Carrie Johnson

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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.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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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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