CONWAY — Six protesters descended upon The Four Corners on a chilly Thursday evening as part of a nationwide effort to pressure the U.S. Justice Department to follow through on the Attorney General’s statement that he could release more of the Mueller report.
Thursday’s local protest, which occurred at the intersections of Route 16, Washington Street and Pleasant Street, was organized by Albany resident Andy Davis.
Davis is a director of the World Fellowship Center but this event wasn’t a fellowship center event.
He said the protest coincided with around 350 similar protests being held across the country as a National Day of Action to demand the release of the report on the special councel investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Another protest was being held in Portland, Maine.
“It’s a responsibility of regular old citizens, when events rise to the occasion, to take time out of our lives to at least let our voices be heard and at least say ‘folks on the street in the little towns in New Hampshire are really interested in this being pushed forward,” said Davis. “It’s not just an inside-the-beltway thing.”
Davis, who was holding a sign that said “Democracy thrives in the light,” said the reaction to the protest was “a lot of thumbs up and a lot of honks” and “a few negative reactions.” He said the vibe was overwhelmingly positive.
Starting in May of 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller had been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and subsequently the possibility of obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.
On March 24, U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page notification to Congress that outlined Mueller’s conclusions. According to Barr, Mueller didn’t find collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. However, Barr said Mueller found the Russians meddled by sowing discord on social media and hacking the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party emails.
The Mueller investigation left it to the Attorney General to determine if the president committed any acts of obstruction of justice. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided there wasn’t enough evidence that Trump committed obstruction of justice.
Trump has said the report exonerates him.
The full report is nearly 400 pages long. Barr has said he could scrub the report of sensitive information and release a redacted version by mid-April.
“What I want is for the American people to be breathing down his neck,” said Davis of Barr. “If it really came out in mid-April, and it came out in all its glory, that would probably be fine.”
“I’m angry,” said one protester in Conway, Ishi Hayes of Jackson. “I feel like our Democratic system is being subverted.”
Hayes said she doesn’t trust Barr.
“I don’t trust anybody who tries to summarize a nearly 400-page report in four pages,” she said, adding she felt that even more strongly after it was reported that the Mueller team did their own summaries.
“Barr took it upon himself to write his own summary, which apparently altered the tone and the conclusions of the orginal report,” she said.
At the very least, Hayes wants Congress to see the report.
Protesters said that this protest was put together at the last minute. They believed more people would have attended had it been organized and promoted sooner. Some said they only got a email about it earlier in the day.
Becky Madison of Silver Lake said her sisters-in-law were at a protest in Times Square in New York City and another sister was going to try to find one in Florida.
“The country is being hijacked,” said Madison. “We have the most corrupt, lying, dishonest, crooked administration in my memory and I’m almost 70 years old.”
Helen Crowell of Bartlett recalled that in the 1990s, the Starr Report, which was an investigation of then-President Bill Clinton by then-independent counsel Ken Starr, was released to the public.
“It was a New York Times bestseller,” said Crowell. “We could all read it, whether you agreed with it or not.”
Davis said that the U.S. Justice Department has a lot of resources at its disposal and should be up to the task of processing the report quickly.
“I think that they have enough expertise and person power to — if they have the will — find a way to make sure that this is done expeditiously in a way that’s respectful of the need to know of the American people,” said Davis adding he is sensitive to the idea that some classified information would have to be redacted if it puts people in harm’s way.
Six Democratic House Committee chairs sought the report by April 2.
“One concern is that this seems like an effort by the administration to allow us to forget about it,” said Davis adding he feels that the administration had been downplaying the election interference.
Barr notes that a number of people were indicted or convicted of crimes during the probe. However, it didn’t recommend any further indictments.
“As the report states: (T)the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
As for obstruction, Barr quoted the Mueller report as saying “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Davis said he doesn’t think there are new “grand revelations” in the report.
“What I do think is that a lot of civic action is rooted in nuance and detail, and I feel like to throw around words like ‘exoneration’ rather than to look at the ins and outs of the case and to say ‘OK, so perhaps he’s not guilty of the charges that people in government and the media seem to be focusing on through the time Mueller’s group was doing a report, but there are serious questions about the way information and influence has been handled by this administration,’” said Davis. “I think for people who are willing to give it unbiased close attention, I think that will be really enlightening.”