San Diegans join protests demanding protections for Mueller probe

Protesters converged in cities nationwide to call for the protection of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Several thousand demonstrators gathered Thursday in New York’s Times Square and chanted slogans including “Hands off Mueller” and “Nobody’s above the law” before marching downtown. They held signs saying “Truth Must Triumph” and “Repeal, Replace Trump.”

In downtown San Diego, several hundred protesters gathered Thursday night outside the federal courthouse, many with signs demanding that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation and protect the special counsel’s independence.

Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis, who easily won re-election to California’s 53rd District Tuesday, addressed the crowd, and she praised the protesters for showing up on about a day’s notice.

“People … across this country gathered today to say … ‘We have confidence in the Mueller investigation. Finish it, complete it,’” Davis told the crowd.

“Everyone must adhere to the rule of law, even the president of the United States,” Davis said, earning a loud cheer from the crowd. “Don’t let anybody tell you this is just about politics. No, this is about the future of our country, and everyone should be on board.”

There were no visible signs of counterprotesters or Trump supporters among the throng that gathered in the plaza on Broadway and Union Street.

Just before Davis and others addressed the crowd, a motorcyclist pulled close to a group of protesters who were standing on the sidewalk close to Broadway waving signs with anti-Trump and pro-Mueller messages. The rider made an obscene hand gesture near the faces of several protesters before revving his engine and pulling away.

Crowds also turned out in Chicago; Greensboro, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn., and many other places. Organizers say the naming of Whitaker as acting attorney general is a “deliberate attempt to obstruct the special counsel’s investigation.”

Trump asked for Jeff Sessions’ resignation and then replaced him with Whitaker, his chief of staff. Whitaker has criticized Mueller’s probe.

In Manhattan, the demonstrators shouted, “Trump is not above the law!”

They also waved American flags and banners emblazoned with slogans such as “Hands Off Mueller,” as they shuffled down Seventh Avenue from Times Square to voice their aversion for Whitaker, a Trump loyalist.

“Trump wants to shut down the Mueller investigation and we’ll never know the facts,” said Kristy Lynch, a stay-at-home mom from Maplewood, N.J., who marched with her 3-year-old twins and 8-year-old daughter.

“Americans have to keep doing this until it changes,” said Lynch. She pointed at her children and added: “It’s important for these guys right here.”

Many marchers said they were no fans of Sessions.

However, while Sessions was at the helm of the Justice Department, they reasoned Mueller’s investigation was safe since he had recused himself from overseeing it because of his role in Trump’s campaign.

“Firing Sessions was Trump’s way of appointing a loyalist to control the investigation,” said Jacob Beard, a 33-year-old software technician from Manhattan. “It’s unconstitutional.”

In Chicago, hundreds of people gathered in Federal Plaza and marched through downtown streets to Trump Tower.

“The president wanted to take action as quickly as possible in the Mueller investigation,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, noting that the move against Sessions happened one day after the midterm elections.

The crowd chanted “Enough is enough” while standing in the shadow of a 20-foot Trump “baby” balloon that swayed in a chilly breeze.

U-T staff writer Alex Riggins contributed to this report.

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