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 TPM members.

The week ended with a bang. Or, at least, a series of loud noises. To recap, as of Friday, here are just a few of the stories we were following: Virginia politics were in chaos following allegations of racist behavior and sexual assault against three top Democrats and one Republican. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker testified in front of the Judiciary Committee and avoided key questions from Democrats. Jeff Bezos’ claimed that the National Enquirer’s Trump-aligned parent company was attempting to blackmail him. And we got insight into the special counsel’s claims that Paul Manafort repeatedly lied.

That’s just what we were focusing on as of Friday. Way back on Tuesday, the State of the Union address also happened.

Here’s what happened in Prime this week:

  • Inaugurations — especially Trump’s, but all inaugurations — are a mess of conflicts-of-interest and influence peddling. Democrats have a plan to fix that.
  • Here’s what Trump’s claims that Congress is “even stealing people who work at the White House!” are actually about.
  • Texas state officials’ claims that nearly 100,000 noncitizens may have been registered to vote in the state are falling apart.
  • This is the week in which this White House is discovering the checks and balances that come along with divided government.
  • Those investigations have the President furious and scared, Josh Marshall writes.
  • Cam Joseph on one of newly announced presidential contender Kirsten Gillibrands’ key accomplishments: Winning support for 9/11 responders suffering from cancer and respiratory illnesses.
  • Before the State of the Union, the President’s road to securing Wall funding was looking murky. After the State of the Union, key Republicans and Democrats told Tierney Sneed that not much had changed.
  • Members of the TPM team collected quick reactions to the State of the Union for Prime members.
  • Matthew Whitaker is in over his head, Josh Marshall writes.
  • The Whitaker fight this week centered on use of executive privilege. Judiciary Committee head Jerry Nadler (D-NY) gave Whitaker an opportunity to use it in the right way, Josh writes.
  • Some key context on how the National Enquirer can claim to not be legally culpable for publishing Jeff Bezos’ texts, even if those texts were procured in an illegal way.

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During the State of the Union address Tuesday, President Trump took a jab at the spate of investigations coming his way from House committees, newly under Democratic control.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” the President rhymed.

Democrats were unimpressed. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the statement an “all-out threat.” She interpreted the President’s turn of phrase to mean he “wasn’t going to cooperate” on legislation “unless we didn’t exercise our constitutional responsibility to oversight,” she told the press.

This is indeed the week in which this White House is discovering the checks and balances that come along with divided government: Democrats are laying the groundwork for their legal strategy to obtain Trump’s tax returns and mulling subpoenas to get answers to their questions from Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. The House Foreign Affairs committee is investigating the role President Trump’s businesses play in the administration’s foreign policy, and the House Appropriations subcommittee is investigating administrative rule-breaking during the recent government shutdown.

The President is also facing mounting legal challenges. In a brief filed Wednesday to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the attorneys general for Maryland and Washington, D.C. — who are suing the president for violations of the Emoluments Clause — pushed back on the DOJ’s emergency request for a writ of mandamus that would allow it to avoid the discovery process. “The President is neither above the law nor exempt from litigation,” the attorneys general wrote.

Meanwhile, on Monday, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York sent a wide-ranging subpoena to Trump’s presidential inaugural committee, asking the committee to produce documents related to donors and event attendees, vendors, contracts, federal disclosure filings, and “any benefits handed out” to guests and donors, including photo ops with the president. The New York Times reported that investigators are interested in any donations by foreign individuals to the committee, which are illegal.

Perhaps relatedly, CNN reported on Tuesday that prosecutors from the Southern District are seeking interviews with top executives at the Trump Organization. Reports indicate they may be interested in potentially illegal connections between the company, the campaign and the inauguration.

Also on Tuesday, ProPublica and WNYC reported that an investment firm founded by Tom Barrack, who chaired the inaugural committee, drew up a plan one month after the inauguration to profit from its connections to the administration and to foreign dignitaries. The firm claims it never acted on the memo.

Meanwhile, the administration’s work to turn agencies against their intended purpose continues. On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau weakened rules on payday lenders, one of the primary industries the agency was created to police. The original version of the rule, which would have taken effect in August, would have required lenders to make sure that people applying for loans were able to afford them before they were granted them, and would have had the effect of closing many payday loan providers. The CFPB struck that provision and delayed the rule’s implementation.

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The Judiciary Committee is meeting at 10:00 a.m. ET this morning to vote on a resolution to give Chairman Jerry Nadler the authority to subpoena acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who is scheduled to appear in front of the committee tomorrow. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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For TPM members, our reporters and editors — some on Capitol Hill, some following along at our offices in D.C. and New York — will have a sort of live blog of quick reactions to the State of the Union. Follow along here.

Senate Republicans are getting nervous about the national emergency President Trump keeps threatening to declare. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Trump last week that if he does declare an emergency to secure wall funding, the Senate could end up passing a resolution disapproving of his action with the intent of blocking him. Trump would then be forced to veto that resolution.

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The scandal surrounding a photograph from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook, allegedly of the Democratic governor in blackface while a student, remains one we’re following closely. Northam later said he wasn’t in the photo in question, but had appeared in blackface another time. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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Hello Prime subscribers,

We’ve arrived at the weekend. If you’re like me, you’re already excited about House Democrats’ hearing next week to interrogate acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, the former hot tub salesman who seems surprised to find he’s floated into hot water as a presidential ally with oversight of the Mueller probe.

Here’s what happened in Prime this week.

  • Is the Mueller probe really winding down, as reports by other outlets and Whitaker say it is? Josh Marshall looks at the evidence.
  • The U.S. has fallen out of the world’s 20 best-performing countries on an international anti-corruption group’s public sector corruption index.
  • A gag order could be in the offing for Roger Stone.
  • The Supreme Court stands to hear some blockbuster voting rights cases this spring.
  • Kate Riga has a running list of the status of nearly 30 potential Democratic candidates for President.
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell devoted a portion of his time on the Senate floor Tuesday to railing against Democratic legislation that, among other things, would make Election Day a national holiday. Tierney Sneed has the backstory to that proposal.
  • Catching up with Kris Kobach: A look at how his proof-of-citizenship case continues to pose a problem for Kansas.
  • The Republican tax plan was sold a year ago on the premise that corporations would use their tax break to hire more staff, benefitting the entire economy. But a new survey shows many essentially pocketed their gains.

Read More →