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Thousands Protest Trump's Firing of Sessions and Demand Protection For Russia Investigation

Thousands Protest Trump's Firing of Sessions and Demand Protection For Russia Investigation

The move capped more than a year of bitter criticism by the president over his legal advisor's decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, paving the way for the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions was replaced by his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who has been openly critical of Mueller's investigation.

Rally organizers are demanding that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker immediately commit not to assume supervision of the investigation because he has publicly outlined strategies to stifle the investigation and can not be allowed to remain in charge of it.

Billed as an "emergency protest", event organizers Democrats Abroad and Moveon.org described it as a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump's "sabotage of the Mueller investigation". Officials there have said Whitaker will follow the regular procedure in handling any ethics issues that arise.

Trump said he had not discussed the case with Whitaker.

Walter Shaub, who was director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics for four years before resigning in July 2017, said the friendship between Whitaker and Clovis should disqualify Whitaker from supervising the Mueller investigation. In all likelihood, Whitaker will remain acting Attorney General until a new person can be confirmed to the post by the Senate, which likely won't come until February at the earliest.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

A DOJ regulation cited by Shaub states that employees "may not supervise prosecutions or investigations that involve someone with a personal or political relationship".




Whitaker has publicly criticized the investigation as being too broad, and Democrats have called on him to recuse himself, saying his appointment this week appeared to be an effort by Trump to impede the investigation.

"The choice was greeted with raves initially", Trump said.

A replacement for Mueller though would have no such constraints, potentially allowing Trump to hamstring the investigators.

"The Nobody Is Above the Law network demands that Whitaker immediately commit not to assume supervision of the investigation", the group said in a news release.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker answered questions about changes atop the Justice Department a day after Jeff Sessions resigned as attorney general at the president's request.

Whitaker has questioned Mueller's authority to investigate aspects of Trump's election campaign and suggested how to end the investigation: by cutting its budget.

As attorney general, and earlier as White House counsel, he faced criticism for drafting controversial rules for military war tribunals, seeking to limit the legal rights of detainees at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.