Daily Kickoff: How Ben Platt became ‘the toast of Broadway’ | FBI agent: “We’re sitting shiva” | Kushner Cos. nixes planned Hasidic community

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TRUMP TUMULT — “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey” by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa: “[Rod] Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter… Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner — both of whom work in the White House — have frequently tried to blunt Trump’s riskier impulses but did not intervene to try to persuade him against firing Comey, according to two senior officials.” [WashPostNYTimes] • What Rod Rosenstein said about Trump and Russia two months ago [CNN]

“New FBI Boss Could Be More Controversial Than Comey” by Jana Winter and Betsy Woodruff: “For the time being, FBI agents are facing confusion, grief, and anger… “We’re basically sitting shiva,” said another agent, referring to the Jewish mourning period just after a funeral.” [DailyBeast]

Mike Bloomberg writes… “After Comey, Justice Must Be Served: Trump either has no advisers around him with the perspective and wisdom to talk him out of such an ill-fated and grossly incompetent decision — or was unwilling to listen to them. It’s hard to say which scenario is more troubling… it’s time for Congress to get serious about performing its constitutional duties… First, the Senate must insist that Trump replace Comey with an independent and experienced new director, one who will commit to completing any investigations into the president now underway… Next, Congress must appoint an independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference with the election.” [BloombergView]

“And then Henry Kissinger walks in…: 24 hours in the Donald Trump circus” by Chris Cillizza: “The White House press pool was called into the Oval Office just before noon eastern time for what they expected to be a photo op between Trump and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov since the two men were scheduled to huddle earlier today. But it wasn’t Lavrov they found sitting with the president! It was Henry Kissinger, best known for his role as Secretary of State to President Richard Nixon!” [CNN]

Peter Baker‏: “Which White House aide thought the two people Trump should be seen with today are Russia’s foreign minister and Henry Kissinger?” [Twitter]

“Trump is getting closer to collusion with Russia — in Syria” by Josh Rogin:“President Trump’s Wednesday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House was not primarily about sanctions or Crimea or even Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to Trump, the U.S. government now looks favorably on the Russian-Iranian-Turkish plan for Syria.” [WashPost]

IS SPICER NEXT? “Trump holds auditions while Spicer’s away” by Tara Palmeri and Hadas Gold: Stu Loeser, who acted as press secretary under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said he saw comparisons to the early administration of former President Bill Clinton, who also dealt with drama in his communications shop. George Stephanopoulos, now an anchor for ABC News, was moved to a more internal role from his position as de facto White House press secretary just five months after Clinton’s first inauguration, after a series of bad briefings and missteps. “The parallels, at least at the superficial level, are pretty remarkable,” Loeser said… Loeser said [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders seems to do better with reporters… “It’s undoubtedly true that the press corps like her better,” he said. “But it could be the inadvertent case of good cop-bad cop, where Spicer is the bad cop and she is the good cop. But you shouldn’t forget, a good cop is still a cop.”” [Politico]

FIRST LOOK: “Donald Trump After Hours” by Michael Scherer and Zeke Miller: “…the President says the billionaire Ronald Lauder, a great collector of art, went crazy when he saw the painting of George Washington above the fireplace… This is the part of the job that he has clearly come to enjoy, playing businessman for the American people. He brags about the close relationships he believes he has formed with foreign leaders, complimenting Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on inviting his daughter Ivanka to speak overseas. He boasts of convincing Egypt’s leader, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, to release several political prisoners, including an American­.” [TIME]

HEARD YESTERDAY – Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, speaking at a Hudson Institute luncheon, said Israel would be “grateful” if Congress passes the Taylor Force Act: “We have been trying for many years to stop it (the payments). The Palestinian Authority funds murders in Israeli jails and as long as you murder more, you get more money. I think President Trump and the Congress, if they will put pressure on it, I will say that the PA may not have a choice and they will have to stop it. Here definitely the United States can help us, and if this step will succeed, we will be very grateful.”

