Locals protest AG Jeff Sessions’ forced resignation

From left: Gail Brill, Phyllis Magnus and Beckie O’Neill protest Donald Trump’s firing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting AG in Riverside Park on Thursday night. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — More than three dozen protesters gathered in Riverside Park to protest Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation at the request of President Donald Trump.

It was part of a coordinated nationwide protest at 5 p.m. Thursday.

These protests were loosely organized by progressive advocacy groups such as MoveOn. Wednesday’s developments signaled to these organizations that a red line — that this move by the president was an attempt to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

John O’Neill of Saranac Lake, who signed up as a coordinator for MoveOn months ago, said he started receiving emails and calls from other concerned locals about where their local demonstration was going to occur.

“I just retired a couple years ago, and I decided to get more active,” O’Neill said. “One thing led to another — and this is one of those things.”

John O’Neill, local MoveOn coordinator, holds a sign on River Street on Thursday night. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

On Wednesday, Sessions submitted his resignation at Trump’s request. The president then appointed Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, to the post of acting attorney general. In this position, Whitaker would have authority over many decisions in the future of Mueller’s investigation.

Some of these powers include whether to subpoena Trump, approve the criminal charges of individuals indicted in the investigation in the future and whether Mueller’s final report is released to the public, and if so, what portions are redacted.

Many see this as a move by Trump to undermine Mueller’s investigation, as in the past Whitaker has been critical of the Mueller probe, calling it in danger of becoming a “witch hunt.”

“I’m out here because we are seeing the attempted dismantling of our democracy by the president,” said Henrietta Jordan of Keene Valley. “He seems to be taking steps to end an investigation that the country desperately needs to complete. We need to find out if the president was legitimately elected, if there was Russian interference, how much of a threat the Russians represent to our voting process, and we need to know that there was no collusion.”

Holding signs and banners with statements like “Protect Mueller Investigation” and “Protect Democracy From Our President!” the crowd chanted “no one is above the law” and “ho-ho, hey-hey, Robert Mueller’s got to stay.”

“I’ve had trouble with what I see as this president’s inclination to undercut democracy in so many ways,” O’Neill said. “It’s insidious.”

“Trump has no right to order someone to fire Robert Mueller,” said Schuyler Cranker, an North County Community student. “It’s illegal. But he repeatedly has acted as though he’s above the law. That it doesn’t apply to him. And it’s unacceptable. So I’m here to count as another head, another voice, to show that there is a strong opposition.”