Ryan Lucas

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.

He focuses on the national security side of the Justice beat, including counterterrorism, counterintelligence and the investigations into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Lucas also covers a host of other justice issues, including the Trump administration's "tough-on-crime" agenda and its fight against sanctuary city policies.

Before joining NPR, Lucas worked for a decade as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press based in Poland, Egypt and Lebanon. In Poland, he covered the fallout from the revelations about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. In the Middle East, he reported on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the turmoil that followed. He also covered the Libyan civil war, the Syrian conflict and the rise of the Islamic State. He reported from Iraq during the U.S. occupation and later during the Islamic State takeover of Mosul in 2014.

He also covered intelligence and national security for Congressional Quarterly.

Lucas earned a bachelor's degree from The College of William and Mary, and a master's degree from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

It has been called a "criminal cabal" rife with corruption. It's been said that its leaders need to be taken out in "handcuffs." And its reputation, one high-placed official has charged, is "in tatters."

The FBI has come under criticism before, but the ongoing barrage of allegations has left its current and former officials shaken. It also has fueled concerns that the bureau's reputation with the public could begin to crumble.

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The nation's top spy bosses scrambled to the White House early Thursday to urge President Trump to restate his support for a controversial surveillance law after he spent the morning trashing it on Twitter.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, White House chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster all convened in the Oval Office with the president to urge him to row back his criticism. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also joined in by telephone.

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A very busy week in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas has been following the story and joins us in our studios. Ryan, thanks so much for being with us.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: My pleasure.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scrapping Obama-era guidelines that essentially removed marijuana from the list of federal drug enforcement priorities as more states legalized it.

In guidance issued Thursday, Sessions rescinded those policies and instead will permit individual U.S. attorneys to decide how aggressively to go after marijuana in their jurisdictions.

Sessions, a former Alabama senator, has long viewed pot as a public menace and a source of street crime.

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President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is suing the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller, alleging that Mueller has exceeded his mandate by investigating matters unrelated to the 2016 election.

Manafort and business associate Rick Gates face money laundering and other charges as part of the special counsel's investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

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This week alone, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has visited three states to push the Justice Department's efforts to crack down on what he describes as a crime wave sweeping the nation.

Updated at 1:45 a.m. ET Wednesday

Members of Congress have not made life easy for the leaders of the Justice Department this month, and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was next in line on Tuesday.

McCabe testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

His appearance follows attacks by President Trump and Republican allies on him specifically, the FBI, the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller, including accusations of political bias.

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We begin this hour with the Russia investigation.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're spending millions and millions of dollars. There is absolutely no collusion.

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While many aspects of the Justice Department's Russia investigation remain shrouded in secrecy, one thing at this point is clear: Special counsel Robert Mueller isn't finished yet.

That raises the question about where he might be heading.

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is trying to sway public opinion of his case by working with a Russian collaborator who has ties to Russia's intelligence services, special counsel Robert Mueller's office said in court papers Monday.

Mueller's team said it learned last week that Manafort has been working with a Russian compatriot on a newspaper column that prosecutors say violates a gag order by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Attorneys in the case were instructed not to talk about it in public.

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President Trump's national security adviser for 24 days, Michael Flynn, is cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. NPR's justice reporter Ryan Lucas joins us in the studio.

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President Obama made a promise after an attack on U.S. diplomats in 2012 in Benghazi, Libya.

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The number of hate crimes reported last year rose by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to data released Monday by the FBI.

The total tally of hate crimes in 2016 was 6,121, compared to 5,850 in 2015. More than half of those incidents were motivated by the victim's race.

The FBI statistics are based on voluntary reporting by nearly 16,000 local law-enforcement agencies. Civil-rights groups, however, say the figures are deeply flawed because of what they say is systemic under-reporting.

A former national security adviser to the Trump campaign says he had concerns about Carter Page's visit to Moscow in the summer of 2016 — chief among them the possibility that he would embarrass the campaign.

J.D. Gordon also told NPR that Page as well George Papadopoulos, who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his own Russia contacts, were marginal figures in the Trump world. Both men served as members of the then-candidate's foreign policy team, but they were not central figures with a meaningful voice, he said.

Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page told a number of his campaign colleagues and supervisors about his dealings with Russians, he told members of Congress last week.

One of them was Jeff Sessions, then an Alabama senator and early Trump endorser and now the attorney general. Sessions has denied he was aware of anyone in the campaign communicating or dealing with Russians who were interfering with the election.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business associate Rick Gates to remain under home confinement and GPS monitoring for now.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson decided to keep in place the restrictions that were put on the two men at their initial court appearance on Monday. Jackson said the unsecured bonds set earlier this week — $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates — may not be enough to ensure the two men remain in the court's jurisdiction. She set a bail hearing for Monday.

Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared in a Capitol Hill marathon before the Senate and then House Intelligence Committees. At today's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the public got a clearer view of how Russia operated online to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign.

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