Shaked also appeared critical of Trump’s intense involvement to secure the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and reaching a final status peace agreement. “Every time there was a peace process and it failed, after that there was a terror wave. If you ask me, I think that if the President is talking about a deal, the economic deal can be much better.” The Jewish Home official also predicted that the Trump peace effort will fail, explaining that she is “realistic.” The gaps between the Israelis and Palestinians are too large, noting the divides over Jerusalem and refugees. [JewishInsider

“Israel, AIPAC reluctant to endorse Taylor Force Act” by Michael Wilner: “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee will not endorse the bill unless it earns bipartisan support… The Trump administration has also declined to endorse the bill, and sources familiar with the administration’s thinking tell the Post they do not expect that to change anytime soon… The president’s team fears pushing the PA too hard at a time when the president wants to reboot direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks… “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completely supports efforts to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for the outrage of paying murderers hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” his spokesman David Keyes said. Netanyahu expressed this sentiment to  [Sen. Lindsey] Graham when he was in Washington in February, sources told the Post.” [JPost]

— Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told us in March that he would consider supporting the Taylor Force Act after consulting with the Israeli government [JewishInsider

TRUMP’S ISRAEL TRIP —The London-based Al-Hayat publication reported yesterday that the President is expected to host a trilateral summit with Netanyahu and Abbas during his one-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories after the Palestinian leader agreed to engage in direct talks with the Israeli Prime Minister. Preparations are underway but the exact location where the meeting would take place has yet to be determined, according to the paper, citing Palestinian officials.

“Netanyahu’s Office Postpones Meeting on Settlement Construction Until After Trump’s Visit” by Barak Ravid: “According to [a] senior official, the meeting will be postponed for a few weeks and will take place early in June. “We didn’t want to hold discussions on the settlements close to Trump’s visit,” the official said. “The postponement was necessary.”” [Haaretz]

Dan Shapiro‏: “We worked out very similar arrangements in the weeks leading up to President Obama’s visit to Israel in 2013, which contributed to success.” [Twitter]

Responding to Israeli media reports, WH Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Jerusalem embassy: “The President has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that… I’m not going to get into the decision-making process. All I can tell you is that he’s still reviewing it and as soon as we have a decision, I know we’ll be happy to report back to you guys.” [CSPAN

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Repeated reports in recent weeks indicate that the President will not live up to his campaign promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, Mr. Trump will sign a presidential waiver next month further delaying the implementation of the law that would move the embassy to Jerusalem. The most recent news report, one coming out yesterday in the right-wing Makor Rishon, stated that the White House has already informed Netanyahu that the decision has been made. The White House and the Prime Minister’s Office both denied the report, but a senior Israeli source told Kafe Knesset that Jerusalem has received messages that this is indeed the case, even though the source stressed that “it is still not official or final, and Trump – being Trump – might still change his mind.”

Another source added that “we are investing all our energy in the Jerusalem issue. Any move or statement recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem will be historical,” also stressing the political impact such a move would bear. “The Right wing base’s expectations from Trump were so high, and the embassy move is an important symbol. If the Jerusalem issue collapses and nothing happens on the visit, the political pressure on Netanyahu will increase dramatically, especially regarding settlement construction.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Give Trump a chance” by Nahum Barnea: “Trump… doesn’t care about the details. In this sense, he presents a challenge to Netanyahu and Abbas. He strives to reach a deal before anything else, and then send the lawyers to finalize the details. That’s how he bought and sold hotels. He sees no difference between one deal and another. If both parties say they want a deal, let them reach a deal and give him credit for it. Otherwise, they will be presented in his tweets as complete liars.” [Ynet

Israeli hard-liner proposes railway link to Arab destinations: ‘It can be a game-changer’ — by David Ignatius: “[Transportation Minister Yisrael] Katz has pitched his plan twice to Jason D. Greenblatt… Katz’s team has also briefed other White House aides and key members of Congress. The plan would take a railway line that dates to Ottoman and British times, known back then as the Hejaz Railway and its Haifa Branch.. The idea is to continue that line to Irbid in northern Jordan and then connect it with a Jordanian rail hub that would stretch north to Damascus, east to Baghdad, southeast to Riyadh and the Gulf, and south to Jeddah and the Red Sea… “We want the U.S. to back this initiative,” Katz told me in an interview this week as he displayed his maps of the proposed rail network for the first time to a U.S. journalist. “It can be a game-changer,” he argued, noting that the Arabs could receive cargo without potential threats to commerce from Iran and its proxies.” [WashPost]

J Street unmoved by Hamas’ new charter — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Hamas officials announced with great fanfare their new charter in Doha last week and received some sympathetic coverage in the European media noting that the Islamist movement accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. However, J Street rejected any suggestions that the move suggested a broader positive change for Hamas. Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams for the dovish organization told us yesterday, “The new language may suggest Hamas is feeling some pressure to move in a somewhat different direction, but doesn’t change the fact that it is a terrorist organization inciting and committing violence against Israel and its citizens. Hamas will continue to be a drag on efforts toward peace as long as that remains the case.” • “Leading Hamas official says no softened stance toward Israel” [Reuters]

