Daily Kickoff: A Republican aboard the Oprah 2020 train? | Rand Paul aide reads letter from Trump at Jewish wedding | BDays: Jared; Jonathan Sarna


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JI INTERVIEW — Why this GOP veteran might support an Oprah 2020 run — by Jacob Kornbluh: “I think that people who are not taking her seriously are making a huge mistake,” Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter and Jewish liaison for President George W. Bush, told Jewish Insider on Tuesday. “And you know, she could definitely win. She could definitely win… She’s likable. She has spent the last 25-30 years of her professional career talking to people, listening to people, understanding how to win people over,” Neusner explained. “She’s great. She’s great at it, and provided that she wants to do this, she still has to present a political agenda, but I think that, politically speaking, what matters to voters for the most part is a comfort level and likability.”

Asked if someone like him, who is a traditional and longtime Republican, would vote for Oprah over Trump, Neusner said: “It’s possible. I mean, a lot depends on the condition of the country somewhere around the summer of 2020. If things are rough in the economy, if the country is facing a foreign policy crisis or a foreign policy headache, if there’s a sense that Trump doesn’t have command of the country’s interests, yeah, a Republican could very well decide to vote for Oprah,” he asserted.

“But that’s not going to determine the outcome of the election,” Neusner continued. “What will determine the outcome of the election will be the intensity that she creates among Democratic and liberal voters. And whether she gets key voters in swing states and married women. I think that it would be very hard for Trump to win in any group of female voters if he were running against Oprah. If she were a female Joe Biden on policy, she would probably do quite well. On the other hand, if Trump is sitting on a strong economy, decent prosperity, even with all the distractions that come with his presidency, and sometimes even with all the frustrations that come with this presidency, Republicans aren’t going to suddenly abandon him. They might actually really be excited to vote for him again.” [JewishInsider]

“Ivanka tries to have it both ways: Trump’s daughter and #MeToo supporter” by Annie Karni: “The first daughter didn’t consult with her aides on Monday night before expressing herself on Twitter… Friends and colleagues said the person they know would be oblivious to anything incongruous about her Winfrey support – and likely frustrated by backlash she sees as unfair. “She thinks she is part of the feminist club,” said one New York socialite who used to be friendly with Ivanka Trump on the benefit circuit. “She truly thinks of herself as the greatest champion of women. She would see no irony in it whatsoever.”” [Politico]

DRIVING THE WEEK — “Iran deal deadline approaching, as Trump weighs options” by Margaret Brennan and Kylie Atwood: “A White House official indicated that the decision may be pushed until early next week. The holiday weekend may give the White House more time to give congressional notification. A decision not to waive sanctions may deal a fatal blow to the Iran nuclear deal…”

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, chief of staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster will meet with the president Thursday to discuss the decision. They are expected to advise that the U.S. remain part of the nuclear agreement… Three… Trump administration officials… cautioned that it was not at all certain that the president will heed the advice of his national security team to uphold the agreement.” [CBSNews]

REPORT — Netanyahu tells NATO ambassadors there’s a ‘real possibility’ Trump will nix nuclear deal: “President Trump has to make a decision this week,” Netanyahu said at a Jerusalem luncheon, according to a Channel 10 news report. “You have to understand that there is a real possibility that he will work to cancel the nuclear agreement. If you do not act to amend the agreement, then Trump may cancel it.” [ToINana10]

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) tells reporters… “Even if legislation comes to fruition, Corker added, Trump “still could get out of” the deal. But Corker offered up three reasons why he believes now is not the time to withdraw from the accord. One was the North Korea issue… “Right now, because of the concerns they have about President Trump withdrawing,” Corker said of Europe, “they’re much more willing to work with us on lots of other issues, and so you lose that leverage if you just withdraw.”” [TheHill]

