Daily Kickoff: President-in-law MIA in Aspen | Ya’alon prepping campaign | Theo Epstein named top leader | Kentucky bourbon giving Rabbis headaches

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump the Dealmaker Projects Bravado, but Behind the Scenes, Faces Rare Self-Doubt” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “To Mr. Trump and his team, the health care repeal is a troublesome stepchild. His son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who is vacationing with his family in Aspen this week, has said for days that the bill was a mistake to support. Yet Mr. Trump wants to fulfill his party’s pledge to roll back President Obama’s signature accomplishment, but only as a prelude to building his wall, cutting taxes and pushing his $1 trillion infrastructure package.” [NYTimes

“Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner on Aspen Ski Break Amid Washington Drama” by Rebecca Ballhaus: “During a week in which Mr. Trump has faced perhaps the most significant test yet of his presidency, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump were in Aspen, Colo., skiing with other members of the Trump family… Mr. Kushner, officially a senior adviser, and Ms. Trump are considered two of the most influential voices in Mr. Trump’s orbit.” [WSJ] • Pics [DailyMail]

Jim Manley: “The idea that Jared Kushner is supposedly a top WH aide and yet is in Aspen this week is amazeballs and an insult to staffers everywhere.” [Twitter]

“Trump, Tillerson Settle on No. 2 at State Department” by Felicia Schwartz and Gordon Lubold: “John J. Sullivan, 57, initially was the Trump administration’s pick to be the Pentagon’s general counsel… But in recent days Trump administration officials decided they would instead tap him to be deputy secretary of state, the officials said… Mr. Tillerson met Mr. Sullivan while Mr. Tillerson was preparing for his confirmation hearing, the person said. Mr. Sullivan role-played as a senator to help him prepare, and the two men have kept in touch.” [WSJ

Robert Costa: “Trump wants to bring John Bolton into the administration. That’s why Bolton is at the WH today, per a Trump confidant. Ongoing convo.” [Twitter

Glenn Thrush‏: “John Bolton just walked into the West Wing — I asked him what he was doing, he smiled and said ‘health care!!!!'” [Twitter

ART OF THE DEAL? “US-Israeli talks conclude with no agreement on settlements” by Carol Morello and Anne Gearan: “The White House expressed its “concerns” with settlement construction after talks with senior Israeli officials in Washington ended Thursday night with a joint statement showing the two governments unable to agree on a settlement policy that could pave the way to peace talks resuming… In two sentences, the statement laid out positions that made it clear that issue was unresolved. “The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement,” it said. “The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration.”” [WashPost; Reuters]

Bret Stephens:“Most interesting about this readout is that it could have come from a Democratic Administration. #embassymove?” [Twitter

Earlier in the day, Senator Ted Cruz told JI’s Aaron Magid: “I have long said that the question of settlements is a question for the democratically elected government of Israel to resolve. I am going to focus on the underlying substance and leave conversations between the Administration and Israel to the Administration and Israel.”

Jason Greenblatt: “It was an honor to meet with Sen. Ted Cruz today. We had an engaging discussion on ways we can collaborate.” [Twitter]

“Conservatives in Israel, U.S. Target Obama Holdover on Trump’s Mideast Team” by Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon: “A senior minister in the security cabinet told Haaretz that [Yael] Lempert’s presence during Greenblatt’s visit – and her involvement in talks between the White House and Prime Minister’s Office about reining in settlement construction – were a concern for Netanyahu and his advisers. “The feeling I got was that the Prime Minister’s Office would rather distance her,” said the senior minister.” … The Israeli Embassy in Washington… said Dermer and Lempert have had, and continue to enjoy, a good working relationship. “We have no objections to working with Yael Lempert or with any other American official,” stated the Prime Minister’s Office.” [Haaretz]

Member of Knesset Yair Lapid on the Global Politico podcast with Susan Glasser: “I’m old enough to remember the first year of the Bill Clinton administration, which was as messy, if my memory, serves me. So in all, the American president has now been the president for a month. We’re not into the 100 days yet, right? So we’re willing to wait and I find this encouraging that there is a commitment, that there is a positive way of looking at things. You know what? If you are appointing your son-in-law, then you care about this… We know one thing about the son-in-law. Even four or eight years from now, after he’s president, he’s still going to meet him every Friday night. So if you’re putting somebody who is that close to you over there, then it means something… I’d rather be optimistic about it and there are signs that there is a reason to be optimistic… If you have an American president who is willing to put effort into solving the problem, then it’s a good thing.” [Politico] • Full Transcript [Politico]

