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 Memorial Day Weekend! Here’s what happened this week in Prime:

  • Matt Shuham writes in our first Weekly Primer on the Trump swamp — looking at abuse of power and corruption within the administration — that the President put pressure on the Postmaster General to double rates for Amazon as a way to punish Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos for The Post’s relentless coverage of his administration. The Washington Post, appropriately, broke the story.
  • The President and his allies were seized by a paroxysm of outrage this week about what they dubbed “Spygate.” Allegra Kirkland breaks down what the administration claimed happened, and what actually happened, in her Weekly Primer on the Trump-Russia probe. When Trump demanded an investigation, and the DOJ agreed, it lost its independence, Zack Roth writes. And Josh Marshall writes that “we are now faced with the stunning circumstance in which a sitting President is conspiring with friendly members of Congress against his own Justice Department and FBI.”
  • The Michael Cohen saga took us to new and exciting places. Josh flags that Cohen met with Andrew Intrater, cousin to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, multiple times. (The New York Times gave us more details on these meetings, at which Cohen and Intrater discussed U.S.-Russia relations, later in the week.)
  • In other Cohen-related news, taxi mogul Evgeny “Gene” Freidman has struck a deal to cooperate with prosecutors. He knows a lot about Michael Cohen, Josh writes.
  • We also learned this week that Donald Trump Jr., George Nader, and an Israeli social media specialist met in August 2016, a meeting that was organized by Erik Prince. Josh offers some takeaways from that report, and, in a separate post, investigates George Nader’s increasingly complex role in the Trump-Russia story.
  • Meanwhile, Robert Mueller is facing an unexpected fight with a company that allegedly funded a Russian troll farm. The legal battle could be intense, Tierney Sneed writes.
  • Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race is awash in super PAC money. But, I write, it’s largely coming from one man: Dick Uihlein, the Republican megadonor who runs Uline, and who has taken a special interest in unseating Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) with a candidate her personally plucked from relative obscurity. Meanwhile, Tierney Sneed writes that advocates of campaign finance reform won a rare victory at the hands of the Supreme Court last week when the Court declined to hear a case that was attempting to strike down the $2,700-limit on individual contributions to a given candidate.
  • In her Weekly Primer on the battle over the future of Obamacare, Alice Ollstein writes that Michigan is walking back a plan to implement Medicaid work requirements in such a way that they would disproportionately penalized urban minorities. Ohio and Kentucky are moving ahead with similar plans, however.

Thanks for subscribing, thanks for reading, have a great three-day weekend, and see you next week.

Earlier this year, we rolled out our Weekly Primers — 500 word briefings for Prime subscribers on the topics TPM covers most closely, published once a week and carefully written to include everything of importance.

So far, we’ve regularly put out Weekly Primers on voting rights, the battle over the future of Obamacare, and the Trump-Russia probe. Today, we’re rolling out a new Primer chronicling corruption and abuse of power in the Trump administration. Every Thursday, Matt Shuham will have the latest on the swamp Trump filled. Here’s the first.

I was poking around in FEC data, as one does, and noticed something interesting: Super PACs and dark money groups are unusually interested in Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D). The political groups at work here are largely spending on television ads, and have dumped more than $12 million in the state, largely attacking Baldwin and boosting her two Republican opponents, Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson.

But looking closer, this spending blitz appears to be largely the work of one man: Dick Uihlein, founder of ULINE. The Illinois-based cardboard box mogul is the primary donor behind two super PACs, Restoration PAC and America’s PAC, that together have poured over $7 million into Wisconsin’s Senate primary. It makes Wisconsin’s primary one of the most expensive this year, even though the contest is relatively late in the year’s primary calendar.

Uihlein’s candidate of choice is Nicholson, a former Democrat, Marine and McKinsey consultant who emerged from virtually nowhere to become the Republican frontrunner. A charmer, Nicholson has also won the support of National Security Adviser John Bolton, whose super PAC spent about $500,000 to support the candidate between January and March of this year, according to FEC filings.

