Daily Kickoff: Who convinced Trump to fire Tillerson? | Toobin vs. Dershowitz | Watch Roman Abramovich intercept a drone | Wolf Blitzer turns 7-0


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TOP TALKER — “How a Witness for Mueller and a Republican Donor Influenced the White House for Gulf Rulers” by David Kirkpatrick and Mark Mazzetti: “High on the agenda of the two men — George Nader, a political adviser to the de facto ruler of the U.A.E.; and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee — was pushing the White House to remove Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, backing confrontational approaches to Iran and Qatar and repeatedly pressing the president to meet privately outside the White House with the leader of U.A.E.. Mr. Tillerson was fired last week, and the president has adopted tough approaches toward both Iran and Qatar.”

“On March 25, Mr. Broidy emailed Mr. Nader a spreadsheet outlining a proposed Washington lobbying and public relations campaign against both Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. The proposed campaign’s total cost was $12.7 million… Mr. Nader did, however, provide a $2.7 million payment to Mr. Broidy for “consulting, marketing and other advisory services rendered,” apparently to help pay for the cost of conferences at two Washington think tanks, the Hudson Institute and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, that featured heavy criticism of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hudson Institute policies prohibit donations from foreign governments that are not democracies, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies bars donations from all foreign governments, so Mr. Nader’s role as an adviser to the U.A.E. may have raised concerns had he donated directly.” [NYTimes

REPORT — Saudi crown prince boasts he got Rex Tillerson fired — by Ryan Parry and Josh Boswell: “MBS [Mohammed bin Salman] is claiming that firing Tillerson was one of his requests to Trump via Kushner to be implemented before his visit to the US and it appears that he got what he wanted,” said a source close to the crown prince… De-facto UAE ruler Zayed… has also been ‘gloating’ to his inner circle that he is responsible for replacing the secretary of state. “MBZ [Mohammed bin Zayed] is gloating to every member in the Gulf ruling families that he was the mastermind behind firing Tillerson,” said a source close to the UAE ruler.” [DailyMail]  

“Saudi crown prince boasted that Jared Kushner was ‘in his pocket’” by Ryan Grim, Alex Emmons and Clayton Swisher: “Kushner has grown so close to the Saudi and Emirati crown princes that he has communicated with them directly using WhatsApp, a reasonably secure messaging app owned by Facebook and popular in the Middle East… Asked about Kushner’s use of WhatsApp to communicate with foreign officials, his attorney’s spokesperson [Peter] Mirijanian said, “Without commenting on who he talks with and how he does his work, Mr. Kushner is in conformity with the Presidential Records Act and other rules.” Kushner’s attorneys have since told him not to use the app for official business.” [TheIntercept

Noah Feldman writes… “Jared Kushner’s Dreams of Mideast Peace Are Alive: Kushner expects MBS to play ball on an Israel-Palestine deal. So far, that’s exactly what crown prince is doing… The Gaza aid conference was a substantially more public proof of MBS’s willingness to keep up his end of the bargain. In the past, Arab states wouldn’t have been willing to attend a high-profile conference about Palestine if the Palestinians refused to show up… The whole point of the exercise was therefore to show the Palestinians that if they don’t get with the program, negotiations between Arab states and Israel could go on without them. That’s a plausible form of leverage. The Palestinians’ greatest nightmare is that Arab states might abandon them altogether and normalize relations with Israel without a peace deal… Despite skepticism among area experts that he lacks the tools to do the job, Kushner is still in the game.” [BloombergView

NOTEWORTHY EVENT IN DENVER: “Jordan Prince makes an appearance at Larry Mizel’s Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab event” by Bob Sweeney: “His Royal Highness Prince Feisal bin Al-Hussein from Jordan was a guest in Denver on March 13, appearing on a panel with Ambassador Dennis Ross… The event was a sellout at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House with both Larry Mizel and Gov. John Hickenlooper making introductions… Ambassador Dennis Ross expressed his concerns about the Trump move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem… Ross stated, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a point between the Israelis and the Palestinians where the gap is wider.” [VillagerPublishing]