KAFE KNESSET — Ya’alon Prepping PM Campaign — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Still in waiting mode for the next chapter of the latest coalition crisis, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is starting to heat up his campaign on the sidelines of the main court. Its been almost a year since Ya’alon was replaced by Avigdor Liberman, and earlier this month he reaffirmed that he will be heading a new party in the next election. That election, he estimated in a radio interview today, will take place within less than a year… Ya’alon hasn’t officially launched his new party yet, and his aides say he is discreetly working on scouting various public figures to join him on the list, which he envisions as a pragmatic right-wing party that will counter the growing populism in his former Likud home.

But recent polls show that the electoral prospects of another right wing party – alongside the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, and center-right Kulanu – are shaky. In the latest poll, conducted this week for the local 103 radio station, Ya’alon does not even pass the electoral threshold, and in other surveys this month he was projected to receive between 4-6 seats. Ya’alon is only beginning his campaign, and polls in this era are always taken with a grain of salt, but these numbers are far from the minimum needed to reach the number 1 post, where Ya’alon has stated he is aiming. If the numbers don’t change dramatically, many political pundits assume he might have to eventually join forces with another party, presumably Lapid’s Yesh Atid or Kahlon’s Kulanu. However, Ya’alon and his aides totally dismiss this scenario. Time will tell. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

FRIEDMAN, AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: After a brief debate yesterday afternoon, the Senate confirmed David Friedman’s nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel in a near party-line vote. Only two Democrats, Bob Menendez (NJ) and Joe Manchin (WV), crossed party lines and voted with the Republicans in favor of Friedman. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voted against their fellow New Yorker.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on the Senate floor: “Mr. Friedman’s smearing of my fellow Jews, many of whom are members of J Street, should be a disqualifier… I am convinced that a just and lasting agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians on a two-state solution though very difficult, can and must be achieved. Confirming David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel will only serve to make that job more difficult, if not impossible.” [JewishInsider]

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): “There are some things that we ought to be able to agree upon, that our Ambassador to Israel should not be more involved in Israel’s politics than our own, that our Ambassador to Israel should not be so provocative that they wouldn’t even be welcome at the peace negotiating table. Our Ambassador should not be the kind of person who uses language to fuel violence, hate, instability, and that means we should be able to agree that our Ambassador to Israel cannot be Mr. Friedman.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM): “29 Holocaust scholars objected to his Kapo remarks. The Historical record shows they said and I quote, ‘That Kapos were Jews who the Nazis forced at pain of death to serve them in the Concentration and Extermination Camps. These Jews faced terrible dilemmas but ultimately were made into unwilling tools of Nazi brutality. To brand one’s political opponents, members of one’s own community merely for debate is historically indefensible and is a deeply disturbing example of the abuse of the Holocaust and its victims for present political gain’ end quote. Mr. Friedman, a group of Holocaust survivors called his use of Kapos, and I quote here, ‘Slanderous, irresponsible, cynical and immensely damaging to our people,’ end quote.”

— “Inside the Israeli government, the party-line vote indicated that his confirmation was viewed less as a policy statement by lawmakers than as a statement on Trump’s ability to ram through a controversial appointment.” [WashPost

Phil Rosen, past foreign policy advisor to candidates Romney and Rubio, tells us… “It’s terrific that a great friend of Israel and of the wonderful U.S./Israel relationship in all respects will be representing the United States on the ground in Israel. David brings strong advocacy and fresh ideas to everything he does and touches. President Trump trusts David explicitly and implicitly which is essential for an ambassador in a key country like Israel. I’m disappointed that so few Democrat Senators supported David. David will represent the entire United States and its government and people as ambassador.”

“Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Is Defending Russia’s Biggest Bank,” by Anthony Cormier, Jeremy Singer-Vine and John Templon: “One of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys was just named a lead attorney to defend Russia’s largest state-run bank against claims that it helped a granite-mining company raid and kill off its main competitor in the Russian market. Marc E. Kasowitz is representing OJSC Sberbank of Russia, which is accused in US federal court of conspiring with granite company executives… Kasowitz has served as an attorney for Trump for more than 15 years… In December, Trump named another partner at Kasowitz’s firm, David Friedman, to serve as the ambassador to Israel.” [BuzzFeed]

ON THE HILL — “Iran sanctions bill unveiled by bipartisan Senate group” by Austin Wright: “Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Thursday unveiled a bipartisan bill to slap Iran with new sanctions… The bill is supported by more than a dozen senators… giving it a strong chance of being taken up in the Senate. The measure would impose mandatory sanctions on those involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. It would apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard… An aide to Cardin said the senator worked behind the scenes to strip from the bill anything that would harm the Iran nuclear deal… Cardin stripped out language that would have prohibited the president from using the national security waiver to enter into international agreements with Iran.” [Politico]

HAPPENING TODAY: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies will host a breakfast conversation titled “Keeping Iran in Check: How to Combat Iran’s Illicit Activities” with David Albright, Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security, FDD’s CEO Mark Dubowitz, and Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Oren Dorell, foreign affairs reporter at USA Today, will moderate the panel at 10 am EST.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Wendy Sherman discussed the Iran nuclear talks leading up to the deal on The Axe Files“We negotiated with partners and allies – Israel, of course – on a regular basis… Technically, every step of the way they knew what we were doing and they were immensely helpful… We never told everybody that we could get everything done (re: Iran’s missiles and regional behavior) in one deal, and indeed oddly, at the beginning of the negotiation, Gulf countries said to us, ‘Don’t discuss anything else because we are not in the room. You are talking about our lives and our futures.’” [CNN

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) talked to Aaron Magid about calls for the US to reduce funding or withdraw membership to the UNHRC: “I think Ambassador Haley should work really hard to try to prevail upon the other members — I hate for us to send the signal that we are no longer interested in human rights, but I also understand that Israel is not getting a fair shot at the UN right now. I think that (withdrawing membership) would be a dramatic step. I think we should do everything short of that to try to see if we can make it a fair place for Israel.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): “I would do anything to get their attention so that they prioritize the independence of Israel.”

“What’s Behind Israel’s Diplomatic Flare-Up With Russia” by Adam Chandler: “Despite Netanyahu’s exhortations, there’s no guarantee that Russia will maintain its tacit agreement with Israel over its activities in Syria, especially as Assad’s prospects only continue to brighten. Should Russia change its mind and tell Israel to cease its activities in Syria, the cost of future Israeli strikes will go up, leaving Bibi with fewer options. He could turn to the U.S. for sympathy—something he may not find within the new administration.” [TheAtlantic

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Jewish groups say they are relieved and heartbroken after arrest in JCC threats” by Mark Berman: “It was heartbreaking to learn that a Jewish man is a prime suspect,” Jerry Silverman, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federations of North America, said in a statement… “While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL, said in a statement… The FBI briefed Jewish leaders in the United States on Thursday morning, according to Silverman, who praised “the unprecedented level of time and resources that were committed to this investigation… Jewish groups pointed out that there are still troubling anti-Semitic incidents left unsolved.” [WashPost; NYTimes

** Good Friday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Robert Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., Agrees to One-Year Extension [NYTimes] • Expedia Chairman Barry Diller explains why he recruited Chelsea Clinton for board [Bizjournals• The Other Page in Patrick Drahi’s Billionaire Playbook [Bloomberg] • Teva Pharm says media reports of up to 6,000 layoffs incorrect [Reuters] • Amazon sets its sights on Martin Selig’s Seattle office building [Bizjournals] • Eric Mindich’s Eton Park Hedge Fund to Close Down [WSJ]

“This Startup Wants to Be the Netflix for Jobs” by Valentina Zarya: On Thursday, the company announced that it has raised a $18.5 million series B funding round, led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from WayUp’s existing investors, including General Catalyst, BoxGroup, Lerer-Hippeau Ventures, Index Ventures, SV Angel, and Female Founders Fund. WayUp, which was founded by Liz Wessel and co-founder JJ Fliegelman in July 2014, has raised a total of $27.5 million so far.” [Fortune

SPOTLIGHT: “The Anti-Trump Prosecutor the President Can’t Control – or Fire” by Ciro Scotti: “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been hunting for the former real estate mogul’s distinct scalp for years… has hired one of [Preet] Bharara’s top public-corruption prosecutors, Howard Master, whose focus New York magazine says will include “issues relating to the Trump White House.” Among Master’s successful prosecutions was the corruption conviction of New York State House Speaker Sheldon Silver, The Wall Street Journal said… The animus Schneiderman has for Trump sometimes seems to go beyond prosecutorial zeal, however. In a statement last July to The Forward… the AG said, “As a Democrat and a Jewish American, I feel that I have a duty to help prevent such a dangerous, offensive, and grossly uninformed individual from occupying the Oval Office.”” [FiscalTimes]

