Daily Kickoff: Trump team triples down on Holocaust statement | Former classmate describes Ellison’s rants about Jews | Viral Rabbi’s Super Bowl Party

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TOP TALKER: “House Republicans Avoid Voting on a Resolution Stating That the Holocaust Targeted Jews” by Osita Nwanevu: “House Republicans blocked a resolution advanced by Democrats on Tuesday declaring that Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust… The resolution… condemned the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement… It also called for the House to reiterate “the indisputable fact that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetration of the Holocaust,” condemn Holocaust denialism, and demand acknowledgment from the White House that Jews were targeted.” [Slate; DCExaminer

TRIPLE DOWN: “WH official: We’ll say ‘fake news’ until media realizes attitude of attacking the President is wrong” by Chris Massie: Sebastian Gorka (deputy assistant to President Trump) was asked by Michael Medved whether he would acknowledge that the administration’s controversial statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day was “at least questionable in being the first such statement in many years that didn’t recognize that Jewish extermination was the chief goal of the Holocaust.” Gorka replied by calling criticism of the statement “asinine,” arguing that it was motivated by the media’s desire to attack Trump. “It’s a Holocaust remembrance statement,” Gorka said. “No, I’m not going to admit it. Because it’s asinine. It’s absurd. You’re making a statement about the Holocaust. Of course it’s about the Holocaust because that’s what the statement’s about. It’s only reasonable to twist it if your objective is to attack the President.”” [CNN]

Florida Dem donor Andrew Weinstein emails us: “What we’re witnessing now is a combination of malevolence and incompetence never before seen from any previous administration. At a time when Jewish community centers are being targeted with bomb threats and New York City subway cars are littered with anti-Semitic graffiti, the Trump administration’s decision to intentionally omit any mention of the Jewish people in a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement is uniquely egregious… While I can only speculate about what would motivate this sort of behavior, there’s something deeply troubling about a White House that expends more energy attacking the Jewish community than it ever did disavowing David Duke.”

TRUMP TUMULT: “Leaks Suggest Trump’s Own Team Is Alarmed By His Conduct” by S.V. Date and Christina Wilkie: “I’ve been in this town for 26 years. I have never seen anything like this,” said Eliot Cohen, a senior State Department official under President George W. Bush and a member of his National Security Council. “I genuinely do not think this is a mentally healthy president.” … To Cohen… the problem is not the leakers. It’s the president. Because Trump has shown no true affection or respect for anyone outside his immediate family, Cohen said, he cannot expect that of his staff. “This is what happens when you have a narcissist as president.” [HuffPost]  

“In 2012 interviews, Steve Bannon compared protesters on the left to the Nazi Brownshirts” by Andrew Kaczynski: “The Occupy movement is really a combination of the internet, the media, and street thugs. Right? It’s a weapon of intimidation,” Bannon said in September 2012. “It is the moral equivalent today of the Brownshirts of the 1930s. It’s going to be used as a weapon of intimidation.” [CNN]

INBOX — ZOA’s Mort Klein Urges House Minority Leader Pelosi to Retract ‘Slander’ Against Stephen Bannon: “We are thus deeply disappointed that Congresswoman Pelosi repeatedly defamed presidential advisor and National Security Council member Stephen Bannon on February 2, 2017 by wrongly and falsely calling him a “white supremacist.” … Mr. Bannon also hired and worked closely with persons of every race and creed at Breitbart (gay, straight, white, black, Orthodox Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc., etc.), again confirming that he is definitively not a “white supremacist.””

President-in-law: ‘”A Conservative Climate Solution’: Republican Group Calls for Carbon Tax” by John Schwartz: “James Baker is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, the senior adviser to the president, and Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, as well as Ivanka Trump.” [NYTimes] • Read the Shultz-Baker Op-Ed here [WSJ]

SCENE YESTERDAY: The Hudson Institute hosted a policy luncheon featuring a conversation between Peter Thiel and Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, at the University Club in NYC. The typically strict private social club allowed a tieless Thiel to break a house rule that states “gentleman members and guests are required to wear jackets, dress shirts and ties.” The off-the-record discussion focused heavily on transparency in politics brought about by technology.

SPOTTED: Rupert Murdoch, Sarah May Stern, Terry Kassel, Ken Bialkin, Joshua Landes, Dan Senor, Bret Stephens, Walter Russell Mead, John Walters, Daria Tarasova, Lewis ’Scooter’ Libby, Hillel Fradkin, Heather Higgins, Lana Volftsun, Benjamin Haddad, Jasper Goldberg, Henry Zieve Cohen, and Allison Lee Pillinger Choi.

