Cambridge-area activists hold public reading of Mueller excerpts
CAMBRIDGE — When Special Counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement about his investigation last week, he declared that everything he had to say was in his report.
“The work speaks for itself,” Mueller said, perhaps hinting that more people should crack open the 448-page document, which even members of Congress admit they haven’t read.
On Sunday, local activists began a grass-roots effort to introduce voters to the account of Mueller’s two-year investigation, gathering on the steps of the Cambridge Public Library to read selected passages aloud.
“By the end of the 2016 US election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of US persons through their social media accounts,” Belmont resident Gail Erdos read from the report, referring to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian firm funded by an oligarch with ties to President Vladimir Putin.
“Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of US participants,” Erdos, 57, continued, emphasizing the dramatic sums. “IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple US political figures who retweeted IRA-created content.”
In an interview later, Erdos said that reading passages from the report “felt great.”
“I loved being up there and being able to share this information that . . . almost no one has seen or heard before,” she said.
Erdos is a member of Cambridge Area Stronger Together, or CAST, which organized the reading. Cofounder Nancy Alach, a Cambridge resident of about 40 years, said the organization came together in the wake of the 2016 election.
“A number of us, after the election . . . really wanted to keep working on important issues and figure out how to counter the Trump administration’s efforts,” Alach said in an interview Sunday.
Alach and fellow CAST members Gail Epstein and Maura Pensak decided to organize a reading of the report a month ago over dinner, long before Mueller made his public statement pointing attention back to the document.
“We were ahead of the game,” Epstein said Sunday. When she, Pensak, and Alach had that conversation, she said, she had already studied the full report.
“I was convinced that this was just completely shocking information. . . . We’re all like frogs in boiling water, and we’re getting used to things that are shocking, and we don’t get shocked enough anymore,” Epstein said.
Epstein, 66, a Cambridge resident and cofounder of CAST, said that despite the report’s length, its many redactions and repeated facts make it less daunting than it might seem. Still, her first reading took about a week, and then there were many more days of whittling it down to the short program of passages for Sunday’s event.
“Volume two really lays out a crystal-clear case for tons of obstruction,” she said, “and at the same time, Mueller makes very clear why they did not charge the president and why it’s Congress’s responsibility to take over.”
Sunday’s orators ranged in age from their teens to their 70s and in style from stentorian to droll.
The first was Mayor Marc McGovern of Cambridge who thanked CAST “not just for organizing today, but really for what they have been doing over the past few years to advocate, to organize, to educate, and to really keep up the resistance against the hatred and bigotry that we see spewing out of the White House seemingly every day.”
During a break between readings, the crowd chanted, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop!”
At another intermission, CAST member Sonya Coleman asked those present to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler — whose office phone numbers were posted on large signs — to voice their views on whether Congress should impeach President Trump.
Women and men pulled out their cellphones and began to leave voice mails (it was Sunday, after all). “We need you to hold them accountable,” Erdos said into her phone, while a nearby woman said, “Hello, Speaker Pelosi. I urge you to keep fighting.”
Coleman, 55, of Arlington, said she’s politically engaged and tries to stay informed, but she still struggled with the full Mueller document.
“I have Audible, and I tried listening to the report. And after an hour, when it said I have 19 more hours to go, I just stopped,” she said. “There is so much there that needs to be made [accessible] to the general public.”