“Ivanka’s lawyer, a Democrat, defends herself” by Annie Karni: “Attorney Jamie Gorelick… who served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton and a former member of the 9/11 Commission, was recommended to Kushner by former News Corp. executive Joel Klein, who now serves as chief strategy officer at Oscar, the health insurance company co-founded by Kushner’s younger brother Josh… Longtime Gorelick friends, like President Obama’s former ethics czar Norm Eisen, have criticized her read of the anti-nepotism statute… But Eisen said that despite his legal disagreement, he thinks Gorelick’s involvement is good in that it’s pushing top members of the Trump administration in the right direction.” [Politico]

HOLLYWOOD: “Huma Abedin and David Foster Walk the Red Carpet at Event Celebrating Close Friend Haim Saban” by Tierney Mcafee: “Abedin, 40, wore a palm-print dress from Zara for the occasion and was all smiles as she chatted with actress Elizabeth Banks and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti… The Clintons even sent a congratulatory letter to Saban on his Walk of Fame star, according to Vanity Fair. The letter, signed “Bill and Hillary,” reads: “This well-deserved honor is not only a testament to your decades of groundbreaking contributions in the entertainment industry, but to your enduring generosity and efforts to advance good causes across American and around the world.”” [People• Read Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Congratulatory Letter to Haim Saban [Variety]

SPORTS BLINK: “Theo Epstein on being named world’s top leader: ‘I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house'” by Scott Davis: “After helping the Chicago Cubs break their 108-year championship drought, team president Theo Epstein was named Fortune’s No. 1 World Leader… Esptein had a fantastic reaction to the title, scoffing at it to ESPN’s Buster Olney. “Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s baseball–a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan.” [BI]

DESSERT: “Artsy-Craftsy Booze Is Giving Kentucky Rabbis a Headache” by Ian Lovett: “With globalization, there’s literally a whole new world with regard to kosher,” said Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, the family patriarch who moved to Kentucky from Brooklyn in 1985. He now certifies liquors as kosher along with four sons and two sons-in-law—all of them rabbis with Chabad-Lubavitch, a movement of orthodox Judaism. “In Judaism, people are always eating and drinking,” he said, explaining how he got into the business of giving liquor his blessing. When a couple decides to get married, he said, “we need to certify a kosher caterer. Then they want to say L’chaim”—a Hebrew phrase often used as a toast… Deborah Shapiro, vice president of marketing for Kosher Network International, said kosher certification labels only began showing up on liquors once companies “started to get artsy-craftsy oriented with drinks, adding flavorings to things.” [WSJ

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Award-winning classical pianist with a special affinity for Chopin, honored by several US Presidents during his long career, Byron Janis (family name Yankilevich) turns 89… Billionaire, member of the House of Lords and star of the UK’s version of The Apprentice, Alan Sugar turns 70… Billionaire and philanthropist, CEO of Microsoft (2000-2014), owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA since 2014, Steve Ballmer turns 61… Retired NASA astronaut and a veteran of four space shuttle missions, awarded a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Tech in 1982, Scott Jay “Doc” Horowitz turns 60… Poet and professor of art history at Hofstra University, having earned a Ph.D. in 1990 in art history from the University of California at Berkeley, Martha Hollander turns 58… Professional wrestler under a series of ring names including “The Star of David,” his wrestling career spanned from 1979 until 2000, Barry Horowitz turns 57… President and CEO of the Newseum, previously president of Colgate University, Jeffrey Herbst turns 56… Actor who is best known for his portrayal of Dr. Chris Taub on the Fox medical drama series “House,” currently starring on the USA Network science fiction drama “Colony,” Peter Jacobson turns 52… Producer at i24 News, political commentator and columnist, Fred Menachem turns 45… Famed NYC photographer, known for wearing vintage suits and hats daily, worked for the NY Daily News and now MTA New York City Transit, Marc A. Hermann turns 35… Pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who was a major contributor to Team Israel’s surprising run in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he wears a Star of David and a Chai around his neck whenever he pitches, Josh Zeid turns 30… Venezuelan-born featured celebrity chef on NBC’s “Food Fighters,” consultant for cooking TV shows and private chef in Los Angeles, Deborah Benaim turns 29… Competitive pair skater who with a partner were the first pair representing Israel to qualify for an Olympics, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Andrea “Anya” Davidovich turns 20… Deputy Managing Editor at Bloomberg, formerly a writer for the WSJ’s Metropolis blog, Aaron Rutkoff (h/t Playbook)… Josh Cohen… Tami Wolf… Deborah Rudy