“Ivanka Trump oversaw Murdoch daughter’s trust” by Christopher Matthews: “Ivanka Trump stepped down on December 28th from a five-person board that oversees a $300 million trust owned by Rupert Murdoch’s youngest daughters, the Financial Times reports. The FT says that Trump had been on the board for several years, going back before her father’s presidential campaign. Why it matters: The news illustrates the close relationship between the Trumps and the Murdochs, a relationship that could have wide implications for Corporate America.” [Axios; FT]

INTERVIEW — former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro spoke to JI’s Aaron Magid about the U.S.-Israel relationship and shared his views on the developing relationship between Netanyahu and President Trump, the appointment of David Friedman as his successor, and the new administration’s Middle East policy.

Q: How will the Trump-Netanyahu relationship impact US support for Israel among non-Trump voters?

Shapiro: “One of the things President Obama always placed a high priority on when he was President was maintaining a bipartisan support for Israel and that at times meant making it clear to members of his own party that his support for Israel and its security and our commitment to Israel was sacrosanct, even during periods of disagreement so I think that a similar commitment by the new administration to maintaining bipartisan support for Israel is a healthy one for the US-Israel relationship… I hope very much that President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will bear that in mind as they conduct a relationship, it’s important to find ways of inclusion for all constituencies in support of the US-Israel relationship.”

Q: How did you interpret Netanyahu’s tweet supporting Trump’s wall on America’s Mexican border?

Shapiro: “It surprised me that he chose to weigh in publicly on an issue that was very divisive and controversial even in a partisan sense in the US, including with some key constituencies that he does care about including Latinos and maybe other progressives. It suggested to me that there was some pressure placed on the Israeli government to provide support for that aspect of President Trump’s agenda and since there’s no direct Israeli interest in US policy on our southern border, I found that surprising.”

Q: The Trump Administration introduced a list 78 terror attacks that were under-reported. Were you surprised that Israel was omitted from this list?

Shapiro: “I think if one were to make a list of terrorist attacks that didn’t get much attention outside of the immediate area where they occurred, it would be hard not to include attacks against Israelis on that list because there have been quite a number that have received scant attention outside of Israel. I think some of the other attacks listed on that list have indeed received a lot more coverage than some of the ones in Israel.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

ON THE HILL: “Cardin: No Delay in Friedman’s Confirmation Hearing” by Aaron Magid: “Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) denied a Ynet report on Tuesday that the confirmation process for David Friedman, President Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel, has been stalled for political purposes. When asked if lawmakers were delaying his confirmation, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Jewish Insider, “Not at all. None the least. We still have not gotten all of the material that is required before we can move forward.”” [JewishInsider

“US tight-lipped as Israel settler law sparks world outrage” by Laurent Lozano: “Washington refused direct comment, in stark contrast to the settlement criticism repeatedly voiced under Barack Obama. “Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu will be here on February 15. I don’t want to get ahead of that now,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said… Human Rights Watch said the legislation “reflects Israel’s manifest disregard of international law”. “The Trump administration cannot shield them from the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court,” HRW warned.” [Yahoo

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Iran scorns Trump, rebuffs U.S. warning on missiles” by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin: “When asked about Khamenei’s comments on Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Iran must recognize that the United States is under new leadership. “This president is not going to sit by and let Iran flout its violations or apparent violations to the joint agreement,” Spicer said at a briefing. “I think Iran is kidding itself if they don’t realize there’s a new president in town.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran would not renegotiate the nuclear deal… “I believe Trump will push for renegotiation. But Iran and European countries will not accept that,” Zarif told Tuesday’s edition of Ettelaat daily. “We will have difficult days ahead.”” [Reuters

“Iran pulls missile from launchpad after apparent prep for launch, US officials say” by Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin: “New satellite imagery from Feb. 3, obtained exclusively by Fox News from ImageSat International and verified by U.S. officials, showed Iran preparing a Safir for launch. That missile is the type Iran has previously used to put a satellite into space… In a surprising about face, Fox News learned Tuesday morning that Iran’s missile had been removed from the launchpad. It was not immediately clear why…” [FoxNews

“White House Weighs Terrorist Designation for Muslim Brotherhood” by Peter Baker: “The proposal to declare it a terrorist organization has been paired with a plan to similarly designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to current and former officials briefed on the deliberations… The Iran part of the plan has strong support within the White House, but momentum behind the Muslim Brotherhood proposal seems to have slowed in recent days amid objections from career officials at the State Department and the National Security Council, who argue that there is no legal basis for it and that it could alienate allies in the region. Former officials said that they had been told the order would be signed on Monday, but that it had now been put off at least until next week… In his short time in office, Mr. Trump has already come under pressure from Arab allies eager for such a designation.” [NYTimes; Reuters

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: It was a bright, sunny day today in Jerusalem, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to enjoy the great winter weather with a publicized outdoor stroll. He invited Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon to join him for a plate of Hummus on a Jerusalem street and invited the whole country to watch, broadcasting about eight minutes on Facebook Live. Netanyahu has been gradually expanding his use of the Live tool, regularly updating his followers about the day’s news (from his perspective, at least). Netanyahu explained to his Facebook viewers that he wanted to celebrate a year of a successful economy, but the event and live broadcast suggest that Netanyahu is clearly grasping to secure his popularity and divert the discourse from focusing on the several criminal investigations currently underway.

