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Carrie Johnson

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In 1991, then-Attorney General William Barr signed the official commissioning papers of an eager young prosecutor preparing to launch his career in Brooklyn.

That lawyer went on to take down mob kingpins and corrupt corporate executives before becoming perhaps the most widely known member of the special counsel team investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 election.

Andrew Weissmann, now 62, recalled a sense of relief after President Trump announced Barr would return to lead the Justice Department nearly two years ago.

President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court says she shares the outlook of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But on the issue of the Second Amendment, Amy Coney Barrett seems to have staked out an even more conservative position.

That's got gun control advocates warning that big changes could be on the way if Barrett gets confirmed.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled people have a right to keep handguns at home to defend themselves. Since that time, the high court has mostly avoided taking on new gun cases, refusing to hear 10 such lawsuits in June alone.

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.

Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET

An attorney for former national security adviser Michael Flynn said she briefed President Trump and a lawyer working for him on the status of Flynn's criminal case in the past two weeks, according to statements in court on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Sidney Powell, initially told the judge she was wary of disclosing the contact because of so-called executive privilege, even though she does not work for Trump or the White House.

Republicans expect President Trump to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a source with knowledge of the process, but the source cautioned that Trump could change his mind.

The source declined to be named, because the individual was not authorized to confirm the selection before the president announced it.

The White House declined comment.

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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."

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump said he expects to announce his pick for the Supreme Court this week. Joining us is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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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 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.

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.

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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.

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.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Attorney General William Barr is effectively clearing the way to resume capital punishment in the federal prison system. In an announcement this morning, the Justice Department says it wants to resume executions as early as this December.

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