Daily Kickoff: Spotlight on DOJ’s Makan Delrahim | JDCA launch | Colin Powell awarded Herzl Award | BDay: Israel’s Baseball Manager Jerry Weinstein
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TOP TALKER: “The New Washington Drama: Treasury Secretary Versus Treasury Secretary” by Alan Rappeport: “Raising eyebrows in economic circles, Lawrence H. Summers, the mercurial Treasury secretary for President Bill Clinton, has leveled a barrage of increasingly personal criticism at the current Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. In podcasts, blog posts, op-eds and on Twitter, Mr. Summers… has accused Mr. Mnuchin of damaging the credibility of Treasury by making ‘irresponsible’ economic assessments of the administration’s tax plan and acting as a ‘sycophant’ to President Trump. The attacks have alternately amused and angered those who run in economic circles, with some saying it is Mr. Summers who is damaging the credibility of the office by leveling public attacks on a sitting Treasury secretary.”” [NYTimes]
HEARD ON THE HILL — Congress intensifies pressure on Trump to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — by JI’s Aaron Magid: In overwhelming fashion, a clear majority of members on the House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security called on President Trump to swiftly move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Would you characterize this as a campaign promise that if the President failed to follow through on, it would be a major disappointment to the Jewish community?,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Later, in a jarring moment, Rep. Meadows referred to one of the invited witnesses, Michael Koplow, Policy Director of the Israel Policy Forum, as the “skunk in the room” for being the only panelist who opposed the immediate relocation of the embassy.
While crowded on the Republican side of the committee, only two Democrats attended the hearing. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) cited the Jordanian monarch’s visit to Washington shortly after the January inauguration when he personally requested that Trump keep the diplomatic facility in Jerusalem. “Was President Trump wrong in accommodating the request of King Abdullah?” Welsch asked. Koplow emphasized the possible risks of violence due to the embassy transfer. “This could affect not only stability and order in Jerusalem, but also the safety and security of American embassies and diplomatic personnel around the world.”
Clarifying the importance of the embassy’s transfer, Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “You move the embassy, you create a box of realism for our neighbors. Israel is not going to give up Jerusalem. Somebody better digest that.” [JewishInsider]
A White official tells us… “The President has always made it very clear that it is a matter of when, not if. We have no news to share at this time.”
Over 50 Jewish nonprofits, including The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the JCPA, sent a letter to Congress urging members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is taking up comprehensive tax reform this week, to oppose the inclusion of any measures that would undermine the Johnson Amendment. The provision in the tax code bars churches from endorsing political candidates without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. [Doc]
SCOOPLET — Key House committee will vote on Taylor Force Act next week: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will vote next Wednesdayon the Taylor Force Act, a critical step in advancing the legislation into law, a Congressional aide told Jewish Insider. The bill, introduced by Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in February, would cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until they cease payments to families of terrorists. The House bill currently has 149 co-sponsors, all Republicans. After next week’s committee markup, the next step for the Taylor Force Act would be a floor-wide vote. [JewishInsider]
“Rouhani Urges Saudi Arabia to Avoid Teaming Up With U.S. and Israel” by Ladane Nasseri: “A siege feeling is starting to emerge in Iran as relations with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. worsen… The sense of rising external threat came to the fore in the country’s media.” [Bloomberg]
DRIVING THE CONVO: “Lebanon’s plunge into political crisis raises specter of war with Israel” by Louisa Loveluck and Loveday Morris: ““MBS is an impatient man,” said Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel… referring to the [Saudi] crown prince by his initials. The removal of [Saad] Hariri “may be a Saudi play to initiate an Israeli response and bloody the nose of Hezbollah.” … Hariri’s resignation helps Israel drum up international sentiment against Lebanon, analysts say… “Hariri’s departure does strengthen the case that Hezbollah is in total domination in Lebanon,” Shapiro said. “By removing Hariri it does make it a bit easier to treat Lebanon as an Iranian outpost.”” [WashPost] • Political Upheaval Tests Lebanon’s Finances [WSJ]
“The Middle East Is Nearing an Explosion” by Robert Malley: “Lebanon and the region arguably have seen all this before; a leadership vacuum in the context of rising tensions is nothing new. What is new, however, is an unusually apprehensive Israel, an unusually assertive and rash Saudi leadership and, of course, an unusual U.S. president. As for Israel: For months now, it has been sounding alarm bells about Hezbollah’s and Iran’s growing footprint in Syria, and more particularly about the Lebanese movement’s soon-to-be-acquired capacity to indigenously produce precision-guided missiles—a development Israeli officials view as a potential game changer they must thwart.” [TheAtlantic]