Last night, Channel 2’s Amit Segal presented Netanyahu’s defense in what is considered the most serious probe so far, commonly referred to as “file 1000.” According to the report, Netanyahu told the police “he didn’t know” of the gifts Arnon Milchan gave to his wife Sara Netanyahu, and was also “unaware” of the price and total of the cigars he allegedly received from Milchan himself. Legally, this may assist Netanyahu in the future decision on indictment by the Attorney General. But publicly, many noted Netanyahu’s shift. After weeks of insisting “There is nothing because there was nothing,” he moved to “I didn’t know.”

Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with President Trump is another chance to dominate the headlines and distract from the scandalous reports about him and his criminal investigations. As a senior cabinet minister told Kafe Knesset: “Trump is exactly what Netanyahu needs right now because he can truly present himself as the right person and the right time and the right place to deal with the new president.” But Netanyahu is facing right-wing pressure to return home with a dramatic change of policy from Trump… the pro-settler faction in the Likud party has started to gather signatures for a petition calling on Netanyahu to denounce his support for the two-state solution during his upcoming visit to the United States. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset[JewishInsider]

“The Teenagers Pushing Israel to the Right” by Naomi Zeveloff: “Last December, the teenagers were crestfallen when Amona’s leaders agreed to peacefully evacuate the settlement for a new West Bank site… The disillusionment spread among Amona’s young supporters, fueling their protest. More loyal to the land than to institutions, these teen activists represent a potent and growing political force. Even though many of these activists are too young to vote, they shape Israeli politics, pulling it incrementally rightward with each highly publicized protest… In other parts of the world, wandering teens might find themselves experimenting with drugs or alcohol. In the West Bank, ideology is the substance of choice. Broadly speaking, these teens, often referred to as hilltop youth, see as hypocritical Israel’s self-identification as a Jewish and democratic state.” [TheAtlantic]

“What Jordan’s King told Trump” by Shlomi Eldar: “According to the Palestinian source, when the Palestinians discovered that Abdullah was scheduled to meet Trump in Washington during the traditional National Prayer Breakfast event, Abbas made a special trip to Amman. There he asked the king to pass on a message of reconciliation to Trump… According to the source, “In the short time he had before the Hilton event, in his pleasant manner, and with well-reasoned explanations, King Abdullah reviewed with Trump the dangers of Israel’s unrestrained [settlement] policy. Abdullah explained that this policy is likely to lead to unwelcome flare-ups [in the region].” .. According to the source, Trump listened to Abdullah but did not explicitly commit himself to taking any action.” [Al-Monitor]

“Israel targeted under law passed to help 9/11 families sue Saudis” by Nahal Toosi: “In a 103-page complaint filed Feb. 1, attorney Martin F. McMahon alleges that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as U.S. charities tied to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s Israel ambassador pick David Friedman, are complicit in war crimes against Palestinians because of their financial support for settlement activity in the West Bank. The suit could bolster critics of the Saudi-targeted law, who warned U.S. lawmakers that the statute opened the door to legal claims that ultimately could drag U.S. officials into court, even on flimsy grounds.” [Politico]

Rand Paul — “Do not let Elliott Abrams anywhere near the State Department: I hope against hope that the rumors are wrong and that President Donald Trump will not open the State Department door to the neocons. Crack the door to admit Elliott Abrams and the neocons will scurry in by the hundreds… These are the same people who think we must blow up half the Middle East, then rebuild it and police it for decades. They’re wrong and they should not be given a voice in this administration.” [Rare]

DNC WATCH: “Keith Ellison Is Everything Republicans Thought Obama Was” by Tim Murphy: “Michael Olenick, a Jewish student who clashed with Ellison and who was the opinions editor at the Daily, recalled Ellison maintaining that an oppressed group could not be racist toward Jews because Jews were themselves oppressors. “European white Jews are trying to oppress minorities all over the world,” Olenick remembers Ellison arguing. “Keith would go on all the time about ‘Jewish slave traders.'” Another Jewish student active in progressive politics recalled Ellison’s incredulous response to the controversy over Zionism. “What are you afraid of?” Ellison asked. “Do you think black nationalists are gonna get power and hurt Jews?”

