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Carrie Johnson

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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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.

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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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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