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Firing of Jeff Sessions brings out protesters in DL

Protesters in Detroit Lakes react to the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday. Paula Quam/Tribune1 / 3
The wind chill was 6 degrees Thursday, but protesters still showed up in Detroit Lakes. Paula Quam/Tribune2 / 3
Protesters at Veterans Memorial Park in DL on Thursday. Paula Quam/Tribune3 / 3

The Russia investigation has people concerned again: Protesters in Detroit Lakes say nobody should be able to control an investigation into their own possible criminal behavior.

But President Trump has essentially done that by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who once suggested the investigation is a "witch hunt."

The move brought out protesters around the country on Thursday, including Detroit Lakes.

"We're nervous about the fact that Sessions was fired and Whitaker has decided he does not need to recuse himself," said Sally Suby of Detroit Lakes. She was one of a dozen or so protesters who braved 6 degree wind chills to hold signs in Veterans Memorial Park along Highway 10.

Whitaker has suggested cutting funding to strangle special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign. Whitaker has said Trump family finances should be off limits to the investigation, and he is now in a position to decide how Mueller's investigation will proceed.

"We're afraid that he will cut funding to the investigation, that it will be thwarted," Suby said.

"He (Trump) has crossed a red line," said Kirsten Vogt of Detroit Lakes. "We need to all get out and show our concern for this."

"Anybody who wants this investigation to go away has not been paying attention," Suby added.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the probe as a hoax and a witch hunt, but it has turned up a lot of wrongdoing: The special counsel has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 32 people and three companies.

Protesters say the appointment of Whitaker is an effort by Trump to throttle the probe. There are fears that documents will be seized from Mueller and destroyed.

"It's kind of a red alert across the country," Suby said. "This is not what people want — we need to know what happened."

In order to remove Mueller, Whitaker would have to find "misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause," according to federal law.

But protesters are concerned about what could happen behind the scenes, since Whitaker now has broad powers to limit or prevent Mueller from carrying the investigation to its conclusion.

"We encourage people to call their member of Congress and let them know how they feel about the Mueller investigation," said Karen Rosby of Rochert. "It's an underlying problem affecting everything if someone is above the law ... Nobody is above the law, not even the guy in the White House."

Through the protest, Rosby wants people to know that they aren't alone in their concern for democracy. "Even if people are afraid to come out, it gives them hope," she said. "They feel legitimized."

The protest was organized by the Lakes Area Indivisible group and MoveOn members.