ON THE HILL — As we first reported in yesterday’s Daily Kickoff, U.S. House of Representatives and Senate leaders reached an agreement and included the Taylor Force Act in the massive omnibus spending bill, which Congress is expected to pass by Friday night. Page 2011 [House.Gov]

INBOX — “As a strong supporter of the Taylor Force Act, I am pleased that Congress has included this bill in the omnibus spending bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Despite tragic circumstances, the Force family, who I met with on Capitol Hill earlier this year, has fought incredibly hard to help put a stop to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of rewarding terrorists and their families. Passage of the Taylor Force Act will serve as a shot across the bow to President Abbas, as he must be held accountable for the Palestinian Authority’s record of incitement and subsidizing of terror. It is my hope that by enacting this bill we can put an end to the Palestinian Authority’s disturbing practice all while honoring the memory and sacrifice of Taylor Force.”

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — “Abbas’ revenge against Hamas, US, Israel” by Shlomi Eldar: “His revenge plot is very transparent, and [Abbas] makes no effort to hide it,” said the Israeli defense official, referring to the new sanctions against Gaza and its rulers from Hamas that Abbas announced in his speech. “Everyone can see that he wants to entangle Israel and Hamas in a military adventure from which he thinks he will emerge strengthened. That will be his revenge and his lifeline, he hopes.” [Al-Monitor]

IRAN DEAL — “U.S. Taking Negotiations ‘One Week at a Time’ on Expiring Iran Deal” by Gardiner Harris: “At the center of the negotiations sits [Brian] Hook, whom European diplomats believe may represent be the best shot at keeping the nuclear deal alive. Over meals of schnitzel and schnapps in Vienna, his team sought to bridge the gap between European concerns and Mr. Trump’s demands… “We are taking things one week at a time,” Mr. Hook, the only aide close to Mr. Tillerson who survived the State Department purge, told reporters… At least some European officials left Vienna believing that the United States still wants the nuclear accord to survive. “All parties recommitted to the full implementation of the agreement,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters… Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, also said the American delegation that Mr. Hook led in Vienna “indicated that they are committed.” [NYTimes

— “First we have to reach an agreement with the Europeans,” Hook said on a call with journalists today. “If we can reach an agreement, then that will be presented to the President by the Secretary of State and the National Security Adviser, and then he will make a decision on whether he wants to remain in the [Iran nuclear] deal or stop waiving sanctions.” [Al-MonitorPBS]

“Trump pushing Europe to fix Iran deal he may blow up anyway” by Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee: “Trump has refused to give even his own negotiators a clear litmus test for what will be good enough to keep him in the 2015 accord.” [AP]

COMING SOON — AIPAC-aligned Sen. Ben Cardin to speak at J Street conference: “Cardin, who is Jewish, was one of just four Democrats in the Senate who voted in 2015 against the Iran nuclear deal, a pact that AIPAC vigorously opposed and that J Street championed. J Street this week announced he would speak at its April 14-17 conference. Cardin also is the lead sponsor of a bill that would criminalize some forms of compliance with the Boycott Israel movement. J Street objects to the legislation on free speech grounds.” [JTA]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Israeli hackers reportedly gave Cambridge Analytica stolen private emails of two world leaders” by Rosie Perper: “The company’s leadership reportedly encouraged use of the data, offered by Israeli hackers, with ousted CEO Alexander Nix, along with other senior directors, giving employees direction on how to handle the material… Former Cambridge Analytica staff told The Guardian that they met Israeli cybersecurity agents in their London offices in early 2015. The hackers brought a USB stick reportedly filled with hacked personal emails, which included private information, including potential medical records, about then-Nigerian opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, who is now president. The same Israeli cybersecurity team was reportedly hired again in early 2015, and obtained private information on St. Kitts and Nevis politician Timothy Harris, who was later elected prime minister.” [BusinessInsider]

