Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is NPR's national security editor. He helps direct coverage of the military, the intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and other topics for the radio and online. Ewing joined the network in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously he served as managing editor of Military.com and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

This week in the Russia investigations: Sessions is out. Whitaker is in. Rosenstein is still the deputy attorney general — for now. Who is running the Department of Justice?

Main Justice

At the Justice Department's landmark headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, the big office on the fifth floor is now vacant.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker could make life quite difficult for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller if he wanted.

The biggest question in Washington is: Will he?

The acting head of the Justice Department took over on Wednesday from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced out after months of verbal abuse by President Trump.

This week in the Russia investigations: Could Roger Stone, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks be in Mueller's crosshairs after Election Day?

Down the stretch

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has been running ultraquiet since the end of the summer, but he could resurface soon — and he may make a hell of a splash.

Updated at 6:48 p.m. ET

The office of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has notified the FBI about an alleged scheme to discredit Mueller that apparently backfired on Tuesday, a spokesman confirmed.

News organizations including NPR have received information about claims related to the alleged scheme. Reporters have so far not been able to verify them.

When the special counsel's office became aware of them last week, it alerted the FBI, said spokesman Peter Carr. The FBI declined to comment.

The alleged scheme

President Trump and his legal team may be close to submitting written answers to questions from Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, the president has confirmed.

Trump told Laura Ingraham of Fox News that he considers it "ridiculous" that he and his lawyers must go along but "we probably will do something, yes, where we'll respond to some questions."

This week in the Russia investigations: America's cyber-troops may be fighting back against Russia's influence brokers. Will it be enough?

The cyber-troopers

Everyone knows how to picture the special operations troopers of, for example, the Army's elite Delta Force: Rough-looking customers with custom carbines and advanced night vision goggles stepping off the skids of a black helicopter in the middle in the night.

What do America's cyber-forces look like?

The Justice Department has revealed more than ever about the inner workings of Russia's disinformation war against the United States and the West — including how it continues to this day.

A criminal complaint unsealed Friday in the Eastern District of Virginia served both to level charges at a woman accused of serving as the money boss for the operation and to document, in ample detail, how it works.

This week in the Russia investigations: Why aren't the Democrats trying harder to exploit the Mueller investigation? And Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is set to stop by for a little visit to Congress.

The health care election

The president's onetime national security adviser, campaign chairman, campaign vice chairman, campaign foreign policy aide and others have pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Updated at 5:24 p.m. ET

The U.S. government warned about the continued threat of foreign interference on Friday as it unsealed a new criminal complaint against a Russian woman described as the paymistress for Moscow's program of information war — a scheme targeting next month's midterm elections in the U.S.

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

President Trump intervened in a big federal building project to help protect business for his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, a group of House Democrats alleged on Thursday.

Trump wants to demolish and rebuild the FBI's headquarters, the Democrats say, to preserve the site's government ownership and deny any potential competitors to the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Pavilion up the street.

Updated at 4:15 p.m ET

The White House was "irresponsible" to conflate what it called the threat to U.S. elections from China with the one demonstrated since 2016 by Russia, a group of House Democrats said on Wednesday.

President Trump launched a war of name-calling on Tuesday with adult film actress Stormy Daniels and her attorney as he exulted after a judge threw out Daniels' defamation lawsuit against the president.

Trump said on Twitter that he welcomed the opportunity to take the offense against Daniels — whom he called "Horseface" — and lawyer Michael Avenatti in Texas, where Daniels lives.

This week in the Russia investigations: New reports set the table for the resumption of action if the special counsel's office is waiting until after the midterm elections.

This week in the Russia investigations: 21st century great power competition means the challenge of defending American democracy will get tougher, not easier.

The woods are dark and deep

Americans inside and outside of Washington, D.C., spent the last week transfixed by the drama over President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, but there also were ample reminders about how the rest of the world is not standing still.

FBI special agents spoke with nine people as they investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the White House said on Thursday.

Administration officials declined to detail who had spoken with investigators, but some of the people involved, or their lawyers, have talked on their own about whether or not they have given interviews to the FBI.

President Trump said Monday he wants a "comprehensive" reinvestigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh so long as it is over within the one-week timetable as laid out in the Senate compromise reached Friday.

