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.

Updated at 7:28 p.m. ET

Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing are emerging as serious contenders to fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to sources familiar with the process.

An announcement on the nominee could come as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Candidates on the short list for a Supreme Court vacancy undergo intense vetting that typically culminates in a one-on-one interview with the president.

The process is shrouded in secrecy, but President Trump's flair for the dramatic has introduced a sense of showmanship to the highly choreographed rollout.

Prosecutors in New York have some required reading to do: a scathing opinion from a federal judge who identified a stream of mistakes and misconduct in a prosecution gone bad.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan directed the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York to ensure that all of its prosecutors read her decision.

But the matter won't end there.

Updated at 8:22 a.m. ET

Attorney General Bill Barr blasted his own Justice Department prosecutors as a "permanent bureaucracy" that all too often abuse their power to go after high-profile targets in a process he likened to "headhunting."

In remarks Wednesday to a largely conservative audience celebrating Constitution Day at Hillsdale College, the leader of the Justice Department asserted that he's the one who should make the big calls in cases of national interest.

Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury has issued criminal subpoenas to a publishing company and a literary agency in connection with a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, NPR has confirmed.

The move signals the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation surrounding the publication of Bolton's book The Room Where It Happened after an unsuccessful effort to block it from being published in June.

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.

Updated at 12:26 p.m. ET

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith has agreed to plead guilty to a single false statement charge, marking the first criminal action in an investigation centered on how intelligence agencies gathered information involving the Trump campaign and Russia four years ago in the waning months of the Obama administration.

Clinesmith had been identified in an earlier report by the Justice Department inspector general.

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."

Attorney General William Barr has promised the Justice Department will not take any action to influence the upcoming election. But Democrats and department veterans aren't so sure about that.

In opinion pieces and letters, they warn that Barr might be preparing to spring an "October Surprise." There's one big reason for that: recent testimony from the attorney general himself.

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.

Updated at 1:31 p.m. ET

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates defended a sensitive Justice Department investigation into onetime Trump aide Michael Flynn on Wednesday, telling lawmakers Flynn was essentially "neutering" American sanctions and undercutting the Obama administration by "making nice" with a foreign adversary after Russia's unprecedented attack on the 2016 election.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit says it has scheduled oral arguments in the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Aug. 11.

A smaller panel of judges within the D.C. Circuit ruled earlier that a lower-court judge must terminate the case against Flynn, as requested both by his attorneys and — in an unusual wrinkle — the Justice Department.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

A federal judge has dismissed the case against a man accused of violating American sanctions laws, bringing to a close a troubled prosecution that ended with government attorneys on the hot seat.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said the jury's guilty verdict would be vacated, "and has no legal effect," in an order Friday. Earlier, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York had concluded that "it would not be in the interests of justice to further prosecute this case."

Civil liberties advocates are urging Attorney General William Barr to name a special prosecutor to investigate possible violations of protesters' rights during the June 1 crackdown in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., NPR has learned.

Federal officers deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and smoke canisters to scatter the mostly peaceful group of demonstrators, clearing the way for President Trump to pose for pictures in front of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church.

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.

Updated at 12:30 pm ET

A federal judge in Washington has blocked federal executions scheduled for this week, citing concerns that the lethal injection protocol involved is "very likely to cause extreme pain and needless suffering."

Judge Tanya Chutkan said the last-minute ruling only hours before executions were set to resume for the first time in 17 years was "unfortunate," but she blamed the Justice Department for racing ahead before legal challenges had been fully aired.

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.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Federal executions are set to resume next week for the first time in 17 years. Three men are scheduled to die by lethal injection at the federal death chamber in Indiana. That is unless courts side with the inmates and their religious advisers to stop the process.

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.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Updated at 2:44 p.m. ET

A federal appeals court in Washington ordered a lower court judge to dismiss the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday.

That ruling followed earlier arguments by Flynn's attorneys that the matter had become moot after both they and the Justice Department asked for the case to be dropped.

Updated at 7:14 p.m. ET

A current Justice Department prosecutor is planning to tell lawmakers on Wednesday that in his many years in the government, "I have never seen political influence play any role in prosecutorial decision making. With one exception: United States v. Roger Stone," according to a copy of his prepared testimony.

The White House is preparing to fill several vacancies on the influential commission that makes policy used to punish tens of thousands of criminals every year, according to three sources familiar with the process.

But critics worry that the likely Trump nominees could adopt more punitive approaches at a time when a diverse group of protesters is marching for a different approach to policing and justice.

Prosecutors wove a simple narrative: The man in their sights had engaged in shady dealings involving a foreign adversary. But the case fell into disarray after allegations that the government had cheated by failing to hand over evidence favorable to the defense. Now, a judge is demanding answers.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has sued the Trump administration for what he calls his "unlawful" termination, arguing that his firing last year was the result of improper political interference by the president.

"It was Trump's unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him," the complaint alleges.

President Trump can be a master of distraction, but when it comes to judges, his administration has demonstrated steely discipline.

In the 2 1/2 years that Trump has been in office, his administration has appointed nearly 1 in 4 of the nation's federal appeals court judges and 1 in 7 of its district court judges.

The president recently called filling those vacancies for lifetime appointments a big part of his legacy. Given the relative youth of some of his judicial picks, experts say, those judges could remain on the bench for 30 or even 40 years.

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