About a hundred protesters — chanting and carrying signs — gathered on Thursday evening at the Town & Country Village shopping center in Palo Alto to demand that the United States Justice Department take decisive steps to publish the 300-page findings of the Special Counsel investigation, also known as the Mueller report. The investigation, which lasted from May 2017 to March 2019, examined whether Trump’s 2016 U.S. presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government.
A protest in Palo Alto
The intersection of Embarcadero and El Camino Real was cacophonous — protesters sang, rang bells and exhorted sympathetic motorists to “honk if you want to see the Mueller report!” The Raging Grannies, a group of older and experienced protesters, led the crowd in renditions of classic American folk tunes with lyrics modified to question U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr’s reliability when it comes to adequately portraying the Mueller findings.
Joanne, a pink-hatted woman stationed on the east corner of the intersection with a golden shower umbrella, expressed her distaste with the appointments of Barr for Attorney and General Charles P. Rettig for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner as the reasons driving her to demand the publication of Mueller’s findings.
“Trump is a disgusting, dishonest liar putting his incompetent cronies in important jobs that will [damage] us for decades,” she said.
The Palo Alto gathering was one of 300 nationwide protests organized by MoveOn, a progressive public policy advocacy group. The protests stemmed from a feeling shared by a number of leftists that Barr’s four-page letter on the Mueller investigation failed to satisfy the public’s right to transparency and might be politically biased. Barr’s letter disclosed that Mueller found insufficient evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or of obstruction of justice.
“Throughout the last two years, President Trump has acted as if he is above the law by repeatedly threatening to undermine the rule of law and anyone that tries to hold him accountable,” said Stephen Rosenblum, an organizer of the Palo Alto Protest. “Barr is an unreliable source who was appointed by Trump as Attorney General because of his expansive view of executive power and his criticisms of the Mueller investigation.”
Motivations behind the protest
Protesters pointed to Wednesday’s front-page New York Times story, which cited anonymous government officials claiming that Mueller’s investigators think the full report is more damaging than the Barr report suggests, as evidence for their views. According to two unnamed officials in the article, Barr wanted to stick to the long-standing Justice Department practice of excluding unnecessary damaging information while closing an investigation.
In response to Wednesday’s reporting about dissatisfied Mueller investigators, the Justice Department on Thursday defended its decision to keep the full Mueller report private citing a desire to protect grand jury and other private information until a careful full redaction process can be completed.
The White House also emphasized the idea that the Justice Department is not obligated to release a full report, emphasizing the legal argument forwarded by lawyers such as Alan Dershowitz, who told Fox News that “there’s nothing in the rules that require the attorney general to make the report public, particularly if it contains information critical of people who were not indicted.”
“There is nothing we can ever give to the Democrats that will make them happy,” said Trump in a tweet. “This is the highest level of Presidential Harassment in the history of our Country!”
Even as Trump claims victory over the media’s years-long focus on Russian collusion, House Democrats have made it clear that they are not giving up and have echoed some of the Palo Alto protesters’ demands.
In a phone call this week, Nancy Pelosi told Democratic lawmakers that “the Americans deserve the truth, to know the truth. Transparency is the order of the day.”
And at the same time as ideas of impeachment due to collusion with Russia have faded away, the House has begun to subpoena the president’s financial information and taxes in a wave of investigations into Donald Trump’s alleged misbehavior beyond Russia and the election.
Cathy Brown, protesting at the intersection of Embarcadero and El Camino Real with her sister, agreed with the the idea that financial investigations might expose misbehavior by the president and his associates.
“The House is going to keep moving forward, but the Senate is controlled by Mitch McConnell,” Brown said. “Everything will probably die there unless something changes.”
Contact Cooper Veit at cveit ‘at’ stanford.edu