TRUMP TUMULT — “White House Job Requirement: Signing a Nondisclosure Agreement” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear and Katie Rogers: “To calm Mr. Trump, Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, drew up a broad document barring White House officials from publicly disclosing what they heard and saw at work… But former White House lawyers and government ethics experts said the agreement raised serious legal questions and reflected Mr. Trump’s refusal to submit to the norms of public disclosure or respect the basic right of free speech. “You can’t blanket wipe out speech, and you have to show there’s a compelling government purpose for doing so,” said Norm Eisen… Among the supporters of the move were his daughter, Ivanka, and Jason Greenblatt.” [NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY — “CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin Calls Out His Mentor Alan Dershowitz for ‘Carrying Water’ for Trump” by Maxwell Tani: “During the nine-minute CNN segment, moderated by Anderson Cooper, longtime CNN legal analyst Toobin called out Dershowitz for his public opposition to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. “I don’t know what’s going on with you,” Toobin said… “How has this come about that in every situation over the past year you have been carrying water for Donald Trump? This is not who you used to be, and you are doing this over and over again… What’s happened with you?” Undeterred, Dershowitz pointed out that he attacked the president for issues like the proposed ban on Muslim immigration, and clarified that he broadly opposed special counsel investigations. “I have been utterly and completely consistent and nonpartisan and Jeffrey, you haven’t,” he said.” [DailyBeast]

2020 WATCH — “Garcetti edges toward presidential run with trip to Iowa” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “Eric Garcetti is stopping just short of announcing he’s running for president. The Los Angeles mayor… is making a two-day swing through Iowa April 13-14… The trip will make Garcetti the first prospective presidential candidate to visit all four of the first nominating states this cycle: he campaigned for Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig in New Hampshire in August, attended the Democratic National Committee’s meeting in Las Vegas in October and traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to promote his “Accelerator for America“ nonprofit last month.” [Politico

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Weinstein Co. Burns Funds From Baupost to Highbridge [Bloomberg] • Apollo CEO Leon Black on Wednesdaydownplayed the possibility that his firm would follow peer Ares in converting to a corporation [Reuters• How One Investor Made a Fortune Picking Over the Retail Apocalypse [WSJ] • Israel’s El Al Airlines Posts Deepening Losses as Market Share Shrinks [Reuters] • Kushner’s New Jersey Trump Tower Got $200 Million Loan From Citigroup [Bloomberg] • NYC agency investigating more than a dozen Kushner buildings [AP] • Alex Lasry: Business leaders of both sides support Milwaukee’s Democratic National Convention bid [BizJournals] • Israeli social trading co eToro, founded by brothers Yoni and Ronen Assia, raises $100m [Globes] • Netanyahu: Elon Musk calls Israel ‘technological superpower’ [JPost

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, delivering remarks at the Israel Dealmakers Summit in San Francisco: “There has never been a better time to invest in Israel, to work with Israeli companies. There’s a recognition of the ascendancy, of the superb work that is coming out of Israel… The relationship, of course, with the U.S. is at a spectacular moment and that support is very, very critical.” [Video]

DRAMA ON THE HIGH SEAS — “Droneworks Studio co-founder claims Russian oligarch tried to steal his drone” by Cary Darling: “Justin Oakes, co-founder of the Houston-based company Droneworks Studios, found out the hard way that the products with which he makes his living aren’t always welcome. Unknown persons on a yacht he says is owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich used an anti-drone device to try and bring down one of his personal drones. The incident happened in December, but Oakes released a video of the incident on Thursday. Oakes and his wife, company co-founder Elaine Oakes, were vacationing on the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s and were having fun with friends on a small cruise ship. After spotting Abramovich’s luxury yacht, named Eclipse, Oakes decided to fly his DJI Phantom drone toward the yacht to get a better view. That’s when things got interesting. He began to lose control of the drone and saw someone onboard the Eclipse with “a cannon-looking device” pointed at his drone.” [ChronDroneDJ]

“Welcome to Zucktown. Where Everything Is Just Zucky: In Menlo Park, Calif., Facebook is building a real community and testing the proposition: Do people love tech companies so much they will live inside them?” by David Streitfeld: “John Tenanes, Facebook’s vice president for real estate… leans over a scale model of the 59-acre site, which is named Willow Village… In just a few years, Facebook built a virtual community that linked more than two billion people, an achievement with few precedents. Now the social network is building a real community, the kind you can walk around… Facebook is planning 1,500 apartments… The most likely tenants of the full-price units are Facebook employees, who already receive a five-figure bonus if they live near the office… The community will have eight acres of parks, plazas and bike-pedestrian paths open to the public… When the project was announced last summer, critics dubbed it Facebookville or, in tribute to company co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Zucktown. The company has not warmed to these names…” [NYTimes]