Martin Indyk tweets: “Some experts see latest ME developments as effort by Saudi Arabia and Israel to pull US back into the region. I see it as SA, Israel and Iran acting to fill vacuum left by continued US withdrawal from the region. Trump is happy for Bibi and MBS to take the lead while he tweetles his thumbs.” [Twitter]
“Trump’s mystery plan for Mideast peace” by Barak Ravid: “According to U.S. officials, Trump is the driving force on this issue and is personally involved. Israeli officials say they hear Trump is pushing his team to have a proposal soon… [Jason] Greenblatt’s last trip to the region lasted three weeks, and Kushner, who is officially leading the “peace team,” came to the region three times and spends hours every week in phone calls with Arab leaders in order to get their support.” [Axios]
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: After more than six months of investigation, officers from Lahav 433 (the the National Crime Unit of the Israeli Police) are set to meet the Prime Minister again today. Officers will question him for the fifth time since the File 1000 and File 2000 investigations began last year. The investigation is expected to focus on the gifts affair, and Netanyahu’s relationship with his billionaire friends, most notably Arnon Milchan, and the “Noni Mozes tapes,” a/k/a Netanyahu’s contacts with the publisher of Yediot Aharanot before the last elections. However, according to some reports, Netanyahu will also be questioned on the Submarine Affair, File 3000, even though at the moment he is not a suspect.
Meanwhile, an interesting character testimony about the PM has emerged. “Netanyahu has a weakness for billionaires,” his lawyer, Yaakov Weinroth, said in an interview to veteran journalist Ilana Dayan, which is set to be broadcast this evening. “Netanyahu is an honest man – if you ask him for a resume of successes against his failures, your jaw will drop open, but he admires money as a world view,” he said. “If you ask him how much gum or bread costs, he is likely to miss the figure by a high range. He doesn’t live the world of prices. He spent huge amounts of money on cigars over the years – and that is why his family was angry about it – because of the smoking itself, and because of the prices.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here — including Weinstein-like accusations in Israel [JewishInsider]
ACROSS THE POND: “UK minister Priti Patel resigns over secret Israel trip” by Laura Smith-Spark: “The UK secretary of state for international development was summoned back from Kenya by Prime Minister Theresa May after it was revealed she met senior Israeli officials during a family holiday in the summer, a significant breach of diplomatic protocol. During the visit, Patel… met with… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official… She also met with Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid… Even as Patel offered a “fulsome apology” on Wednesday in her resignation letter, May offered a firm rebuke… “As you know, the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together,” May said… “But it must be done formally, and through official channels.”” [CNN; BBC]
“Priti Patel’s Resignation Adds to Pressure on Theresa May” by Stephen Castle: “Mrs. May’s office, meanwhile, denied reports in Britain’s Jewish Chronicle that her aides had instructed Ms. Patel not to include one of her meetings on a list of such contacts that she published on Monday… For Mrs. May, the episode has been a particular headache because Ms. Patel is a passionate supporter of Brexit within a cabinet that was constructed carefully to balance views on Europe.” [NYTimes]
Donald Trump shows off a video of his granddaughter Arabella singing in Mandarin — by Clemence Michallon: “President Trump, 71, proudly showed off a video of the six-year-old singing in Mandarin and reciting ancient Chinese poetry while meeting with Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan… In the video, released on YouTube, Arabella, the daughter of first daughter Ivanka Trump and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner, can be seen wearing a traditional silk embroidered Chinese dress while addressing the country’s president and first lady as ‘Grandpa Xi’ and ‘Grandma Peng’, bowing in respect as she offers a greeting to the camera.” [DailyMail] • Chinese ‘love’ Trump’s Mandarin-speaking granddaughter [Yahoo]
2018 WATCH — Last night, the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) launched its opening event at the Capitol Liaison Hotel in Washington. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer joined dozens of members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The new group, chaired by former Congressman Ron Klein (D-FL), will work to promote Democratic candidates in federal and state elections in line with Jewish communal values and the US-Israel relationship. “American Jews are one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituencies, and more than ever require a new organization to represent their interests, as the Trump administration fans anti-Semitism, nativism, racism and other forms of bigotry,” said Klein.
