Carrie Johnson

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Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

A conservative group funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is turning its attention to a new front: promoting federal judges at the grass-roots level. Americans for Prosperity is willing to spend nearly $1 million to confirm judges this year. Those lifetime appointments could reshape the courts for a generation.

"The fact of the matter is that so much of what affects us in our daily lives plays out in the courtroom," said Sarah Field, the group's new vice president for judicial strategy.

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Forty years of institutional memory walked out of the Justice Department last month.

Lawyer Douglas Letter joined the DOJ in 1978. For decades, he defended controversial policies advanced by Democrats and Republicans in the executive branch.

Now, he may be suing over them.

Letter, 64, reflected on his long government service on a sunny morning last week at the Georgetown Law Center, where he will be working and teaching national security law.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, tax and bank fraud charges in an Alexandria, Va., federal courtroom Thursday afternoon.

Judge T.S. Ellis set a trial date for July 10.

Manafort faces a separate federal trial on Sept. 17 on other charges also brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's office in a Washington, D.C., case.

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Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET

The Justice Department is suing California and two top state officials, accusing them of interfering with federal immigration efforts by passing and enforcing state laws that hinder U.S. operations against undocumented people.

The lawsuit filed late Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., points out that the Constitution gives the U.S. government sweeping authority over immigration.

The man leading the Justice Department's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been keeping busy.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been on the job for about nine months. But he has already charged 19 people with wrongdoing — and won guilty pleas from the president's former campaign vice chairman and his former national security adviser.

Scholars who focus on politically charged investigations that may lead into the White House have been taking note.

One of President Trump's picks for a seat on the body that sets policy used to punish 70,000 federal criminals every year has publicly called to abolish that agency, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and has a history of making racially charged remarks about crime.

William G. Otis is a former federal prosecutor in Virginia, special counsel to former President George H.W. Bush and an adviser at the Drug Enforcement Administration. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted 16-5 to advance a bill that would ease mandatory minimum sentences for some drug criminals, but its prospects on the Senate floor are uncertain after opposition from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and at least one big law enforcement group.

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The nation's top spymaster delivered a warning today.

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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.

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

Carrie, what did you hear in there?

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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.

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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.

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One are the biggest ways President Trump is leaving his mark by making good on his campaign promise to reshape the federal judiciary.

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