With signs reading “Protect the Investigation” and “No One is Above the Law,” a group of around 40 people stood outside the Historic Cache County Courthouse on Thursday night expressing their desire to see Special Counsel Robert Mueller continue his investigation despite a recent shake-up at the Department of Justice.
The valley activists’ demonstration was just one of many events like it nationwide called “Mueller Protection Rapid Response,” organized by MoveOn.
“I was always waiting for the red line to be crossed,” Camille Hamblin of Logan said. “I always thought that the investigation would be in danger.”
Basically ever since Mueller was appointed in May of 2017 to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and related matters, MoveOn officials had kept the “rapid response” demonstrations in waiting, saying there were a number of “red lines” the White House could cross to trigger them.
One of those lines was crossed Wednesday, not with the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who had previously recused himself from supervision of the Mueller probe — but President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general. The move gave Whitaker, a publicly harsh critic of the probe, the power to oversee it and end Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein’s supervision of Mueller.
Trump, for the record, stated in a news conference Wednesday that he won’t end Mueller’s probe. Meanwhile, the special counsel is writing a final report of the investigation, multiple news outlets reported Thursday.
The Herald Journal reached out to three members of Utah’s congressional delegation, Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop.
Bishop’s office did not respond to request for comment by deadline Thursday.
Lee’s office did not directly comment on the demonstrations but did say the senator voted against “unconstitutional” legislation to restrict Trump’s ability as head of the executive branch to fire Mueller. Lee is, however, supportive of Mueller finishing his investigation, the senator’s office said.
Matt Whitlock, a spokesman for Hatch, noted Trump’s remarks at a recent news conference saying he would not remove the special counsel or stop his investigation.
“Senator Hatch believes it must continue unimpeded to its conclusion,” Whitlock wrote in an email to The Herald Journal.
On Twitter, senator-elect Mitt Romney tweeted he believed Whitaker should let the Mueller investigation proceed to its conclusion unimpeded.
Smithfield resident Stanley Wellard, who attended the Rapid Response demonstration in Logan, talked about why he thought the special counsel investigation should continue.
“I think he is going to find that all of the things they say about Trump is true — that he and his family … have been used by the Russians to destabilize America. That’s what I think Putin’s goal is,” Wellard said.
On the question of whether Trump obstructed justice with the 2017 firing of former FBI Director James Comey or asking him to back off investigating then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Wellard admitted he was not exactly sure, since he is not a lawyer. But Wellard was not hesitant to express his opinion.
“He probably did obstruct justice because his (Trump’s) view of ‘justice’ is so tainted and so far removed from what … the rest of us in this country believe it to be,” Wellard said.
Jean Stewart, of Mendon, said in some ways, it was unfortunate that such an event had to be held.
“I don’t know that there’s a single person who wasn’t hoping and praying Donald Trump wouldn’t be a good president,” she said. “Time and again, he has shown us that his presidency is all about breaking news, and if something’s going on, he’s going to throw diversion at us. It would be nice to be able to trust our president.”
Stewart was not surprised Trump fired Sessions and installed a Republican critical of the Mueller probe to oversee it.
“I wish that I had been surprised,” she said.
Stewart always felt it was important for “rapid response” demonstrations in case of certain events, like what unfolded in the nation’s capital Wednesday.
“We knew that we needed to be ready at the spur of the moment when something came up,” she said.
Stewart is aware that Cache County overwhelming voted for Trump and likely disapproves of the Mueller investigation. Nevertheless, she hoped to send a message to her community Thursday night.
“Not everybody in Utah thinks the same way — and that’s OK; we’re Americans; we don’t have to think the same way. It’s a free country,” Stewart said.
She noted that some people who passed by Main Street in their cars during the demonstration might “give a thumps up (or) flip us off.”
“That’s their right to do that,” Stewart said.