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.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The leader of the U.S. Justice Department has ordered federal authorities to emphasize building partnerships with local law enforcement over hard-nosed investigations of them, asking a federal judge in Baltimore to delay a hearing this week on a deal to overhaul the city's troubled police force and casting a cloud over a host of other federal consent decrees that target unconstitutional law enforcement practices.

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 FBI director has no plans to leave the post before the end of his 10-year term.

"You're stuck with me for about 6 1/2 years," James Comey said at a cyber conference in Boston on Wednesday, urging conference organizers to invite him to speak again.

In recent days, NPR and other news outlets have reported Comey pressed the Justice Department without success to issue a public denial of President Trump's tweet that the FBI and President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower.

Rod Rosenstein, if appointed as deputy attorney general, could soon become the ultimate decider on the most politically sensitive subject in Washington.

His confirmation hearing on Tuesday turned into a proxy war over the Trump administration's ties to Russia.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into the election and Russian officials, leaving the tough questions for his deputy.

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Big news from the Justice Department late yesterday - Attorney General Jeff Sessions called a press conference to announce that he will play no role in an investigation into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged to devote federal resources to combat violent crime and to shore up morale across the nation's police departments, on Monday in his first on-the-record briefing as the top U.S. law enforcement officer.

Lawyers for a 17-year-old transgender student and the Gloucester, Va., school board that wants to limit which bathroom he can use don't agree on much.

But both sides have concluded the Trump administration's decision this week to revoke guidance that protects transgender students' ability to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity only heightens the need for a hearing before the nation's highest court.

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President Trump has selected federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill a Supreme Court seat that has sat vacant for nearly a year, setting up a blockbuster confirmation hearing that could put the new White House's domestic political agenda on trial in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee once again debated the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Democrats on the Republican-controlled committee raised objections to his nomination. The committee met a day after President Trump fired the acting attorney general over her refusal to defend the immigration order banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries.

Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET

President Trump has fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, concluding she has "betrayed the Department of Justice" by refusing to defend his executive order that imposes a temporary ban on refugees and visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries.

In a statement, the White House called Yates, an Obama administration holdover with 27 years of experience prosecuting corrupt public officials and the man who bombed the Atlanta Olympic park, "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration."

The U.S. Justice Department said it has "no comment" on whether its Office of Legal Counsel has reviewed any of President Trump's executive orders, which have met with criticism this week because of vague language and possible conflicts with legal precedents.

The department's own website says:

"All executive orders and proclamations proposed to be issued by the President are reviewed by the Office of Legal Counsel for form and legality, as are various other matters that require the President's formal approval."

A newly inaugurated Donald J. Trump delivered a fiercely populist and often dark address, promising to transfer power in Washington from political elites to the people and vowing to put "America first."

Surrounded by members of Congress and the Supreme Court, the nation's 45th president repeated themes from his historic and divisive campaign message, describing children in poverty, schools in crisis and streets pocked with crime and "carnage."

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