Thousands of people are marching from Times Square to Union Square on Thursday evening in solidarity with nationwide protests demanding Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recuse himself from the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe, fearing he will end or limit the investigation.
Whitaker's selection by Trump as acting attorney general drew sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers, who described it as an attempt by the president to undermine and possibly end Mueller's investigation.
"It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel", Whitaker wrote.
Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he's "profoundly concerned" that the new acting attorney general is someone who has criticized and publicly expressed skepticism about the Russian Federation investigation.
"No matter who I put in, they go after him", he said. They were aimed at protesting the ouster of Sessions, whose recusal allowed Mueller to operate unimpeded, and as a warning that Whitaker should not interfere with the investigation.
"We are here today because we believe in the rule of law, and we have a president that does not", Naperville protest organizer Bob Landolti said.
Mueller, who had reported to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, now reports to the interim attorney general.
"I don't think Whitaker has good cause to fire Mueller".
Whitaker was the Justice Department chief of staff before Trump made him Sessions' interim replacement. A dense web of regulations and professional guidelines govern how Justice Department lawyers are supposed to handle potential conflicts of interest. Winning confirmation in the Senate may become easier because Republicans gained seats in Tuesday's midterm elections.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that legislation to shield special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired is still not on the Senate agenda. Mr. Trump openly said a few times that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself, he might not have selected him to be the top law enforcement official in the country.
But before joining the Justice Department as Sessions' chief of staff, Whitaker appeared on CNN where he said the attorney general has the power to cut Mueller's budget and bring the investigation to a halt.
"The (Democrats') first step would be to protect the investigation, they would do that by making sure all documents were secured by ensuring Mueller's investigative team was not broken up", he said, adding: "On Capitol Hill, the Democrats are quite likely to call for a floor vote immediately to countermand and reverse the firing".
The Saturday Night Massacre refers to an incident in 1973 when President Nixon ordered his attorney general and deputy attorney general to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal. And we asked for any documents providing clarification as to how certain key conflict of interest regulations apply in practice to the attorney general.
On Thursday, the Acosta incident entered even more weird territory when the White House was accused of tweeting a video doctored to make the reporter appear more aggressive in fending off the female press aide who tried to remove his mic.