“Don’t End the Iran Deal, Fix It” by Michael Doran: “[Trump] and Congress could eliminate the nuclear deal’s sunset clauses—its most dangerous provisions—by making restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program permanent in U.S. law and requiring more robust inspections… The Trump administration has been conducting quiet conversations with Capitol Hill about such an approach, and in recent weeks the possibility of reaching an agreement has improved markedly. It would be a mistake if Mr. Trump, merely in order to meet an arbitrary legislative deadline, were to cut off this option, which offers the possibility of forging a new bipartisan consensus on Iran.” [WSJ]

“Europe’s High Representative for Appeasement” by Eli Lake: On Monday, [Federica Mogherini] invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Brussels next week for more discussions on the Iran nuclear deal. Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the RAND Corporation, told me this week that Mogherini’s statement on Iran was “saying both sides are equal, when it’s Iranian security forces that are shooting and killing people.” … In Mogherini, Europe has a chief diplomat who doesn’t want to offend the envoys of tyrants.”[BloombergView]

ANOTHER DEBATE WITHIN ADMIN: “Trump administration split on cutting aid to Palestinian refugees” by Josh Rogin: “At a Jan. 5 interagency meeting in Washington, representatives from the State and Defense departments argued for at least partial funding for UNRWA, while the representative from America’s U.N. mission held firm to [Nikki] Haley’s view that no funding should be provided. The decision is technically that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has yet to personally weigh in. The upcoming Principals Committee meeting is meant to settle the dispute… Officials said one option is to give partial funding; another option is to ask others, such as Saudi Arabia, to foot the bill…”

“Sources close to Haley said she does not advocate abolishing UNRWA altogether, as some pro-Israel Republicans have long advocated. She simply believes that there can no more business as usual when it comes to giving aid to countries that oppose U.S. policy. This position is shared by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Jared Kushner.” [WashPost• Jonathan Ferziger: This Is Trump’s Next Hot-Button Issue in the Middle East [Bloomberg]

“Israel to approve hundreds of new settler homes in West Bank” by Maayan Lubell and Arshad Mohammed: “Israeli authorities were due to approve on Wednesday the construction of 1,285 housing units to be built in 2018 and advance planning for 2,500 others in about 20 different settlements… Asked about the construction plans, a U.S. State Department official said there had been no change in policy on settlements and the Israeli government had made clear that going forward “its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concerns into consideration.”” [Reuters]

“After Terror Attack, Israeli Army Imposes Partial Lockdown on West Bank City, Villages” by Yotam Berger and Yaniv Kubovich: “The Israel Defense Forces said late Tuesday that 35-year-old Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a father of six from the settlement outpost of Havat Gilad, was killed when a gunman opened fire on his car… The army searched the villages in the area overnight in search of the terrorists behind the shooting attack.” [Haaretz]

Ambassador David Friedman tweets: “An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace. Praying for the bereaved Shevach family.” [Twitter]

— MK Michael Oren‏: “While mourning Rabbi Raziel Shevach, I also salute US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for condemning Hamas’s praise of the attack and the Palestinian Authority for reconciling with Hamas. I agree that such hatred of Jews, and not settlements, is the reason there’s no peace.”[Twitter]

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami: “We all share grief over this terrible tragedy. I join prayers for bereaved family. Also question @USAmbIsrael analysis on why there is no peace. Must look further. Role is Ambassador of US not rep of Israel’s right wing. Balanced diplomacy not one sided advocacy will bring peace.” [Twitter]

TALK OF THE REGION — “Mohammed bin Salman’s Next Saudi Challenge: Curtailing Ultraconservative Islam” by Margherita Stancati: “The Muslim World League—a body that was once the key vehicle through which Saudi Arabia spread Wahhabi ideology beyond its border—is now led by a moderate cleric, who says promoting greater understanding among faiths is a priority. “In 1979 our religion was hijacked,” said Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa, a former minister of justice, who in a gesture of tolerance routinely encourages the non-Muslim women he meets to remove their headscarves, “Now we are eradicating the roots of extremism.” During a trip to Europe earlier this year, he became the first head of the Muslim League to meet the pope and visit a synagogue… Last month, authorities detained a senior prince, Khaled bin Talal, for opposing the government’s reforms such as the decision to curb the power of the religious police… Since the clampdown, many clerics have publicly endorsed the social reforms, while others have kept silent.”[WSJ]

