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.

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.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Society for Professional Journalists, SABEW, and the National Juvenile Defender Center. 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.

Newly disclosed documents from inside the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan capture a sense of panic and dread among prosecutors and their supervisors as one of their cases collapsed last year amid allegations of government misconduct.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is launching a scholarship program designed to produce a new team of civil rights advocates working for racial justice in the South.

Unveiled on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — the program will offer free tuition and room and board, a commitment intended to remove barriers for students deterred by the steep costs of law school.

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Attorney General Bill Barr is out, so starting next week, Jeffrey Rosen will serve as the acting attorney general for the final weeks of the Trump presidency. NPR's Carrie Johnson is here to tell us more about him. Hey, Carrie.

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Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden plans to name Lloyd Austin, the retired U.S. Army four-star general, as his pick for secretary of defense in his incoming administration, two sources familiar with the decision confirmed to NPR.

Austin joins a growing and diverse list of nominees for Biden's cabinet, which the president-elect has said he wants to reflect the diversity of America. If confirmed, Austin would be the first African American to lead the department.

The Justice Department is proceeding with plans for more federal executions in the closing days of President Trump's administration, including two scheduled shortly before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Attorney General William Barr announced the moves, connected with what he called "staggeringly brutal murders," in a statement late Friday.

The Justice Department said the directives amounted to a continuation of its policy since last year when it relaunched federal executions after an informal moratorium that had been in place for 17 years.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. EST 11/20/20

Choosing an attorney general is a critical task for a new president in normal times.

But after nearly four years of attack from President Trump, who pushed the Justice Department to punish his enemies and protect his friends, these are not normal times, as former Solicitor General Don Verrilli pointed out recently to an online audience at the Brennan Center for Justice.

A son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia apologized to his parish Sunday for attending a White House ceremony without wearing a mask.

The Rev. Paul Scalia of the St. James Catholic Church in suburban Virginia said he attended the Rose Garden ceremony where President Trump named Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his next pick for the Supreme Court. Barrett clerked for the elder Scalia and remains a friend of the family.

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Updated Friday, Sept. 25 at 11:08 a.m. ET

The FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Thursday that they are investigating "potential issues" with nine military ballots in one county. They believe the ballots were opened improperly, though they have not filed any charges or taken official action.

U.S. Attorney David Freed noted that the investigation remains active but said he is releasing the news publicly "based on the limited amount of time before the general election and the vital public importance of these issues."

In 1999, Christopher Vialva hitched a ride with a married couple visiting West Texas for a church revival meeting.

Authorities later found the bodies of Todd and Stacie Bagley in the trunk of their car. Todd Bagley died of a gunshot wound. Stacie Bagley died of smoke inhalation after the car was set on fire.

On Thursday, 20 years after he was convicted of that brutal crime, Vialva is scheduled to face lethal injection. His case stands out only because he's like most inmates on federal death row: a Black man who murdered white people, when he was very young.

President Trump is making crime a key issue in his reelection campaign, but criminologists worry he and the administration are more interested in using it for political advantage.

Trump's public statements about violence and the actions of his administration in response to this summer's demonstrations don't represent efforts likely to produce a meaningful long-term reduction in crime across the United States, specialists said.

If Joe Biden wins the presidency, his Justice Department will face a decision with huge legal and political implications: whether to investigate and prosecute President Trump.

So far, the candidate is approaching that question very carefully.

In a recent interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Biden said: "I will not interfere with the Justice Department's judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue a prosecution."

Seven years ago, a white police officer pulled over Black man driving through Mississippi in a newly purchased Mercedes convertible.

For nearly two hours, the officer pushed to search the vehicle, allegedly lied to its owner, enlisted a drug detection dog and ultimately left the exhausted man by the side of the road to put his car back together again.

The Mercedes had been ripped apart and the driver was so shaken he sued the police officer.

The Justice Department celebrates its 150th anniversary this month, but thousands of agency veterans aren't really feeling the love these days.

Instead, they worry that President Trump has demolished the norms that were supposed to insulate prosecutions from politics.

