Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson is a Justice Correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the Newscasts and NPR.org.

While in this role, Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Outside of her role at NPR, Johnson regularly moderates or appears on legal panels for the American Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others. She's talked about her work on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and other outlets.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She has been a finalist for the Loeb award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois.

The debate over whether the president of the United States can be charged with a crime is as old as the country itself.

Early evidence comes from the diary of a Pennsylvania senator, who recorded "a heated debate on this very issue" in September 1789, said Hofstra University Law School professor Eric Freedman.

"For those who believe in original intent, we have pretty good evidence of original intent," Freedman said. "The founders just disagreed on the very question."

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If Senate Republicans get their way, former Justice Department lawyer Christopher Wray will soon become the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recently told reporters he hopes the nomination will "not languish" and said it's his plan to get Wray confirmed before the August congressional recess.

But before any votes take place, Wray will have to face a series of questions about his background — and his backbone.

1. Will you be loyal to the justice system or to the president?

Christopher Wray's friends and mentors use one word to describe him: steady.

That trait could come in handy at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where employees have been reeling since President Trump fired Director James Comey two months ago.

Robert Mueller has made no public comment since he was named to lead the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in last year's election.

Instead, he has let his actions do the talking. The former FBI director and decorated U.S. Marine has submitted a budget and quietly hired an all-star team that includes 15 Justice Department prosecutors. And, a spokesman for Mueller said, he's not done bringing on new lawyers.

Five years ago, the Justice Department concluded that juvenile courts in Memphis, Tenn., failed to give due process to children.

Civil rights investigators uncovered significant racial disparities, and they reached a deal to fix some of those failings.

John Huber is a career prosecutor in Utah who's served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. This month, the Trump White House nominated him to serve as a U.S. attorney in that state.

But it came as something of a surprise to current and former Justice Department veterans Wednesday when Huber appeared for a news conference in Washington: not in the halls of Justice, but at the White House podium.

Running the Justice Department presents a challenge in any administration. But the Trump era is different.

In just five months, Justice leaders have been under heavy pressure, on everything from the travel ban to the Russia investigation. And one man, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is bearing the weight.

Here's something you need to know about Rosenstein: He's worked at the Justice Department for his entire career, nearly 27 years.

Last year, Rosenstein told NPR the advice he gives younger lawyers.

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The Trump White House had been considering Robert Mueller as a top candidate to lead the FBI before the deputy U.S. attorney general changed course and tapped Mueller to serve as special counsel investigating Russian interference in last year's election, two sources familiar with the process told NPR.

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TV networks have deployed countdown clocks. People are tweeting about places to watch and whether they'll offer morning cocktail specials. Congressional aides report that demand for seats inside the Senate hearing room has reached levels not seen for decades.

Anticipation is building for testimony from fired FBI Director James Comey, not least in the White House, where the president and his aides worry the telegenic former law enforcement leader could inflict both political and legal wounds.

What Comey might say

Four months into the Trump administration, the president's lawyer needs a lawyer.

Intensifying investigations into Russian interference in last year's presidential election and ties between Russians and the Trump campaign have a lot of high-profile people in search of legal advice, if only out of an abundance of caution. And, two sources tell NPR, one of them is White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is narrowing the scope of an executive order on so-called sanctuary cities.

A federal judge in California last month blocked a key part of that order, reasoning that the Trump administration had overstepped by threatening to yank federal money from those places.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Justice Department selected Robert Mueller III as special counsel to investigate any links or coordination the Trump campaign had with Russia as part of that country's effort to interfere in last year's presidential election.

"Special Counsel Mueller has agreed to resign from his private law firm in order to avoid any conflicts of interest with firm clients or attorneys," a Justice Department statement noted.

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The Justice Department has named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing its investigation into Russia's role in the U.S. election. NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is covering this. She joins me now.

Robert Mueller, who has been appointed to handle the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, took the reins as FBI director a week before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. That day would influence his entire 12-year run leading the agency.

Mueller oversaw arguably the most significant changes the century-old FBI had gone through, and he received praise from lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday for his commitment to justice.

Hours after a news report that President Trump had asked the FBI director to back away from an investigation, Democrats seized on the information to accuse the White House of a serious crime.

"We are witnessing an obstruction of justice case unfolding in real time," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a former state attorney general.

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Updated at 2:44 p.m. ET

Neither Merrick Garland nor Sen. John Cornyn of Texas will be the new FBI director.

Two friends of Judge Merrick Garland who asked not to be named say he loves being a judge, and he intends to remain on the bench.

This comes after word that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell recommended Garland to President Trump as a candidate for FBI director.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

A 13-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard arguments on Monday over President Trump's revised travel ban, with judges repeatedly questioning the government's lawyer in the case about Trump's campaign call "for a complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the country.

Standing at the kitchen counter in his spotless town house near the Baltimore airport, Reddy Annappareddy heated up some water to make his lawyer a coffee and contemplated his hard fall from grace.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has proposed hiring its own prosecutor corps to bring cases related to drug trafficking, money laundering and asset forfeiture — a move that advocacy groups warn could exceed the DEA's legal authority and reinvigorate the 1980s-era war on drugs.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET.

The U.S. Justice Department has escalated its approach to so-called sanctuary cities, writing at least eight jurisdictions Friday to put them on notice they could be failing to cooperate with immigration authorities.

Alan Hanson, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's grant-making arm, warned the cities that they're required to submit proof that they comply with federal immigration law.

The woman leading the Justice Department's investigation of foreign meddling into the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has told staff members she will leave the department in May.

Mary B. McCord has served at the highest levels in the national security unit, either as its leader or chief deputy, for the past three years. A longtime federal prosecutor based in Washington, McCord easily won the confidence of both career lawyers and her supervisors inside the Justice Department.

Updated at 4:23 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is recommending the White House nominate Washington labor lawyer Eric Dreiband to lead the Justice Department's civil rights division, according to two NPR sources briefed on the hiring process.

As advocates for medical marijuana gather in Washington, D.C., on Friday for an annual conference, supporters of marijuana legalization are worried.

That's because new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been making tough comments about the drug, and there's a lot of uncertainty about how the Trump administration will enforce federal law.

Over his 20 years in the U.S. Senate, Jeff Sessions made no secret of his disdain for marijuana. In his new job as the nation's top federal law enforcement officer, his position on marijuana has not moderated.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of agreements that seek to overhaul troubled police departments. He's says it isn't the federal government's job to manage state and local law enforcement agencies, which is a shift from the Obama administration.

Ask any veteran lawyer about her worst fear, and you'll hear this: the client who digs a hole for himself — and then keeps on digging.

The challenge of defending a difficult client is once again in the news this week as the Justice Department has struggled to convince federal judges that President Trump's executive order, imposing limits on travelers from six majority Muslim countries, is not, in fact, a ban on Muslims.

The man at the heart of the legal resistance to the Trump agenda works in an unfinished office a block away from the White House.

David Cole, the new national legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, hasn't had time to hang pictures on the wall or remember to bring a mug to hold his morning tea.

"I get to wake up every morning and I get paid to think about how to respond in ways that will preserve our basic rights and liberties," Cole said. "That's a tremendous privilege."

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