Author: Carrie Johnson

Democrats To Attorney General Sessions: Don’t Duck Our Questions

NPR Enlarge this image Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about immigration in Falls Church, Va., last week. Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP hide caption toggle caption Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing Wednesday. There’s a lot to discuss. In eight months as the nation’s top federal law enforcement official, Sessions has presided over a series of Justice Department reversals — from police oversight and voting rights litigation to protections for the LGBT community. And then there’s the matter of his contacts with Russians during last year’s presidential campaign, where...

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Mueller Turns Up The Heat With Unusual Search Warrant In Russia Probe

NPR Special counsel Robert Mueller (left) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21. Alex Wong/Getty Images Federal prosecutors have lots of ways to intensify pressure on the people they’re investigating, from early morning FBI raids to leaning on relatives of those under government scrutiny. But even by those measures, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in last year’s presidential election is moving with unusual speed and assertiveness, according to half a dozen legal experts following the probe. Consider disclosures that FBI agents executed a search warrant last...

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Who Is Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s First Pick For The Supreme Court?

Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a point while delivering prepared remarks before a group of attorneys last Friday at a luncheon in a legal firm in lower downtown Denver. David Zalubowski/AP President Trump has selected federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill a Supreme Court seat that has sat vacant for nearly a year, setting up a blockbuster confirmation hearing that could put the new White House’s domestic political agenda on trial in the U.S. Senate. The selection fulfills an early campaign promise by Trump to nominate a solidly conservative judge with a record of strictly interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Gorsuch, 49, sailed through an earlier confirmation process for a spot on the federal appeals court in Denver. Only weeks after his nomination in 2006, the Senate confirmed him by voice vote. The American Bar Association rated him as “unanimously well qualified” at the time. Gorsuch has a sterling legal pedigree. He clerked for two Supreme Court justices, Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. He also served as a clerk on the second most important appeals court in the country, in Washington D.C., for conservative Judge David Sentelle. Like Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he is in line to replace, Gorsuch has cultivated a reputation as a memorable and clear author of legal opinions. He also considers himself to be an originalist. Lawyers...

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Justice Department Won’t Defend Trump’s Immigration Order

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, pictured at an urelated press conference in June 2016, says Department of Justice lawyers won’t defend President Trump’s executive order as long as she remains in place at the Justice Department. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend President Trump’s executive order restricting travel and immigration from many Muslim-majority countries, telling them is not convinced it is lawful. Yates is a holdover from the Obama administration until Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate, which is expected to happen week. But in the interim, Yates made clear she has doubts about the legality of Trump’s decision to block travelers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 90 days; to suspend new refugee admissions; and to ban the acceptance of Syrian refugees indefinitely. Yates wrote in a letter to lawyers currently handling cases filed to block the ban that the department will not defend cases currently pending across the country as long as she is in charge: My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in...

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5 Questions About The Law And Trump’s Immigration Order

EnAnadolu Agency/Getty Images President Trump’s executive order on immigration late Friday ignited nationwide protests — and a slew of legal challenges. At least four federal judges across the country have blocked part of the order and temporarily ensured refugees and travelers who reached U.S. soil would not be deported. Here’s an explanation of what happened so far and what could come next. 1. Who is covered by the executive order? The order suspended new refugee admissions for 120 days. It capped the total number of refugees allowed into the country this year at 50,000, far lower than the Obama administration has allotted. And travelers from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — are barred for 90 days. Border patrol agents and lawyers said the order and statements by top White House officials have not made clear how green card holders, or lawful permanent residents, are to be treated. 2. What have the federal courts ruled so far? The American Civil Liberties Union sued in Brooklyn over the detention of two Iraqi clients at JFK airport. Late Saturday, Judge Ann Donnelly issued a temporary restraining order barring the deportation of as many as 200 people. Judge Donnelly cited “irreparable harm” they would face, and she demanded that the Trump administration provide a list of all affected refugees and travelers. Later, a federal judge in suburban...

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Is Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Trying to Paper Over His Record?

Ross D. Franklin/AP His Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill are hoping to advance Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to serve as U.S. Attorney General at warp speed. Leaders at the Senate Judiciary Committee have already announced confirmation hearings for the nation’s next top law-enforcement officer will begin Jan. 10th, well before Donald Trump’s inauguration. But Democrats and civil-rights advocates are signaling the path for Sessions may not be as rapid, or as smooth, as Republicans would like. Sessions, 69, returned his questionnaire to the committee amid little fanfare late last Friday evening. The former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for the state of Alabama dutifully listed his employment record. But under a section asking for “any unsuccessful candidacies you have had for elective office or unsuccessful nominations for appointed offices,” Sessions didn’t mention his failed bid for a federal judge post. Back in 1986, the Republican-led Judiciary Committee, the same panel which will consider his nomination next year, rejected him for a lifetime-tenured judgeship after lawyers testified he had a record of making racially insensitive statements. Sessions denied he was a racist, but he acknowledged he made a joke about thinking members of the KKK were all right — until he learned they smoked marijuana. At the time of his nomination last month, Trump described Sessions in a written statement as “a world-class legal mind.” The transition team has...

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Trump Picks Former FEC Chairman As His White House Counsel

Drew Angerer/Getty Images President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Donald McGahn, a longtime Washington lawyer who once led the Federal Election Commission, to be his White House counsel, his transition team announced Friday. “Don has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law,” Trump said in a statement of the lawyer who served as both his campaign and transition attorney. “He will play a critical role in our administration, and I am grateful that he is willing to serve our country at such a high-level capacity.” “I am honored to continue advising President-elect Trump in the Trump-Pence Administration,” McGahn said. “President-elect Trump is a bold leader committed to draining the swamp in Washington and restoring economic prosperity and security. I look forward to serving the American public in this role.” McGahn is a partner at the Jones Day law firm in Washington, where he’s long represented candidates and elected officials. Unlike many people in Trump’s inner circle, McGahn has deep roots in the nation’s capital. He served as the top lawyer for the National Republican Congressional Committee and led the FEC where he helped usher in looser regulations for campaign spending. McGahn’s law firm biography reports he focused on building “due process” into elections enforcement over five years at the FEC. But his critics argue that mostly made it harder to bring enforcement actions against...

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Trump Announces Sen. Jeff Sessions For Attorney General

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images President-Elect Donald Trump is plans to name his picks for three key cabinet posts: Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser, Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, and Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA Director. That’s according to Sean Spicer, a Republican National Committee official involved in the transition. Another official with knowledge of the matter also tells NPR’s Carrie Johnson that Sen. Sessions has been offered the attorney general position. The attorney general and CIA director nominees will need to be confirmed by the Senate. The national security adviser does not need Senate confirmation. Jeff Sessions: The 69-year-old Republican senator, who has been offered the position of attorney general, was one of the first lawmakers to ally himself with the Trump campaign. He embraces a strong anti-immigration platform and a tough approach to fighting crime. Sessions is a former longtime U.S. attorney in Alabama who went on to serve as the top Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Justice Department and FBI operations. But earlier in his career, that same committee denied him a position as a lifetime-tenured federal judge after lawyers testified he had used racially insensitive language. Sessions apologized for saying he thought the KKK was OK “until I found out they smoked pot,” describing the episode as a joke. His positions on social issues including same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and funding...

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