Trump said it "wouldn't bother me" if FBI investigators talked with all three women who have leveled allegations about sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh — allegations that the federal appeals court judge has denied — or pursue whatever other avenues they deem appropriate.

This week in the Russia investigations: Rosenstein's reprieve, Rob Goldstone has a few more things to add and another paper avalanche on the way from the House intelligence committee.

Horseman, pass by

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein kept his job this week, which was a better outcome for him than he thought.

A wild turn of events on Friday flipped a new FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from a long shot into a sure thing.

That was one result of an eleventh-hour agreement among the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee after a contentious session of offstage horse-trading.

The panel voted to recommend the embattled Kavanaugh to the full Senate on the condition that the final floor vote not take place until after the FBI conducted a background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct confronting the nominee.

President Trump said Wednesday his "preference" would be for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to stay in his job — and he also may delay a meeting scheduled for Thursday with Rosenstein about his future with the Justice Department.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein remained in his job on Monday afternoon after a visit to the White House that sparked a flurry of reports suggesting he might resign or be fired.

A person close to Rosenstein said he was expecting to be fired after the New York Times story on Friday about his early tenure in office. The deputy attorney general oversees the special counsel's Russia investigation, which has made Rosenstein's job security part of the long-running political battle over the probe.

This week in the Russia investigations: Rod Rosenstein denies explosive report and a reprieve on the secret documents Trump allies want declassified and disclosed.

The wire

Like a scene in a cowboy movie, a bar brawl burst from behind closed doors on Friday and spilled into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead of a saloon, the venue for this fistfight was Justice Department headquarters.

Unlike an old-school dust-up, however, not all the identities of the combatants are obvious.

Updated at 8:47 p.m. ET

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein denied an explosive report on Friday that said he discussed secretly recording President Trump at the White House and that he might seek to recruit members of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

Rosenstein called the story "inaccurate and factually incorrect."

This week in the Russia investigation: Paul Manafort turns state's evidence ... what will he tell the government?

St. Paul

After a long career as an advocate for political animals of nearly every kind across the world, Paul Manafort is now going to work for the United States government.

President Trump may soon double down on his strategy of releasing secret documents to undercut the Russia investigation by unveiling one with still fewer redactions — or none.

In July, the administration released the top secret application made by the FBI in 2016 to collect the communications of a onetime Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. It was heavily redacted, with entire pages blacked out.

This week in the Russia investigations: The collusion mystery may be insoluble, Mueller and his team fly around to the dark side — perhaps — and punishment for Papadopoulos.

Updated at 8:39 p.m. ET

Another surreal twist in the midst of another frenetic week has brought an unexpected question to the top of the conversation in Washington, D.C.

What is the 25th Amendment?

The short answer: It's a way, other than impeachment, provided by the Constitution for power to be taken away from a sitting president.

This week in the Russia investigations: The final countdown is running — or is it? How much longer does Bruce Ohr have at the Justice Department? How much should Big Tech worry about the threat from Congress?

The ticking clock

Next Friday, Sept. 7, marks 60 days until Election Day. According to the thesis that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller doesn't want to do anything to influence the midterm election season, that gives him one more week to make a move before he must go ultraquiet.

This week in the Russia investigations: "Where's the collusion?" Trump asks. If the special counsel's office has an answer, it so far isn't forthcoming.

Find some collusion

"Where is the collusion?" President Trump asked this week. "You know, they're still looking for collusion. Where is the collusion? Find some collusion."

Updated at 12:35 p.m. ET

President Trump snapped back at Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday with a series of Twitter posts that sarcastically took up Sessions' theme about the importance of political independence at the Justice Department.

"Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the 'other side' including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr......" Trump wrote.

This week in the Russia investigations: President Trump strikes back at one of his most politically dangerous critics. Will a short-term victory have longer-term costs?

The revocation, Part 1

President Trump made good on his threat to revoke the security clearance held by former CIA Director John Brennan this week, escalating the politics of the Russia imbroglio in an important way.

Trump, whether or not this was his intention, has demoted Brennan from what lawyers might call a "fact witness" to a simple critic.

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