IRAN PROTESTS — “Israel’s spy chief has said Mossad has eyes and ears in Iran and would like to see a revolution” by Callum Paton: “Israel’s spy chief has said… that the country’s external intelligence network Mossad has “eyes, ears and even more” trained on developments in the Islamic Republic. Yossi Cohen, the head of Mossad… added that a revolution in Tehran would be a desirable outcome to the current unrest from an Israeli perspective. “I would like to see a revolution, but the protesters are faced with opposing forces,” Cohen was quoted as saying. The Mossad head also praised President Donald Trump, saying he had ushered in a new area of cooperation between the United States and Israel, especially when it came to countering the perceived threat from Iran. “We see a good change that may take Israeli security interests further into account, and by doing so it will help our struggle to change the direction of Iranian influence,” Cohen said.” [NewsweekAudio]

“Beyond tweets, here’s how Trump could help the Iranian protesters” by Kenneth Weinstein: “Now he should release information our intelligence agencies have compiled on how much wealth Iranian elites have amassed through their maze of front companies and hidden ownership of Iran’s resources. The Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act, passed by the House of Representatives in December, would do just that. The president, however, doesn’t need to wait for an act of Congress to take action. He can immediately declassify information about the financial holdings of those affiliated with the Iranian government.” [LATimes

“Germany tells Iran not to spy against Israel on its territory” by Andrea Shalal: “Germany has summoned Iran’s ambassador to warn Tehran against spying on individuals and groups with close ties to Israel, calling such acts an unacceptable breach of German law. The move came after the March conviction of a Pakistani man for spying for Iran in Germany went into force.” [Reuters]

“Coming soon to Davos: A Trump stink bomb” by John Harris and Ben White: “Trump’s controversial closing ad of the 2016 campaign featured video of GOP boogeyman George Soros speaking at a WEF (World Economic Forum) event and included Trump railing against a “global power structure” that was crushing the American worker… Now Trump will be the first sitting president since Bill Clinton in 2000 to attend… Beyond the emotional charge of appearing before many people who regard him as a mysterious new virus — as well as some Wall Street types, like Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, who have been more supportive — there seems to be at least a whisper of a strategic rationale for Trump going to Davos. One administration official said Trump’s appearance will be a “Nikki Haley at the U.N.” moment.” [Politico]

COMING SOON: The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Annual Leadership Meeting will take place on February 9th – 11th at the Venetian/Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas. High profile speakers include Anthony Scaramucci (The Mooch), House Speaker Paul Ryan, Governors Scott Walker and Eric Greitens, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Israel’s Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, and John Bolton.

–Read more: Adelson to Host Scaramucci at Republican Jewish Gathering [Bloomberg]

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “Jared’s policy push on prison reform” by Mike Allen: “President Trump tomorrow will hold a listening session on prison reform, after six months of quiet exploration of the issue by senior adviser Jared Kushner… Under the auspices of Kushner’s Office of American Innovation, administration officials have met with faith-based leaders, former inmates who have been rehabilitated, conservative leaders, and experts on the issue… Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden, a longtime champion of the issue, told me he has been impressed with Kushner’s passion… The issue is personal for Kushner, given the former imprisonment of his father, developer Charles Kushner.” [Axios]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: David Zaslav Says Discovery Channel Headquarters to Leave Silver Spring [NBC4• Carl Icahn Made It Nine Days Into 2018 Before Demanding Someone Get Fired [Dealbreaker• Touro College snaps up dorm space at One West End [NYPost• Intel, Mobileye unveil first autonomous car [ToI]