“Mark Zuckerberg tells CNN he is ‘happy to’ testify before Congress” by Seth Fiegerman: “Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the data debacle that has upended Facebook and opened the door to testifying before Congress. “The short answer is I’m happy to if it’s the right thing to do,” the Facebook (FB) CEO told CNN’s Laurie Segall… “What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge,” Zuckerberg said. “If that’s me, then I am happy to go.” Although Facebook employs a small army of lawyers and lobbyists in Washington, Zuckerberg himself has never testified before a congressional committee, according to a C-SPAN database.” [CNNMoney]

John Podhoretz writes… “Sorry: Facebook was never ‘free’: The reason Facebook makes as much money as it does is only in part because it has so much data… For example: I keep kosher… If my personal data tell Facebook about my dietary restrictions, it can help McDonald’s not waste its ad money on me or people like me. And it can maybe tell me about an offering at the local kosher supermarket if that supermarket uses Facebook to look for targeted customers. But it can only do that by knowing things about me.” [NYPost]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Relationship expert Esther Perel on the Recode Decode podcast with Kara Swisher: “The greatest invention that was ever made in western civilization, was the invention of the Sabbath. Somebody understood in one of the oldest creation stories that you needed a day off because when you stop it’s not just that you take a break, it’s that you recharge.” [Recode]

“Compliment a Woman’s Looks, Lower Her Math Score” by Tom Jacobs: “Appearance compliments have immediate detrimental effects on individual women’s performances,” concludes a research team led by psychologist Rotem Kahalon of Tel Aviv University… The researchers report this effect was especially strong among those who “were chronically preoccupied with their physical appearance.” [PSMag]

HOLLYWOOD — “Can Steven Spielberg Remember How to Have Fun?” by Brooks Barnes: “If people had left the “Ready Player One” premiere saying that the old Steven Spielberg magic had returned, that meant they believed that it had gone missing — that his last few “fun” movies, including “The BFG” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” hadn’t been so fun. I envisioned plaster falling from the walls with a low rumble and a boulder rolling toward me, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-style. Instead, Mr. Spielberg answered in a gentle, undefensive tone. “I’m really too busy, both in my private life and in my professional life, to have a lot of time to dwell on success or failure,” he said… Indeed, Mr. Spielberg’s godlike status in Hollywood has been unaffected by the lackluster response to his recent fantasy films. He is busier than ever, with a docket that includes a fifth Indiana Jones movie and a remake of “West Side Story,” among other projects.” [NYTimes]

“Sheila Nevins Declares She’s ‘Too Energetic and Ambitious to Retire'” by Zoe Haylock: “After announcing in December that she was leaving her position as president of HBO documentary films, a division she’s overseen since 1979, Sheila Nevins is set to officially depart at the end of March. So what’s next for the woman who’s overseen the production of 1,000 documentaries, with HBO winning 26 Oscars on her watch, and won 32 Primetime Emmy Awards along with numerous other accolades? “I don’t really know,” Nevins wondered aloud during a talk Wednesday at the first-ever Australian Screen Forum at New York’s Lincoln Center. “I’m too energetic and ambitious to retire! I hate that word more than any other word.” [HollywoodReporter]

COMING SOON — “George Clooney to Narrate Shimon Peres Documentary” by Dave McNary: “George Clooney has come on board to narrate Moriah Films’ documentary “Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres.” … It’s the 16th film produced by Moriah, the film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles… Nine months before he died last year, the 92-year-old Peres asked Moriah Films to create a documentary on his life story. “Never Stop Dreaming” includes interviews with President Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Obama, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Barbra Streisand. The film will be released later this year.” [Variety

MEDIA WATCH — “Breitbart’s readership plunges” by Jason Schwartz: “Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor who is now editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, said the site is at a crossroads. “They hitched their wagon to Trump, but more importantly, they hitched their wagon to Bannon,” he said. “And when Bannon left, what was the character of the site going to be? That was always a serious question.”” [Politico]

TRANSITION — Barry Shrage, longtime CEO of Boston Jewish Federation who recently stepped down as President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) after 31 years, is heading to Brandeis to become Professor of the Practice in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. [BostonGlobe]

