Two days after a national election, the last thing the media expected to see was over 100,000 grassroots activists rallied in the streets. Chris Hayes encapsulated the press sentiment, saying “I’m actually pretty amazed at the turnout these rallies are getting on such short notice…”
Naysayers who argued against mobilizing said, “Activists are tired.” “People need a break,” or “Americans can’t be turned out again right after massive GOTV efforts just ended.”
But the doubters didn’t count on the fact that for the year and a half since the firing of former FBI director Jim Comey, the bipartisan TrumpIsNotAboveTheLaw.org coalition made up of over 100 organizations has been tirelessly preparing hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists to take to the streets and demand action to protect Robert Mueller’s investigation should a red line be crossed by President Trump. When it happened, the results demonstrated that the preparation over the past year worked, as at 1,000 events across the country, over 100,000 citizens dedicated to the rule of law gathered to protest the elevation of Matthew Whitaker to Acting Attorney General, thereby stealing oversight of the Mueller investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The coalition set four red lines: 1) Robert Mueller fired; 2) Rod Rosenstein removed from oversight of Mueller, 3) Trump pardons key witnesses, or 4) the Mueller investigation ends either without transparency or with findings of wrongdoing on the part of the President.
Any of these events (as proven last week) would have triggered this break glass moment, gathering tenacious defenders of democracy to push back. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said it well, when she remarked that these activists recognized that “sometimes citizenship requires overtime and double shifts.”
The fact that so many took to the streets when the action by the President was a bit more nuanced and cunning than expected—not firing Rosenstein, but rather placing somebody completely unacceptable in charge of overseeing the investigation—is another testament to how well informed and committed Americans have become.
Going forward, the coalition is well aware that though one red line has been crossed, the likelihood that President Trump stays away from other affronts to the rule of law is low, and we must remain vigilant and prepared for another crisis point.
So while remaining on high-alert, we will turn our attention to Congress and the next steps that they must take to challenge Whitaker and protect Mueller. We’ll be pressing for bipartisan legislation that would make it very difficult to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller without good cause, for additional legislation to insulate Mueller within the DOJ (similar to the independence that was granted to Leon Jaworski in the Watergate crisis), for Congress to take essential oversight steps, and for transparency to be accorded any eventual Mueller report.
We are heartened by the bipartisan reactions to the President’s actions that are consistent with our demands. On Monday, for example, former Majority Leaders Bill Frist and Tom Daschle spoke out together, in writing, “Capitol Hill is rightfully sending warning signals — from both sides of the aisle — against any attempt to derail the Mueller probe. But beyond strong words, there are actions Congress can take, including oversight and legislation, to ensure the investigation results in a public report. We know from our own experience how important such actions, and such transparency, will be.”
We applaud these sentiments, and the coalition echoes them. But we also stand ready to take more loud action—and naysayers know that no matter what—we can. We rallied for the rule of law to #ProtectMueller last week and will not shy away from doing so again. Our democracy demands it.
Photo credit: Mueller Rapid Response, New York City, Nov. 8, 2018 – Melissa Bender