** Good Thursday 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: China’s tech money heads for Israel as U.S. welcome wanes [Reuters] • Sheldon Adelson pitches Brazilian president on $8 billion casino [JTA; GamesMag] • Robert Gladstone’s risky business [RealDeal] • Mark Zuckerberg’s Oculus trial transcript reveals his vision for Facebook VR [Mashable] • The holding company, founded by Franco-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, said on Thursday that its quarterly profits in the United States grew ahead of a planned initial public offering (IPO) while those of SFR in France dropped [Reuters] • Darren Rovell tweets: “Must read story from serial entrepreneur and part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Jesse Itzler about buying season tickets he couldn’t afford” [Twitter; Deadspin]

SPOTLIGHT: “Kushners Quit Property Bid as Pressures Mount Over Conflicts” by David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby: “Kushner Cos. had been the leading bidder for the 95-acre formerly contaminated site known as Bayfront, which is co-owned by Honeywell and Jersey City, city officials said. The company had submitted plans to build as many as 8,100 housing units to be marketed to Orthodox Jewish residents of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn who are being priced out of that neighborhood… On Wednesday, James Yolles, a spokesman for Kushner Cos., said, “A decision was made late last year not to pursue the project because the company was not persuaded by the economics of the deal.” [Bloomberg; Gothamist

HOLLYWOOD: “Megan Ellison-Mark Boal Israeli Terrorism Doc ‘Death in the Terminal’ Lands at Topic” by Tatiana Siegel: “Executive produced by Megan Ellison and Mark Boal, who previously teamed on Zero Dark Thirty, the documentary follows an event that took place Oct. 18, 2015, when a terrorist armed with a gun and a knife entered a bus terminal in the Southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Using surveillance footage and cellphone cameras, the film presents a minute-by-minute Rashomon-style account of the series of tragic events that unfolded over the ensuing 18 minutes. Integrated with eyewitness and participant testimonies, the film exposes a surprising and complex picture that dismantles our preconceptions and challenges our ability to judge these events as they’re revealed in real time.” [HollywoodReporter]

BROADWAY: “How a 23-Year-Old With Mild Anxiety and a Charmed Life Became the Lying, Sobbing, Lovesick Toast of Broadway” by Joel Lovell: “I recently followed Ben Platt up to his dressing room after a Sunday matinee of the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” He looked worn out. His eyes were puffy and red… Even if you don’t know Mr. Platt, this is the instinctive response to his performance, a nightly display of almost unbearable anguish and likely to earn him a Tony Award on June 11. You’re stunned by the intensity of it, and then you immediately think of the toll it must take on him night after night. It seems impossible to sustain, and yet he’s been doing it now since mid-November, a feat that has made him not just musical-theater famous, but also Met Gala, late-night-TV, Time 100-most-influential-people-in-the-world famous.”

“In a recent phone interview, his mother, Julie Beren Platt, said: “I contemplate Ben’s emotional well-being every day. He’s very mature. But he’s also 23…” Ms. Platt talked about her and her husband’s traditional Jewish upbringing, and how it was important to them to raise their own five children in the same way… Mr. Platt’s lifelong rabbi, David Wolpe, has been close friends with Marc and Julie Platt since college. We talked just after Ben was named to the Time 100 list. “What do you do if you’re one of the most influential people at 23?” Rabbi Wolpe said. “What do you do at 25? Or 30? Or as you truly age? That’s where his family’s wisdom will come in. I think he understands the ephemeral nature of being in time, and the permanent nature of the support that comes from the people who love him.”

“His longtime voice coach, Liz Caplan, comes to his dressing room twice each week. She was there recently, a few days after he’d missed his first performance since 2015. “I got a yeast infection on my vocal cords,” [Ben] Platt said. “I really wanted to get through the run without missing a performance.” It was during Passover, and his entire family, parents and siblings and nephews, were in town to be with him. He didn’t speak for two days. “I whiteboarded my way through the seders,” he said.” [NYTimes

“Trevor Noah Thanks His Jewish Mom” by Maya Klausner: “Noah, 33, was raised by his Jewish mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, who he spent time thanking in a moving speech at the MTV Movie & TV Awards on Sunday night. While accepting the award for Best TV Host, he singled out his mom for being one of the most meaningful influences in his life… When Noah was a child his mother converted to Judaism (on her own) and raised her son with Jewish traditions… “That was the gift my mother gave me,” said Noah. “I think that was part of her religious pursuits. My mother’s always looking for answers, she is searching for new information.”” [NYBlueprint]

