as far-flung as Klamath Falls and Yachats.
"What do we have as citizens beside our presence and making a ruckus?" asked Garman. "This is when we need to be showing up. We have so little power against what's going on, but I've always been brought up to believe that enough people, working together, can make a difference."
Mueller's findings have resulted in dozens of indictments for federal crimes, including eight guilty pleas or convictions, including former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for financial crimes and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The investigation has not concluded, but Trump has repeatedly insisted there is no evidence of collusion with the Russian government.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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