But Nicholson largely owes his status as the frontrunner to Uihlein’s $7 million.

“We have a primary because the guy who was a Democrat a few years ago found a billionaire backer,” Alex Conant, a strategist for Wisconsin Next PAC, told The Washington Post. Wisconsin Next PAC was founded by Scott Walker allies and is supporting Nicholson’s Republican opponent, Leah Vukmir. The group has put about $1.5 million toward that cause. The Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners has also spent some $1.6 million attacking Baldwin without picking a favorite in the primary. “Without his [Uihlein’s] backing Nicholson,” Conant told the Post, “Leah would be the presumptive nominee and the party would be working in unison to defeat Sen. Baldwin.”

Here’s a chart compiled from some of the FEC data I was looking at. (Mouse over each bar for name of group and total amount spent.)

Read More →

Racist New York City attorney Aaron Schlossberg started the week threatening to call ICE on workers in a Midtown Manhattan sandwich shop because they were speaking Spanish. He ended the week hiding from throngs of reporters while protestors attended a crowdfunded mariachi concert outside of his home.

­“Every person I listen to — he spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it — it’s America!” he yelled at the store’s manager Tuesday while pointing around the restaurant.

“My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country,” the commercial and insurance lawyer continued. “If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money — I pay for their welfare, I pay for their ability to be here — the least they can do is speak English. If you intend on running a place in Midtown Manhattan, the staff should be speaking English, not Spanish.”

When other customers started heckling him, he approached, waving his iPhone, which he seems to like to use to record confrontations, and barked, “Honey, I’m calling ICE! ICE!”

One of these customers also filmed the video, and her husband uploaded it to Facebook, where it went viral.

That decision set off a whirlwind week for Mr. Schlossberg, during which he was booted from his part-time office space, faced a complaint with the state court’s disciplinary system filed by U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), and fled from a waiting crowd of New York tabloid reporters and local news cameras while yelling “please send help” into his iPhone, which he, again, was apparently using to record his encounters.

Lest this dramatic public shaming inspire a hint of pity for Schlossberg, internet sleuths quickly uncovered that his Tuesday lunch fury was not a one-time incident. Being racist in public is something of a hobby for Schlossberg. He called one Massachusetts-born man who bumped into him “an ugly fucking foreigner.”

“I’m going to call the police. You don’t run into me. I’m a citizen here, you’re not,” he yelled at 34-year-old tech consultant Willie Morris, according to CNN.

Buzzfeed documented several more incidents. In one, Schlossberg accosted Eastern European tourists in the subway, yelling, “go home, we don’t want you here, you’re what’s ruining America.”

He’s also been a participant in New York-area Trump rallies and alt-right events. In one video posted by The New York Post, he is shown getting into a fight with a counter-protestor about whether the future President’s comments that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” was racist. Schlossberg takes the debate to the next level, telling his antagonist, “You’re fat and ugly. That’s losing, that’s losing. Do I look like I’m losing to you? I’m winning at life, you’re losing. I’m smart.”

At another event, a protest of a speech by activist Linda Sarsour that drew far-right figures including Pamela Geller and Milo Yiannopoulos, Schlossberg can be seen yelling “you’re not a Jew” at a group of ultra-orthodox Jewish men there to support Sarsour.

For becoming a Trump supporter the New York Post could hate, Schlossberg is our Duke of the Week.

Read More →

Our Senior Political Correspondent Cameron Joseph has been keeping a close eye on the primaries, and is taking readers’ questions about them. His latest column is here (Prime access), and takes a look at races that could serve as a test of whether Democratic voters are in a moderate or progressive mood this year.

Good morning and happy Muellerversary. The special prosecutor was appointed one year ago today, and, in celebration, we begin the day sifting through a substantial pile of Russia-probe-related headlines. Here’s what we’re watching.

Read More →