MEDIA WATCH: “The People vs. Haaretz” by Shmuel Rosner: “Tempting as it is, the story of the people vs. Haaretz is not a story of a country whose public is no longer willing to tolerate debate. It is a story about a group within Israel that is losing its ability to communicate with the rest of society and have any chance of influencing its future. It is a story about a group within Israel that finds its relief in provoking the rest of us until we snap.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITIONS — President Trump formally announced yesterday the appointment of Howard Lorber as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Ian Cutler, Director of Media Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York, is leaving his post to join RISE, a group which partners with local communities, educators, pro athletes and sports leagues to use sports as a tool for promoting racial equality and tolerance, as its media relations director.

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Young adults gather ’round for Shabbat through OneTable” by Laura Paull: “Created in New York in 2015, OneTable has expanded to seven “hub” regions, including the Bay Area. Users go to the website where folks hosting Shabbat meals post what they’re offering, how many can come, when and where it is. You can see photos of who’s already attending to help you make your choice. Request a seat at the table, and you’ll find out more about your host and other details. Anyone in the target age group can join and membership is free, as are most of the dinners… Philanthropists Paul Singer and Michael Steinhardt (co-founder of Birthright Israel) brought the project to Aliza Kline in 2014 partly in response to the perennial issue of how to keep Jewish youth connected to their heritage in the post-college, pre-parenting years. Kline, a social entrepreneur with a background in nonprofit management, dove into the opportunity.” [JWeekly]

DESSERT: “Unstoppable Poke Trend Has Infiltrated Kosher Dining Scene” by Serena Dai: “The indomitable poke trend is now also available to observant Jews — at least three certified kosher restaurants in New York have started to serve poke or will soon. The newest opening Kureiji is on the Upper West Side at 506 Amsterdam Avenue, as spotted by West Side Rag. It’s apparently a conglomerate of Asian food du jour, serving poke bowls, sushi, and rolled ice cream, the Thai street food that’s been proliferating almost as rapidly as poke restaurants. It will open later this month. In the past year, two other kosher restaurants have also hopped on the poke train. Murray Hill fast-casual restaurant Eden Wok tore down a wall in the space to make room for a create-your-own poke bowl station… after kosher pizzeria Bravo Pizza moved to a new, bigger location in Midtown, it added a poke bar at the back of the restaurant.” [EaterNY]

“Katz’s Delicatessen to Launch World-Wide Shipping Service” by Charles Passy: “For 129 years, Katz’s Delicatessen has served New Yorkers hefty portions of classic Jewish-style fare. Now, it is looking to broaden its customer base and deliver… its corned beef, pastrami and other favorite menu items to Canada and Mexico by the end of the year and to other countries starting in 2018. To that end, Katz’s will soon open a 30,000-square-foot facility in Hackensack, N.J., to process domestic and foreign orders.” [WSJ

BIRTHDAYS: President of Fox Sports National Networks since 2015, Jamie Horowitz turns 41… Comedian Mort Sahl, the pioneer of social and political satire for comics, turns 90… Israeli optical and kinetic artist and sculptor Yaacov Agam (who was born Yaakov Gibstein) turns 89… Canadian television journalist and author, born in Vienna, Austria, survived the Holocaust via the kindertransport, joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1966, Joe Schlesinger turns 89… Judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (2000-2010), law professor at George Washington University, author of “A Lucky Child,” about his survival in Nazi concentration camps, Thomas Buergenthal turns 83… Canadian lawyer, academic and former Senator in the Canadian Parliament (2005-2009),  previously president of the Montreal-based Federation-Combined Jewish Appeal (1995-1997), Yoine J. Goldstein turns 83…

Managing Shareholder of the DC-based law firm of Carmel & Carmel PC, Frank Joseph Carmel turns 63… Brian Mullen turns 58… CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, William Albert “Bill” Ackman turns 51… Adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, visiting fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, Michael Pregent turns 49… Member of the California State Senate since 2016, his district includes San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, Scott Wiener turns 47… Pittsburgh-based Special Projects Manager at Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Pamela Eichenbaum turns 31… Staff writer at Time Magazine, she is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Hamilton College, Olivia B. Waxman turns 28… Director of Regional Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in NYC (he previously held a similar post stationed in Philadelphia), Michael Alexander… Howard Pollack

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