Carrie Johnson

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated at 7:11 p.m. ET

The No. 3 official at the Justice Department will be stepping down after less than a year, leaving a key vacancy in the succession of people who are tasked with overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Justice Department announced Friday evening that Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand will be leaving her job in the coming weeks to take a position in the private sector. A source told NPR that Brand, who was sworn in last May, has been in talks about becoming the top lawyer at Walmart.

One year ago this week, Jeff Sessions stood beaming in the Oval Office as he awaited his swearing-in as the 84th attorney general of the United States.

On that day last February, President Trump signed executive orders on violent crime and gangs, pledging that a "new era of justice begins." And, in the year that followed, Sessions has managed to transform the Justice Department, particularly in the areas of civil rights, immigration and drugs.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're joined now by NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, who was listening in to that conversation.

Carrie, what did you hear in there?

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump has been asked many times whether he was thinking of firing the lawyer leading the investigation into Russia's election interference, and usually the president's answer goes like this.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump is delivering on one of his biggest and most significant campaign promises: He is starting to reshape the federal judiciary.

In his first year in office, Trump welcomed a new, young and conservative lawyer, Neil Gorsuch, onto the Supreme Court. And he won confirmation of 12 federal appeals court judges — a record.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon frustrated lawmakers this week when he declined to answer many of their questions about his time in the Trump administration.

To hear members of the House Intelligence Committee tell it, Bannon was using the concept of executive privilege to evade legitimate oversight from Congress.

At the podium Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disagreed.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort may not be headed for trial on money laundering and conspiracy charges until late autumn. The judge in his case expressed puzzlement over some of the legal positions he has taken.

Lawyers for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller have turned over thousands of pages of material to Manafort and his former business partner Richard Gates, a process that prosecutors said is continuing.

But at least part of the holdup in the case is Manafort's own making, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said.

President Trump campaigned on a promise of law and order. He courted endorsements from police unions. And he even hinted to an audience of police officers that he supported the idea of roughing up suspects (the White House later said he was joking).

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We've heard a lot this week about the political fallout from the new Michael Wolff book about the Trump White House and the big break the book has caused between the president and his former political guru Steve Bannon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Justice Department is changing its approach to marijuana enforcement. To talk about how far the Trump DOJ might go to bring new federal marijuana cases, NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here with us in the studio again. Hi, Carrie.

Nearly one year into the Trump administration, the Justice Department has begun 2018 without Senate-confirmed leaders in at least six of its most important divisions.

The department's top priority — and one often cited by the White House, too — is safeguarding national security. But Justice's national security unit has no permanent Trump appointee in place.

What's more, a president and attorney general who campaigned on a promise of "law and order" do not have their choice in place to lead the Justice Department's criminal division, either.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From the airwaves of conservative media to the hearing rooms of the House of Representatives, Republican allies of the White House are attacking the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump, minutes before heading to speak at the FBI's National Academy, lashed out at the bureau, saying, "It's a shame what's happened with the FBI" and claiming there are "a lot of very angry people that are seeing it."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A new study finds that a lot of money is flowing into races for state Supreme Court. Millions of dollars are coming from sometimes mysterious donors, and a lot of it goes to negative advertising. Here's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

The nomination of Brett Talley, the Justice Department official in line for a lifetime judicial appointment, "will not be moving forward," a Trump administration official told NPR on Wednesday.

Talley had been rated "unanimously unqualified" for the post by the American Bar Association this year after an evaluation that questioned his experience. Talley had never argued a case, or even a motion, in federal court, he testified.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Four months into the new job, his predecessor is sharing deep thoughts on Instagram, his boss is tweeting that his agency's reputation is in "tatters" and lawmakers are blasting out dueling press releases to make the case that important decisions have been infected by politics.

It's not easy being FBI Director Christopher Wray.

On Thursday, Wray will get a say of his own when he appears in Congress for his first oversight hearing since the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm him in August. Here are a few things to watch.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Updated at 3:36 p.m. E.D.T. on December 4.

President Trump may have been involved with a change to the Republican Party campaign platform last year that watered down support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, according to new information from someone who was involved.

Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform.

Updated 12/2, 11:47 a.m. ET

President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition, and he is cooperating with the special counsel's investigation into Moscow's interference in last year's election.

Flynn told investigators that he was instructed to engage with the Russians by senior members of the Trump transition team.

Pages