SATURDAY: Member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Chairman of Eastern Savings Bank, Chair of Community Planning at the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Beth H. Goldsmith… Film and book critic, with regular appearances on NBC’s “The Today Show” from 1973 until 2010, Gene Shalit turns 91… Pulpit rabbi, rosh yeshiva, historian, author and lecturer Rabbi Berel Wein turns 83… Feminist, journalist and social activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gloria Steinem turns 83… Actor and director, best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series “Starsky & Hutch” and as Captain Jack Steeper on NBC’s “Third Watch” (2004-2005), Paul Michael Glaser turns 74… Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada since 2011, her husband had been Mayor from 1999 until 2011, Carolyn Goodman turns 78… Norman Goldberg turns 73… VP for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson Center since 2006 after 24 years at the US Department of State (1978-2003), Aaron David Miller turns 68… Senior reporter for climate and related issues at ProPublica, he was a reporter for the New York Times from 1995 through 2009, Andrew C. Revkin turns 61… Columbus, Ohio-based business consultant focused on dental practice management and marketing, Cynthia S. Levy turns 60… Author, freelance journalist and the eHealth editor for Politico Pro, Arthur Allen turns 58… Emmy Award-winning actress, producer, and designer, best known for her leading role on the HBO television series “Sex and the City” (1998-2004), reprised in two later films, Sarah Jessica Parker turns 52… Israeli special forces soldier turned software entrepreneur turned political leader, leader of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett turns 45… Boston-based director of media and public relations at Oxfam America, previously at BBC World Service and CNN, Alissa C. Rooney turns 37… VP at Chicago-based Resolute Consulting since 2016, previously DC-based for seven years at Politico, Roll Call and Yahoo News, Meredith Shiner turns 30… Congressional staffer for Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Grant C. Dubler turns 28… Jordan Rossman turns 27… Attorney and President of Mizel Financial Holdings, in 2002 he founded Jconnect in Los Angeles devoted to creating Jewish connectivity, continuity and unity in Southern California and beyond, Cheston David Mizel… Communications and non-profit consultant, previously executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee (an independent affiliate of AJC), Karen Hochberg… Regional Director for New Jersey and Rockland County in the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Engagement, Rabbi Avi Heller… Principal at DC-based Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, focused on health care policy, Lauren Aronson … Managing editor for content at CNN Politics, Steven Sloan (h/ts Playbook)… Glyn Gerber… Pamela Snyder

SUNDAYAlphabet CEO Larry Page turns 44… Argentine-born, Israeli clarinetist who specializes in klezmer music, Giora Feidman turns 81… Actor who has appeared in more than 60 films since 1964, including as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972), James Caan turns 77… Award-winning novelist and poet, whose debut novel in 1973 “Fear of Flying,” has sold over 20 million copies, Erica Jong turns 75… Physician, author of five books and former medical correspondent at ABC News for 15 years, then 9 years as chief medical editor for NBC News, Nancy Lynn Snyderman, MD turns 65… Bloomberg’s editor-at-large for Canada since 2014, previously editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, Edward Greenspon turns 60… Actress who has appeared in many movies over a 30-year career, in 2010 she was the winner of Season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Grey turns 57… Politician and patent attorney from the Detroit area, 1992 graduate of Harvard Law School, elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 2008, 2010 and 2012, Ellen Cogen Lipton turns 50… Founder, president and CEO of Waxman Strategies, a DC-based communications firm that now includes his father, 20-term Congressman Henry Waxman, Michael Waxman turns 43… Born in Phoenix, now living in Israel, talk show host who founded Israel Sports Radio in 2010 and Israel Sports and News Radio in 2015, sports and politics blogger for the Times of Israel, Ari Louis turns 34… Actress best known for her roles in ABC’s sitcom “Suburgatory” and the USA Network’s drama “Mr. Robot,” Carly Chaikin turns 27… Philipp Tolentino Marty Rosmarin

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