— In his remarks, Dermer emphasized the importance of strong Israeli ties with the Democratic Party. “You cannot fly a plane with one wing, and you cannot have a strong alliance between the US and Israel without strong support in both parties and so we are very pleased that you have started this organization,” he said. The senior Israeli diplomat touted strong backing for Israel in the Democratic Party throughout the past 70 years listing the work of former Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Robert Wagner. [Pic; Pic]
SPOTTED: Senators Bob Casey, Maria Cantwell, Ben Cardin, Michael Bennett, Sherrod Brown, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Debbie Stabenow, and Chris Van Hollen; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer, Reps. David Cicilline, Charlie Christ, Eliot Engel, Lois Frankel, Anthony Brown, Joe Kennedy III, Nita Lowry, Ted Lieu, Jerry Nadler, Jared Polis, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jacky Rosen, Jamie Raskin, Ted Deutch, Jan Schakowsky, Alan Lowenthal, Grace Meng, Brad Sherman, Darren Soto, and Mark Takano; and former Congressman Howard Berman.
2020 WATCH: “Why Trump has a lock on the 2020 GOP nomination” by Maeve Reston: “Someone like Mark Cuban… “who would force Trump into responding—could be a deadly candidate against him,” [Terry] Sullivan said… “To me the biggest underlying issue is that it needs to be someone who can stand up to Trump,” Cuban said in an email when asked about whether he would entertain a 2020 challenge to Trump. Someone who can “throw punches back harder than him, and spend 100% of their time with his base talking with them one on one.”” [CNN]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Steven A. Cohen, Andreessen-Backed DIY Quant Fund Struggles [WSJ] • Shocking arrest of Saudi prince complicates Plaza sale [NYPost] • Icahn Faces Questions From Federal Prosecutors Over Trump Advisory Role [WSJ] • Rideshare Startup Via Tapped to Launch First Ever On-Demand Public Transit System as Alternative to Bus Service in Two U.S. Cities [BusinessInsider] • Cheddar is launching general news offshoot, expects $11 million in revenue this year [Digiday]
MEDIA WATCH: “In AT&T Deal, Government Action Catches Up With Trump Rhetoric” by Jim Rutenberg: “The head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, was interviewed about the proposed merger in October of 2016, when he was a law professor at Pepperdine University. “I don’t see it as a major antitrust problem,” he said then. Speaking at New York University last month in his Justice Department role, Mr. Delrahim offered a different view. He indicated that he preferred structural fixes to address potential anti-competitive issues — that is, he would prefer to see assets shed from a deal than to have government create conditions it would then have to police. Mr. Delrahim issued a statement Wednesdaysaying he had not come under White House pressure on this issue or any other… All the assertions and denials left a lot of questions about the administration’s motives, but they were ultimately of the president’s own making. There is copious evidence of Mr. Trump’s longstanding vendetta against CNN.” [NYTimes]
Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo: “Multiple sources I spoke with noted Delrahim’s apparent 180, and questioned whether he was being strong-armed, telling me it would be a bad look for him to go to court and lose. “If you’re the new head of the D.O.J. and the first thing you do is lose a major lawsuit, that’s a major embarrassment,” one of these people said. “If this is political and it really is about CNN, the media is just going to slaughter the Trump administration. It would be a bad political move, and it would be really bad for AT&T to agree to that.” [VanityFair]
FLASHBACK — to a 2009 report in the Jewish Journal: “Makan Delrahim is currently an attorney with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Orange County and is among a growing number of local Iranian Jews who are becoming more politically active. “There are many folks who support Israel that may want more entrepreneurship or lower taxes,” Delrahim said. “So we as a community that have particular interests that may not be voiced by others should be more engaged with government officials, support them and help shape their policy.” [JewishJournal]
STARTUP NATION: “Meet SimilarWeb, One Of Wall Street’s Secret Weapons” by Omri Barzilay: “SimilarWeb’s was able to show that Amazon’s web traffic was 14% higher than the same period the year before, giving a critical indication to the upcoming earnings beat and corresponding surge. The result, they claim, is a huge advantage for customers. “The digital world is where business is taking place, and if you’re able to understand and track the patterns of digital behavior, you can gain tremendous insights that provide a critical advantage,” said Or Offer, SimilarWeb’s CEO and Founder.”[Forbes]
