ST. GEORGE — Dozens of people in downtown St. George joined a national protest to demand that the report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election be released in its entirety to the public.
The protesters gathered in front of U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart’s office at 235 W. St. George Boulevard Thursday evening to demonstrate in solidarity with a national movement organized by MoveOn.org, a nonprofit political advocacy group that performs “rapid-response” organizing in favor of progressive causes.
The protest follows the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation, which was delivered to U.S. Attorney General William Barr March 22.
Barr released a four-page letter summarizing Mueller’s “principal conclusions,” in which he stated there were no findings of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and the Russian government.
Despite calls from members of Congress to release the report for public scrutiny, Barr has said the Department of Justice will not release the full report out of privacy considerations.
“It’s vitally important that the Mueller report gets out to both the public and congressional investigators,” St. George protest organizer Kenneth Charette said.
Charette said he organized the demonstration as a private citizen through the MoveOn.org platform.
Over the course of 45 minutes, between 30-40 people showed up to protest alongside Charette, holding signs calling for the report’s release.
As they waved their signs at passing motorists, Charette said they received many honks and thumbs up of approval, as well as a few very vocal people indicating their disapproval of the protest, including one driver who shouted, “Trump is the best president we’ve ever had.”
The primary impetus for Thursday’s protest was the Department of Justice’s missed deadline for releasing the report to Congress.
House Democrats had given Barr until Tuesday to provide an unredacted version of the report to Congress. The Department of Justice ignored that deadline, with Barr saying in a letter last week that he was in the process of redacting portions of the almost 400-page report and it would be released by mid-April, “if not sooner.”
“I’m concerned that some of the people surrounding Trump and people supporting him are really not totally trustworthy,” St. George protester Robert Ford said.
Ford, who ran on the Democratic ticket for a seat on the Washington County Commission last year, said Barr’s refusal to release the report in its entirety is creating a strong perception of a possible cover-up.
“We haven’t seen the end of this yet,” Ford said. “I think things could get very ugly very quickly here.”
Over concerns that Barr’s letter summarizing Mueller’s conclusions sanitized the full report in Trump’s favor, House Democrats approved subpoenas Wednesday for the entire report and any exhibits and other underlying evidence that the Department of Justice might withhold.
Barr has said that while Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, the special counsel left open a decision on whether the president had tried to obstruct the Russia investigation. After reviewing the report, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that evidence was insufficient to support an obstruction allegation.
Before the report’s release, Congress voted 420-0 in favor of a resolution calling for the public release of the findings. Stewart, who represents a vast swath of Southern Utah in the U.S. House, is among those who have supported the investigation and called for the report’s release.
Part of the reason the protest in St. George was held in front of Stewart’s office was to hold him to account on his vote in support of the report’s release, Charette said.
“Congressmen Stewart is a supporter, so it seemed logical to have it here,” he said. “As long as our representatives continue to voice their support for it, I think that would probably be the best thing for it.”
Charette said he felt compelled to organize the demonstration to facilitate participation in the political process at the local level.
“This is part of what makes our country extremely great,” he said. “That I can get signs and organize people and I don’t have to fear that I’m going to be persecuted.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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