“Ellison labored to show Jewish progressives he’d turned a page. He picked up the endorsement of the American Jewish World, the Twin Cities-based newspaper, and he addressed voters’ concerns about Farrakhan at the state’s largest synagogue… Choosing Ellison to lead the Democratic Party would be a gamble… It might alienate a small but influential faction of Democratic leaders, such as Haim Saban. (At a debate featuring DNC candidates in January, Ellison said he and Saban had spoken and “we’re on the road to recovery.”)” [MotherJones; Mediaite

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

MEDIA WATCH: “Times Names Wall Street Journal Editor to Its Masthead” by Sydney Amber: “Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, has been named a deputy managing editor of The New York Times, one of the top leadership positions at the newspaper. Ms. Blumenstein will become one of the highest-ranking women in The Times’s newsroom. In a note to the staff announcing the appointment on Tuesday, Dean Baquet, the executive editor, and Joe Kahn, the managing editor, said that Ms. Blumenstein, 50, would help the newsroom “do all the big things we intend to do in 2017 and beyond.”” [NYTimes]

“Meredith, Bronfman Move Forward in Effort to Acquire Time Inc.” by Jeffrey Trachtenberg: “Meredith, which publishes such magazines as Family Circle, Shape and Better Homes & Gardens, in recent days signed a nondisclosure agreement with Time Inc. and is expected in coming weeks to get a look at some of the company’s data and meet with its senior management, one of the people said. The group led by [Edgar] Bronfman and Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, whose earlier overtures to Time Inc. were rejected, has also signed a nondisclosure agreement and has already met with senior Time Inc. executives, one of the people said.” [WSJ]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “The Babylonian Talmud Is Now Available For Free Online in English and Hebrew” by Yair Rosenberg: “Sefaria, an online non-profit bringing traditional Jewish texts to the internet, announced that it will be posting the entire compendium with the crisp bilingual translation of Jerusalem polymath Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Yisrael… Both translations will be available to anyone with an internet connection, thanks to a grant from the William Davidson Foundation. Sefaria has already posted the Talmud’s first 22 tractates in English; the rest, along with the modern Hebrew translations, will be rolling out through 2017.” [Tablet; Sefaria]

“Viral rabbi captures hearts of online ‘congregation’ via social media” by Lisa Klug: “While Americans are still digesting the presidential inauguration, the new administration, and the Women’s Marches across the country, one of their brethren is putting his focus elsewhere. With a wardrobe of onesies, an infectious smile and unbridled enthusiasm, Meir Kay is a 21st-century badchan, a hasid-turned-jester with millions of views on social media. Kay grew up in Connecticut and attended Chabad Lubavitch yeshivas in Miami, Florida; Manchester, England; Postville, Iowa; and Singapore, where he received rabbinical ordination. He first gained widespread traction in September 2014 with his high-spirited video “High Five New York,” which has drawn more than 2.3 million views.” [ToI] • Watch Kay’s latest viral video: “Not Your Typical Super Bowl Party” [Facebook]

BIRTHDAYS: Boston attorney and author, whose 2013 book on Jews and baseball was turned into the 2016 play “Swing, Schmendrick, Swing,” Larry Ruttman turns 86… Broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor of ABC’s Nightline from its inception in 1980 until his retirement in late 2005, five-time Emmy Award winner, Ted Koppel (born Edward James Martin Koppel) turns 77… Stand-up comedian, singer and actor (stage, television and film), Robert Klein turns 75… Columbus, Ohio born attorney and president of Schottenstein Legal Services, James M. Schottenstein turns 70… Graduate of Harvard Law School with an MBA from Stanford, active private investor and business operator, Marc Abramowitz turns 64… Rebecca Sugar, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Mosaic United… Senior Director of Kehilla Affiliations and Operations for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Barry S. Mael turns 59… British businessman and chairman of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur since 2001, Daniel Levy turns 55… Attorney, rabbi and New Jersey political consultant, Benjamin G. Kelsen turns 45… Popular Israeli musician, singer and songwriter, released five albums between 1997 and 2013, three of which followed his becoming a baal teshuva in 2004, Eviatar Banai turns 44… Former Deputy Assistant to the President Obama for Energy and Climate Change, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, Heather Zichal turns 41 (h/t Playbook)… Professional ice hockey center, has been under contract with five NHL teams including the Islanders, Lightning, Penguins, Maple Leafs and Predators, Trevor Smith turns 32… Canadian jazz-pop singer-songwriter, who performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Nicole “Nikki” Yanofsky turns 23… Attorney Advisor / Assistant Counsel to the Inspector General at US Small Business Administration, Adam Kaplan (h/t Playbook)…

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