ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A petition that has been gathering pledges for months will soon come to action in Anchorage, after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his resignation Wednesday, putting the fate of Robert Mueller's probe into potential Russian involvement in the 2016 election into question.
Organizers with MoveOn.org, a progressive civic action organization, said that over 500 people in Anchorage have signed up to attend what they call a "rapid response protest" triggered by Sessions' resignation.
Though he resigned, Sessions noted in his resignation letter that his action came "at your request," referring to President Trump asking for his resignation.
The protest will be held at Anchorage's Town Square Park at 5:00 p.m., with organizers and speakers set to address attendees on political activity.
Now, with Sessions out as AG, and his departure a resignation rather than a firing, he opened the door under federal law to allow President Trump to choose his successor instead of simply elevating Rosenstein. MoveOn says that's Trump putting himself above the law, and called it "a threat to our democracy."
"There were several things which would trigger this protest, the red lines you can't cross," explained Izzy Farris, a volunteer organizer with MoveOn's Anchorage chapter.
"One of those was the firing of Robert Mueller, one was the firing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and one was the firing of Jeff Sessions, which happened yesterday," she said.
Though Anchorage residents were able to sign up for months to attend the rapid response protest, they weren't notified that it would be held Thursday until emails went out on Wednesday, after the news of Sessions' resignation was made public, effectively scheduling the protest for the next day.
With Sessions out, a new acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, who was previously Sessions' chief of staff, said he will lead a fair department, but opponents point to previous statements from Whitaker as constituting a conflict of interest.
In 2017, Whitaker spoke on CNN stating what the AG could do to stop the Russia investigation as it pertains to Mueller, whose firing, or in this case, impeding, MoveOn identified as another red line.
"That Attorney General doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt," Whitaker told CNN in 2017.
Meanwhile, President Trump has not announced who would lead the Department of Justice permanently, as Whitaker could be just appointed in the interim to step aside at a later time. The goal of MoveOn's protest is to send a message to the Senate, that Whitaker's past makes him unfit for the role.
"By replacing Rod Rosenstein with just-named Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker as special counsel Robert Mueller's boss on the investigation, Trump has undercut the independence of the investigation," MoveOn wrote. "Whitaker has publicly outlined strategies to stifle the investigation and cannot be allowed to remain in charge of it."
To that end, the President may already be ahead of them, saying that the intention of appointing Whitaker may not be permanent. Trump took to Twitter to comment on the replacement, saying he was "pleased to announce" that Whitaker, was taking over the role, and that he "will serve our Country [sic] well."
Trump also thanked Sessions and wished him well, adding in regards to Whitaker, that "a permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date."
What this means for Anchorage's grassroots opposition to the Sessions news may change, in that case, based on who the next appointee to Attorney General may be. For now, though, they plan to gather downtown, and rally.