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 Russia probe, fearing he will end or limit the investigation.
"I want my son to know that it's not ok to have a criminal president that's not being prosecuted correctly under the law," one protester said in Times Square. "It's not ok for someone to break the law and be above the law."
The demonstrators are responding to organizers' overnight call to action after President Donald Trump named Whitaker the acting attorney general after requesting that Jeff Sessions resign.
Organizers called on people around the United States to protest at 5 p.m. More than 20,000 people RSVP'd for the Manhattan march.
Supporters of the investigation around the country argue that Whitaker, who was given oversight of the special counsel probe after Sessions was forced out, has already shown that he will impede the crucial investigation, and that Trump's move is clear evidence of obstruction of justice.
Demonstrators in New York City chanted slogans including "Hands off Mueller'' and "Nobody's above the law'' before marching downtown. They held signs saying "Truth Must Triumph'' and "Repeal, Replace Trump.''
Crowds also turned out in Chicago; Greensboro, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee, and many other places.
TRUMP'S LONG FEUD WITH SESSIONS
After months of bitter attacks on Sessions, Trump on Wednesday announced via Twitter that the former Alabama senator was being replaced. He named Whitaker, 49, who had served as Sessions's chief of staff, as acting attorney general, overseeing the Justice Department.
That job gives Whitaker the power to oversee the Russia probe. And though Democrats have called for him to recuse himself because of his past comments, the case is less clear-cut than it was for Sessions — who stepped aside because of his prominent role in Trump's campaign.
That's raising questions about the fate of Mueller's investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been overseeing it because of Sessions's recusal. It includes questions about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving the president's son Donald Trump, Jr., and a Kremlin-connected lawyer offering damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The ongoing investigation has produced guilty pleas from four former Trump aides.
New York City Rep. Jerrold Nadler — who is currently the ranking Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee and could be the next chairman of the committee with Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives — questioned the president's move on Twitter and said that "we will be holding people accountable."
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who has already called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the investigation, said it is "paramount'' that Trump's new attorney general protect the Mueller investigation.
The New York senator said he found the timing of Sessions's departure "very suspect.'' He said it would spark a "constitutional crisis'' if Trump forced out Sessions as a "prelude'' to ending or limiting Mueller's investigation.
THE ACTING AG'S ANTAGONISM TOWARDS THE RUSSIA PROBE
Whitaker is a former U.S. attorney from Iowa who founded a law firm with other Republican Party activists.
In a July 10, 2017, appearance on CNN, Whitaker shrugged off the idea that the Trump Tower meeting could be part of a criminal conspiracy. He said "there was so much smoke" surrounding Clinton that it made perfect sense for Trump Jr. to take a meeting at which he expected to receive dirt on her.
"You would always take that meeting. You would have somebody from your campaign take the meeting to try to get the information," he said. "If you have somebody that you trust that is saying you need to meet with this individual because they have information about her, you would take that meeting."
Whitaker wrote an op-ed for CNN last year that Trump is "absolutely correct" to say that Mueller would be going too far if he were to investigate the president's family finances. He said it did not take a lawyer or former federal prosecutor to recognize that any inquiry into Trump's finances "falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else."
"Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing," Whitaker wrote.
The headline on the op-ed: "Mueller's investigation of Trump is going too far."
Whitaker also laid out in a July 26, 2017, CNN appearance a hypothetical scenario in which Mueller's investigation could be stifled without him being fired.
Noting that the special counsel's budget falls within the attorney general's purview, Whitaker said he could envision a situation in which Sessions was replaced as attorney general and replaced by a new boss who doesn't fire Mueller but "just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt."
On August 6, 2017, Whitaker also tweeted an op-ed newspaper piece from a former Philadelphia prosecutor carrying the headline: "Note to Trump's Lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob." Whitaker accompanied the tweet with his own comment to his followers: "Worth a Read."
In an interview with a conservative talk radio host, Whitaker said there was "no collusion" between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, a key question being examined by the special counsel's office.
"There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that was not collusion with the campaign," Whitaker said on "The Wilkow Majority." ''That's where the left seems to be combining those two issues."