Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Manhattan Thursday evening to call for the Special Counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation to be released to the public in full. The demonstration came on the heels of reports suggesting Attorney General Bill Barr’s brief summary of Robert Mueller’s nearly 400-page report painted a rosier picture for the president than what the totality of the probe unearthed.
“There is nothing that has happened in this country under this administration that makes us believe we should trust the word of anybody that’s in that administration, period,” recently elected Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told the crowd. “All we’ve heard is deception. All we hear is moving things to the side. Don’t look here, don’t look at the man behind the curtain. Well, we want that curtain ripped open. We want to see what’s behind it. If you are telling us that there is nothing in that report, release it now.”
For those who gathered at Times Square, where the crowd sang anti-Trump hymns, hoisted signs and chanted before making its way to Madison Square Park, Barr’s summary should be viewed with suspicion and at best is a CliffsNotes version of the report, necessitating that the complete report from Mueller be released.
“That was watered-down,” said Daisy Bradshaw, who works in the Garment industry, of the Barr summary, in an interview. “I just want the truth.”
Ed Leung, who hoped the rally would create public pressure that would give congressional Democrats “a spine,” said Barr’s synopsis amounted to a “coverup.”
“Attorney General Barr’s synopsis, or whatever you call it, clearly was not sufficient and it was probably misleading,” Barbara Goldberg, a retiree from Queens, told Gothamist. "And the American people have a right to know what Robert Mueller found out after investigating for two years.”
In addition to Barr being a Trump appointee who, before taking the job, wrote an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department opining that Mueller’s “obstruction theory is fatally misconceived,” Thursday night’s protesters were given new reason to doubt the accuracy of Barr’s synopsis. NBC News reported in the afternoon that Mueller’s investigation found stronger “evidence that Trump sought to impede the investigation” than Barr had indicated, and members of the campaign “were manipulated” by Russian intelligence, according to investigators. This came a day after the New York Times reported that members of Mueller’s team are frustrated with Barr’s summary, and are telling associates that what the special counsel investigation unearthed was “more troubling” than what Barr wrote.
These reports follow the immediate aftermath of a 22-month investigation, which drew to a close on March 22nd, when Mueller submitted the report to Barr. And on March 24th, Barr released his four-page summary of the report, which Barr said found no evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. On the matter of obstruction, Barr noted that while Mueller “did not exonerate” the president, Mueller “did not draw a conclusion—one way or the other—as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.” Barr’s letter asserted that the decision on obstruction had been left up to him, and he and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had concluded there was insufficient evidence.
While several protesters told Gothamist that, while they doubted Barr’s actions were aboveboard, seeing him as a Trump lackey, they admired Mueller, describing him as a man of integrity who did an honest and thorough job.
Ken Kidd, a health-care advocate and member of Sing Out Louise— the group leading the Trump opponents in prepared anti-Trump songs, distributed on leaflets— said he trusted Mueller, who he labeled “stand-up” guy and “by-the-book Republican.”
“He has no reason to lie,” said Kidd.
“I have absolutely no reason to doubt the veracity of Mr. Mueller, based on his long career of public service,” rallier Susan Alevas told Gothamist. “It’s impeccable. He’s a straight arrow. He follows the law to the letter. He has given tremendous service to this country on the battlefield and government. He’s done nothing but act to the highest levels of ethics and integrity.”
Those gathered had hope the full report would shed light on Trump’s wrongdoing—a key reason why Trump’s committed opponents were on Thursday clamoring to know what exactly he found.
“Without the report, we really don’t have any means to invoke impeachment or the 22nd Amendment,” said Jess Lurie, an event planner who was holding a sign that read “All Purpose Pissed Off Protest Sign Fuck 45.” “We need our proof. That’s what we need.”
— Sam Raskin (@samraskinz) April 4, 2019
But not everyone was waiting to read the Mueller report before reaching their conclusions. Podcast Gaslit Nation co-host and writer Andrea Chalupa told the crowd, “We already know that Trump is a tool of the Kremlin.”
“We’ve already seen it,” Chalupa continued. “We don’t need Mueller’s report, [but] the fact that we don’t have the Mueller report is a sign that authoritarianism is already here.”
She also claimed reporting in the mainstream media following the release of Barr’s summary erred in what she said was unskeptical acceptance of Barr’s exoneration of Trump.
“Do not trust the corporate media to protect you,” she said.
After more than an hour in a barricaded area on Broadway between 41st and 42nd Street, the crowd—one of many Moveon.org-organized gatherings across the country to call for the Mueller report’s release—migrated south toward Madison Square Park, drawing cell phone cameras and mixed reactions from onlookers along the way.
“I think they’re uninformed. They’re foolish,” scoffed Brian from Dayton, Ohio, visiting New York City with his family. “They don’t even know what they’re upset about. They’re just mad.”
Christina, a New York City teacher who was looking on as the rally made its way past her, said she was sympathetic to the rally’s cause.
“I think it’s important, just because it’s public information that concerns all of us,” she said. “As a democracy, we have a right to know what’s going on in our government.”