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.

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.

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.

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

For nearly four years now, an unusual coalition of Republicans and Democrats has worked to reduce mandatory prison terms for many federal drug crimes.

But that bipartisan movement may be shallower than it appears. Indeed, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who both supported a cut-back on some drug punishments, are preparing a bill that would create tough new penalties for people caught with synthetic opioid drugs. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Feinstein is the panel's ranking member.

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.

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.

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.

The U.S. Justice Department is sending a message to state and local governments: Failure to comply with federal laws could have big consequences.

This year, most of the conversation has focused on whether sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities will be able to keep grant money for their police departments. But veterans of the Justice Department said that's only a piece of what could be at stake.

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.

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.

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."

Jeff Sessions donned a "Make America Great Again" cap and joined the campaign trail as one of Donald Trump's earliest supporters on Capitol Hill. But the proximity of the Alabama Republican to the president-elect has got some Democrats worried about how he'd preside at the Justice Department.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

The Justice Department's watchdog has launched a sweeping review of conduct by the FBI director and other department officials before the presidential election, following calls from Congress and members of the public.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is the first of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees to get a hearing on Capitol Hill.

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