John Light

John is TPM‘s Prime editor. His writing has also appeared at The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, UN Dispatch, Vox, Worth, and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. Before joining TPM, John was a producer for Bill Moyers and WNYC, and worked as a news writer for Grist. He grew up in New Jersey, studied history and film at Oberlin College, and got his master‘s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Articles by John

Hello Prime subscribers. Welcome to the weekend. Here’s what happened in Prime this week.

  • Paul Manafort’s first trial will start next week in the Eastern District of Virginia after being bumped back for six days. The logistics for TPM to cover it will be complicated, and will involve sprinting, a deli, and a payphone, Caitlin MacNeal writes.
  • Emolument clause lawsuits are moving forward, and may end up posing a real threat to Trump, David Kurtz writes.
  • Josh Marshall revisits a weird joke(?) that Kevin McCarthy made in 2016 about Putin funding Trump in light of what we know now. In another post, Josh writes that there’s more to the story.
  • A report by a watchdog group found that 11 of the 12 federal agencies headed by a Trump appointee during Trump’s first year in office saw penalties on corporations decrease.
  • The Department of Commerce wanted an expert that would make the case that it should add a question on citizenship to the census. Problem was, it couldn’t find one, Tierney Sneed writes.
  • Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is reopening the public comment on Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements after a federal court said the agency had “entirely failed to consider” that tens of thousands of people would lose their health insurance as a result of the policy. (Whether it will listen to the comments is another story.)
  • Republicans blocked a measure to increase funding to an agency that helps Americans vote; the move prompted a shouting match on the House floor.
  • Back in April, Mariia Butina gave eight hours of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now that she’s in court for allegedly serving as a Russian agent, lawyers for each side are trying to figure out how that testimony should be involved in the trial.
  • We don’t need to know the details of Putin’s leverage over Trump to see that he has it, Josh Marshall writes.

A new report by the watchdog group Public Citizen found that, in 11 of the 12 federal agencies led by a Trump-appointed official in 2017, penalties on corporate wrongdoing decreased. At Scott Pruitt’s EPA, penalties decreased by over 90 percent. The majority of agencies Public Citizen looked at saw penalties decrease by at least 50 percent.

The Office of Management and Budget official nominated to replace Mick Mulvaney atop the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau admitted in congressional testimony that she had never worked in financial regulation or consumer protection. Mulvaney, meanwhile, is reportedly being considered to replace John Kelly as the President’s chief of staff.

The Department of Education is planning to weaken its “borrower defense” rule, which would make it harder for students who were scammed by for-profit colleges to get help.

The Republican-appointed chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which is tasked with protecting workers at nuclear weapons facilities and residents of nearby communities, is urging the White House to shut down the board.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined high school students in a chant of “lock her up.” Sessions later appeared chastened; he “perhaps” should have made clear that people “are presumed innocent until cases are made,” he said.

New emails reveal that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross pushed hard for a question on citizenship to be added to the Census, and that Ross’ aides asked the Department of Justice to request the question. This contradicts claims by the administration that the request initially came from DOJ. A citizenship question could decrease the Census count in urban, Democratic-leaning areas, decreasing their political power and the amount of federal funding they receive.

The Senate confirmed Robert Wilkie to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs. Wilkie allegedly carried out politically motivated reassignments of career staffers who he suspected of “disloyalty.”

As the Department of the Interior moved last year to shrink national monuments at the urging of oil and gas interests, it produced reports on the benefits of the proposals, dismissing evidence of the sites’ benefits, including economic activity from tourism and archeological discoveries. New emails made public through the Freedom of Information Act document how Ryan Zinke and his deputies worked to intentionally produce the skewed analysis.

Faith Vander Voort, a spokesperson for Zinke, argued in a 2015 blog post that a Muslim could not be president of the United States.

The Trump administration’s nominee for chief counsel at the Internal Revenue Service, Michael Desmond, advised the Trump Organization on taxes for a short period between 2008 and 2011 when he worked at a firm alongside William Nelson and Sheri Dillon, Trump’s tax lawyers.

Ivanka Trump shut down her clothing company, claiming that ethics restrictions were stymying her ability to do business.

A federal judge dealt plaintiffs suing Trump under the emoluments clause a significant victory by denying Trump’s motion to dismiss, and by defining the term “emoluments” broadly.

And the top White House lawyer responsible for policing President Donald Trump and his officials’ ethical behavior is leaving his job at the end of the summer. What could go wrong?

Read More →

Hello Prime members. Welcome to the end of another action-packed week. Next week will likely be similarly crammed with news: Paul Manafort’s first trial is scheduled to get underway in the Eastern District of Virginia on Wednesday.

Here’s what happened in Prime.

  • Tucker Carlson gave Matt Shuham a piece of his mind.
  • It was an insane week for Russia-probe-related storylines. Allegra Kirkland’s weekly primer is required reading for all those who feel that they are struggling to keep up.
  • At Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s now-infamous press, Putin responded to a question about whether he had compromising information on Trump by saying that he didn’t even know that Trump was in Moscow in 2013. We have good reason to believe that isn’t true.
  • Josh Marshall notes that the Mariia Butina case is not being dealt with by the special counsel’s office, and offers a few theories as to why. He also runs through the Butina complaint, including text messages between Butina and Alexander Torshin, the Russian official who was managing her project in the U.S. In one message to Butina, David Kurtz notes, Torshin claimed she had upstaged Anna Chapman, the Russian spy arrested in the U.S. in 2010.
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders has held markedly fewer press conferences in the last 30 days. Kate Riga runs through some of the things the White House did not give reporters the opportunity to ask about.
  • Arkansas is the first state to implement Trump-administration-approved Medicaid work requirements, and thousands of people stand to lose their health care, Alice Ollstein writes in her weekly primer on Obamacare.
  • Dark money is now ever darker: The IRS will require 501c “social welfare” groups that can spend unlimited sums on elections to disclose even less information than they had been, Matt Shuham writes.
  • Donald Trump is insisting there was “no collusion,” “no phone call.” Wait. Who said anything about a phone call?
  • On Friday, we learned that Michael Cohen had tapes of his conversations with Donald Trump. But there’s some discrepancy about what was discussed on the tapes, David Kurtz notes.
  • Tierney Sneed writes in her weekly primer on voting rights that Alabama Republicans are suing to exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census count that’s used to apportion U.S. congressional districts. Success would dramatically decrease the political power of Democratic-voting areas.
  • Each time Trump meets Putin, he has similar things to say about Russia’s election meddling. Here’s a look back.

One of the ways the Trump administration has been chipping away at Obamacare is by approving state plans to attach work requirements to Medicaid. Now, one set of work requirement is going into effect: Arkansas is requiring Medicaid recipients to submit proof online that they work or searched for a job at least 80 hours per month. But Arkansas has the second-worst rate of home internet in the country; thousands of people missed the deadline and could lose their health care.

Get the full story, and catch up on other assaults on Obamacare, in Alice Ollstein’s Weekly Primer on health care (Prime access) →