Nearly 100 people show up to protest President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker, as former Rep. Beth Kerttula speaks outside the Federal Building on Thursday. Many protesters believe Whitaker’s hiring could jeopardize the Mueller investigation into possible connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Nearly 100 people show up to protest President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker, as former Rep. Beth Kerttula speaks outside the Federal Building on Thursday. Many protesters believe Whitaker’s hiring could jeopardize the Mueller investigation into possible connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘Protect Mueller’ protest breaks out in Juneau

After Sessions’ ouster, locals worry for the future of Trump-Russia investigation

Protesters in Juneau gathered Thursday to voice concern about the future of Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

About 100 protesters met outside Juneau’s Hurff Ackerman Saunders Federal Building at 5 p.m. Some carried signs reading “nobody is above the law,” or “protect justice.”

President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday. Protesters said they are worried that the new acting AG, Matthew Whitaker, would narrow the breadth of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

To University of Alaska Southeast history professor David Noon, the handling of the Mueller probe is nothing less than an emergency.

“We’re not out here to mourn the departure of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, we’re out here to call attention to a constitutional crisis,” Noon said.

Political group MoveOn organized the nationwide protests as part of a “Mueller firing rapid response.” Organizers registered at the site as early as a year ago. If Trump took certain actions affecting the Mueller probe, MoveOn pledged to rally local protesters.

That happened Wednesday evening after Trump appointed Whitaker. The Juneau protest joined hundreds nationwide and around the state. Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Palmer, Sitka and Soldotna all registered events with MoveOn, according to their website.

Protesters are worried Whitaker, who has publicly criticized Mueller, is a Trump surrogate who would not treat the investigation fairly.

College student Noah Williams called Whitaker’s appointment a blatant attempt by Trump to seize control of the investigation. The Mueller probe has resulted in indictments or guilty pleas from 32 people, some of them former Trump campaign aides.

“I am horrified at the direction this country has taken,” Williams said, adding, “We can’t have these erosions of our democracy.”

The attorney general’s ousting was widely expected after Tuesday’s midterm elections. Trump has repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe.

In naming Sessions’ successor, Trump passed over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, instead selecting Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff. Rosenstein previously oversaw the Russia probe in Sessions’ stead and was also a target of Trump’s ire with the Justice Department.

On Wednesday, a DOJ spokesperson announced that Whitaker will oversee the Mueller investigation, not Rosenstein. Whitaker is a former CNN commentator and U.S. attorney. In August of last year, he argued in a CNN article that Mueller’s investigation has gone too far by investigating Trump and his family’s finances.

Trump critics have argued that evidence of financial crimes, even ones unconnected to the 2016 election, could help Mueller’s team get to the bottom of possible collusion between Trump and the Kremlin.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kgullufsen@juneauempire.com.


University of Alaska Southeast history professor David Noon speaks as nearly 100 people protest President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker outside the Hurff Ackerman Saunders Federal Building on Thursday. Many protesters believe Whitaker’s hiring could jeopardize the Mueller investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

University of Alaska Southeast history professor David Noon speaks as nearly 100 people protest President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker outside the Hurff Ackerman Saunders Federal Building on Thursday. Many protesters believe Whitaker’s hiring could jeopardize the Mueller investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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