Missoula citizens rally to protect special counsel Mueller from president’s wrath

The nearly 100 protesters gathered outside Missoula’s federal courthouse want special counsel Robert Mueller to be able to conclude and follow through with his investigation. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

The protesters who showed up for a short-notice rally in Missoula Thursday evening want President Donald Trump to know that Missoulians support special counsel Robert Mueller.

As the temperatures dropped with the setting sun, about 100 people marched in a circle in front of the Missoula federal courthouse chanting “Let Bob do his job.”

In Montana, “Bob” usually refers to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. But this time, it meant Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Trump campaign and administration and its possible collusion with Russia.

Why should the citizens of Missoula care so much about Bob getting to do his job that they stand on the street on a cold November night?

Bruce Russell proudly pointed his homemade sign – carrying one word: “SLEEZE” – at the passing cars on East Broadway Avenue.

Just two days earlier, he had done his part for democracy by volunteering to work a 15-hour shift as a poll judge during the election. That wasn’t enough to keep him from showing up at the rally.

“(My sign) sums up the entire thing in one word. I can’t rest. This is too important,” Russell said, flapping his sign. “Social structure isn’t maintained just by elections. We need to let the president know you can’t do this – you can’t violate the Constitution.”

On Wednesday, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general.

In 2017, Trump was outwardly angry when Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, so it was expected the president might fire Sessions after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

After Sessions recused himself, Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was named to oversee Mueller during his investigation. That ended with Trump’s announcement that Whitaker would be taking over. Now, as acting attorney general, Whitaker will have say over key decisions, such as whether to subpoena the president and how the scope of the investigation will proceed.

Nationwide, many people have reacted negatively to Trump’s choice, pointing out that Whitaker previously opined that Mueller was going too far investigating Trump and that the attorney general’s office cut Mueller’s funds. They want the Mueller investigation to move forward without interference from Whitaker and ultimately the Trump administration.

The Missoula rally was one of 900 nationwide on Thursday evening. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

That’s why Missoula resident Mark McGrath showed up carrying his two-sided hand-drawn sign, saying “Recuse” on one side and “Obstruct” on the other. McGrath said he received a text notification of the rally on his phone on Thursday morning, so he hadn’t had much time to craft his sign.

“(Whitaker) has gotta recuse himself, and as soon as the administration’s ethics committee talks to him, he probably will,” McGrath said. “It’s beyond ridiculous that they named that guy. Rachel said 900 protests were planned so if enough people come out, it’ll make a difference. We’re all in this together.”

The “Rachel” is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and the texts probably came from MoveOn.org. The organization sent out a Facebook event, directing people to a page where they could sign up for the “Nobody is above the law” rally schedule across the country for 5 p.m. and telling them what was expected, including that the rally was to be peaceful.

But that’s not how Catherine Hamilton found out. The 20-year-old signed up with Resistbot, a site that alerts activists to rallies and protests and notifies people about voting. So she got an alert Thursday morning about the rally and decided to show up after work.

Hamilton was well informed about Mueller’s situation, but knows many of her peers are not.

“I think there’s been an era of apathy. I went to the Women’s March (in 2017) and thought that was going to be the start of a movement,” Hamilton said. “But we can’t just do one protest. Getting to the streets and engaging people is where it starts.”

In fact, USA Today reported about 900 rallies occurred across the United States Thursday night, an attempt to mount a “rapid response” to protect Mueller.