MEDIA WATCH: “Trump Lawyer Cohen Sues Buzzfeed Over Claims in Russia Dossier” by Jennifer Jacobs: “It will be proven that I had no involvement in this Russian collusion conspiracy,” Michael Cohen said in an interview on Tuesday. “My name was included only because of my proximity to the president.” Cohen’s complaint against Buzzfeed names editor-in-chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs, who were the bylines on the article Buzzfeed published accompanying the dossier… He declined to say whether he has been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.” [Bloomberg

TALK OF THE TOWN: “RI, Mass. move dates of September primaries to avoid Jewish holidays” by Ted Nesi: “Rhode Islanders will make a rare Wednesday trip to the ballot box later this year, and Massachusetts residents will vote two weeks earlier than usual, as both states move their primaries to avoid conflicting with Jewish holidays.” [WPRI]

PIC OF THE DAY — Real estate developer Aby Rosen posted a photo of a Torah Ark curtain at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum with an embroidered dedication to the Hongkou people for providing refuge to Jews during WWII [Pic]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN BROOKLYN — President Donald Trump sent a personal letter congratulating Shlomo Segal and Devorah Ganz on their wedding, which took place at Ateres Chynka hall in Brooklyn, NY. Mr. Segal is the son of Rabbi Nate Segal, an informal Jewish advisor to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). The letter was hand-delivered by Sergio Gor, Sen. Paul’s Communications Director. Gor described Rabbi Segal as “the biggest macher” as he read out the letter on the wedding dance floor. [PicJewishInsider]

REMEMBERING: “Alan Sagner, Who Revitalized the Port Authority, Dies at 97” by Sam Roberts: “In 1984, he and the Port Authority were honored by the Broadway Association for improving conditions in Times Square… “You have a special problem,” the Rev. Robert G. Rappleyea of Holy Cross Church on West 42nd Street said in his invocation at the ceremony: “The Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge. In fact, you have so many problems you really need Moses.” Mr. Sagner, who was Jewish, replied in kind. “If you could bring Moses back and divide the waters of the Hudson so those traveling could travel dry-shod,” he said, “I might change my religion.”” [NYTimes

DESSERT: “For this acclaimed pastry chef, home tastes like a coffee cake” by Alex Witchel: “[Mindy Segal’s] mother owned a cookbook published by their synagogue with a recipe for sour cream coffee cake that caught Segal’s attention early on. “I have eaten this cake since I was a little girl,” she told me recently, as we stood in the kitchen of Mindy’s Hot­Chocolate… She later created what she calls a “yum yum” variation that she sometimes serves at the restaurant…” [WashPost

BIRTHDAYS: Jared Kushner turns 37… Former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2012-2017), Baron David Edmond Neuberger turns 70… Founder of the Center for Research on Institutions and Social Policy, former speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy, Adam Walinskyturns 81… President of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and father of prominent VC Ben Horowitz, David Horowitz turns 79… Executive editor of Denver’s Intermountain Jewish News, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Ph.D. turns 72… Passaic, NJ-born musician, singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band “Steely Dan,” Donald Fagen turns 70… Riga, Latvia-born, world reknowned cellist, emigrated to Israel in 1971, has over 50 recordings on the Deutsche Grammophon label with many top orchestras, Mischa Maisky turns 70… Long-time editor at Bantam Books, Simon & Schuster and Crown Publishers, Sydny Weinberg Miner turns 67…

University Professor and Professor of American Jewish History in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, Jonathan D. Sarna turns 63… Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and the majority owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob turns 62… Member of the Knesset since 2008 for the United Torah Judaism party, Uri Maklev turns 61… Actor with a recurring role in “Sex and the City” and author of two books on his recovery from acute myeloid leukemia, Evan Handler turns 57… Boston Area Director for Birthright Israel Foundation, Caryn Lazaroff turns 40… Speechwriter for Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Adam Weissmann turns 35… Press secretary at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Morgan Aubrey Finkelstein turns 27 (h/ts Playbook)… Digital operations manager at JTA, Andrew Tobin

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