At the center of the debate is Attorney General Bill Barr, who's scheduled to testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Updated at 11:36 a.m. ET

The Justice Department has put to death Daniel Lee, 47, marking the first federal execution since 2003, after a chaotic overnight series of court rulings.

Lee had been convicted of killing three people, including a child, as part of a broader racketeering scheme to fund a white supremacist cause. He had waited more than 20 years on federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind.

Capital punishment is on the decline in the United States, with only 13 new death sentences and seven executions so far this year.

But the U.S. Justice Department is moving in the other direction. Authorities are preparing the death chamber in Terre Haute, Ind., for the first federal executions in 17 years, starting Monday.

Death row inmates, their spiritual advisers and even one set of victims' relatives are moving to the courts to try to stop or delay the process. They're using a novel argument: the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 2:01 pm E.T.

Federal prosecutors under scrutiny for failing to turn over favorable evidence to a defendant told a judge they didn't act in bad faith, even as they disclosed internal emails in which they discussed whether they might try to "bury" a document they were giving to defense lawyers in a stack of other papers.

Updated at 11:49 a.m. ET

The spiritual adviser to a federal inmate facing death this month has sued the U.S. attorney general and prison officials seeking a delay to his execution.

The Rev. Seigen Hartkemeyer, 68, is a Buddhist priest with lung troubles. He's worried that traveling to the federal death chamber in Terre Haute, Ind., could put him in the middle of a COVID-19 "super-spreader" environment.

With a boost from the Republican-led Senate, President Trump has now confirmed 200 federal judges. Each one has a life term, representing a legacy that could extend for a generation.

The president often trumpets the achievement in speeches and on Twitter. But the credit belongs as much to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who took a victory lap last week.

Thursday marks one year since a divided Senate confirmed Brian Benczkowski to lead the Justice Department's criminal division.

The 51-48 vote reflected Democrats' worry that he'd try to interfere with the investigation into Russia's attack on the 2016 election.

Things didn't work out that way.

Benczkowski promised to consult with career officials about any possible conflicts with the special counsel probe, but he said this week that never became necessary.

Nearly half the people admitted to state prisons in the U.S. are there because of violations of probation or parole, according to a new nationwide study that highlights the personal and economic costs of the practice.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center said the majority of these violations are for "minor infractions," such as failing a drug test or missing a curfew. Those so-called technical violations cost states $2.8 billion every year, the report says.

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Attorney General William Barr released his now-famous four-page summary of the Mueller report on March 24. It appeared to draw conclusions about the nature of the investigation itself.

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Updated at 6:18 p.m. ET

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel to investigate Russian election interference — a move that enraged President Trump — confirmed on Monday that he is stepping down from his post at the Justice Department.

Rosenstein submitted a letter to Trump that said his resignation will be effective on May 11, likely after the Senate has confirmed the man nominated to replace him, Jeffrey Rosen.

One of the most intriguing parts of the special counsel report on Russian election interference involves the role of WikiLeaks. Prosecutors are continuing to investigate the site and its founder, Julian Assange, who faces a conspiracy charge for an unrelated hack.

Updated at 7:24 p.m. ET

When President Trump learned two years ago that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, he was distraught.

Trump "slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f***ed,' " according to the report by special counsel Robert Mueller that was released Thursday in redacted form.

Updated at 9:43 p.m. ET

Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who attained national prominence as a legal antagonist of President Trump, has been arrested on federal bank fraud and wire fraud charges.

Prosecutors in California say he embezzled client money to pay his own expenses and debts.

Avenatti was arrested in New York on separate federal charges. He was released released on $300,000 bond, according to The Associated Press.

Updated at 6:56 p.m. ET

Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that President Trump's campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election, according to a summary of findings submitted to Congress by Attorney General William Barr.

"The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election," Barr wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees on Sunday afternoon.

Updated at 7:46 p.m. ET

Attorney General William Barr received a report on Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller about the findings from Mueller's investigation into the Russian attack on the 2016 presidential election.

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