SPOTLIGHT: “Humvee maker sues Activision over ‘Call of Duty'” by Jonathan Stempel: “In a complaint filed on Tuesday night in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, AM General LLC accused Activision of taking advantage of its goodwill and reputation in the “Humvee” and “HMMWV” marks by featuring them prominently in “Call of Duty,” and licensing related content for use in toys and books… AM General is owned by MacAndrews & Forbes Inc and Renco Group Inc, which are holding companies for the billionaires Ronald Perelman and Ira Rennert, respectively.” [R
TALK OF OUR NATION: “Q&A with Charles Bronfman on Birthright and the Best Prize of All” by Eitan Arom: “How did the idea (of Birthright) come about in the first place? CB: “It came up when both Michael and I were in Israel in the summer of ’98 and both of us had met Yossi Beilin. He was one of Shimon Peres’ boys. And Yossi had this idea that all 17-year-olds should have a voucher from anywhere in the world for a trip to Israel. Michael was sort of taken with this idea. So later, I was at a party with Michael. We were at the Jewish Museum overlooking the — pardon the expression — the Valley of the Cross, sitting on a wall, because he’d asked to speak with me. And he said, “What do you think of this idea of Yossi’s?” And I said, “That’s a scheme to bankrupt the Jewish world.” I said, “Well, this is an audacious scheme.” And he said, “Well, if it’s audacious, why don’t we try to figure it out?”” [JewishJournal]
HOLLYWOOD NEXT GEN: “Hollywood’s Up-and-Coming Execs 35 and Under” by Lacey Rose and Rebecca Ford: “Ali Krug, 32… Though Krug’s childhood aspirations of working on Saturday Night Live never officially came to fruition, the University of Michigan film studies grad did end up pitching in on the comedy staple as an NBC page. But an opening on then-president Sue Naegle’s desk at HBO soon would take her back home to Los Angeles… Krug went from assistant to manager when Naegle departed HBO to create her own production company and then to vp when Naegle Inc. folded into Annapurna in 2016. In that time, Krug, who married her comedy writer husband in 2014, has been a key force in the in-demand producer’s TV efforts, which include a Carrie Brownstein autobiographical comedy and a Josh Safran ghost drama.” [THR]
TRANSITION — Paul Goldenberg is stepping down after more than a decade as head of the Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations. Goldenberg will remain as a special adviser and join a think tank at Rutgers University that focuses on transnational security issues. [JTA]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was honored by the World Jewish Congress with the Theodor Herzl Award at its annual dinner at The Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. “Colin Powell may not be Jewish, but he has a Jewish heart,” WJC President Ronald Lauder said before be presented the award. In his remarks, Powell reflected on his upbringing in the Bronx, serving as a Shabbos Goy and learning Yiddish while working at local Jewish businesses. He also recalled his last meeting with Yasser Arafat and stressed the need for peace in the region. [Video]
BIRTHDAYS: British Conservative politician and businessman, David Wolfson, Baron Wolfson of Sunningdale, turns 82… British businessman and philanthropist, formerly Chairman of Lloyds TSB, Sir Maurice Victor Blankturns 75… Professional baseball manager in the minor leagues and college, he managed Team Israel at the WBC qualifier in 2016 and the World Baseball Classic in South Korea and Japan in 2017, Jerry Weinstein turns 74… Israeli war hero who transitioned to a long career in the Knesset (1999-2013) for the National Religious and Jewish Home parties, Zevulun Orlev turns 72… Chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based PR and public affairs firm, Cerrell Associates, Hal Dash turns 69… Chula Vista, California resident, Daniel Ajzen turns 67… Senior producer at NBC Nightly News, Joel Seidman turns 63…
Political consultant and fundraiser, founded “No Labels” in 2010 to solve problems across the partisan divide, Nancy Jacobson turns 55… Director of Los Angeles-based Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project, she was previously the executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Samara Hutman turns 55… Professor of journalism and media studies at Fordham University, Amy Beth Aronson Ph.D. turns 55… Partner in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis, he represents private equity and venture capital sponsors, Douglas C. Gessner turns 52… Founding Executive Director of OneTable, Aliza Kline turns 46… Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court since 2015, Richard H. Bernstein turns 43… Singer, songwriter Ari Benjamin Lesser turns 31…
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