PROFILE — “How Julie Fisher Went From U.S. Ambassador’s Wife to Ambassador for Israel’s Embattled Asylum Seekers” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “Fisher, a former teacher and school principal, first became involved with the refugee community in South Tel Aviv in 2011, shortly after she arrived in the country when her husband, Daniel B. Shapiro, began his stint as U.S. ambassador to Israel… A friend of hers from synagogue had been volunteering as a doctor in a clinic for asylum seekers there, and she began helping him by collecting unused medication in the diplomatic community as donations. That’s when she asked someone from the embassy to take her to South Tel Aviv “to see what was happening there,” she told Haaretz this week. She was particularly struck by the inadequate conditions of the day care center… For the next two years, Fisher and her eldest daughter, Liat, volunteered weekly in the center… That involvement was formalized this week when she founded a new initiative, Consortium For Israel and the Asylum Seekers (CIAS).” [Haaretz]

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND — “Two STL men will become Churchill Fellows” by Joe Holleman: “The local honorees are businessman and philanthropist Sam Fox, who also was the former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium; and Westminster alumnus Neal F. Perryman, of the Lewis Rice law firm… Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., also will be named a fellow and will speak about Churchill’s relations with Israel during his time as England’s leading statesman and politician.” [STLToday]

REMEMBERING — “Peter G. Peterson, a Power From Wall St. to Washington, Dies at 91” by Robert Hershey Jr.: “Mr. Peterson was one of the few captains of business whose reach extended into the public sphere. Forbes magazine described him as having “one of the most distinguished résumés in America.” He was secretary of commerce under President Richard M. Nixon, led government commissions and advisory bodies and for 22 years was chairman of the influential Council on Foreign Relations in New York… He made his biggest mark as the rescuer of the giant investment firm Lehman Brothers… After 11 years, however, a senior rival, Lewis L. Glucksman, with whom he had had a fruitful relationship as co-chairman, suddenly insisted on becoming the sole No. 1. Mr. Peterson decided to leave… Mr. Peterson and [Stephen] Schwarzman, a Lehman managing director working on mergers and acquisitions, teamed up to create Blackstone in 1985.” [NYTimes]

— From the NYTimes Magazine in 1985: “The son of lower-middle-class Hungarian Jews, Glucksman constantly inveighed against the ”Our Crowd” Jews in his business – symbolized in his mind by the Lehman family… Although Pete Peterson was the son of Greek immigrants, his ties to the Establishment, his patronizing manner, made him one of them in Glucksman’s eyes.” [NYTimes

DESSERT — “Bellagio in Las Vegas Flips Its Cafe into a Bakery in December” by Susan Stapleton: “By December, [Sadelle] the all-day Jewish deli plans to take over the Cafe Bellagio space overlooking for gardens and conservatory at the Bellagio.” [EaterLV
 
BIRTHDAYS: Lead political anchor for CNN, Wolf Blitzer turns 7-0… Professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia and founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation, E.D. Hirsch turns 90… Mad Magazine’s caricaturist for over 50 years, Mort Drucker turns 89… Composer and lyricist, winner of eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize, Stephen Sondheim turns 88… Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, William Shatner turns 87… Born in Iran, came to the US as a teen, elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2003, elected Mayor of Beverly Hills in 2007 and 2010 (each time for a one-year term), Jamshid “Jimmy” Delshad turns 78… Dentist, born in Tel Aviv, raised in NYC and practicing in Norwalk, CT, Murray Bruckel, DDS turns 73… Academy Award-winning screenwriter, his work includes “Forrest Gump” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Eric Roth turns 73… Israeli viola player and teacher, Rivka Golani turns 72… Mike Orkinturns 69… Manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund (1992-1996) then started his own highly successful hedge fund, current owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and arena football’s Tampa Bay Storm, Jeffrey N. Vinik turns 59… Popular musical entertainer in the Orthodox Jewish community, Avraham Shabsi Friedman, better known by his stage name, Avraham Fried turns 59… Former corporate secretary, EVP and general counsel at Hertz Corporation until 2014, J. Jeffrey Zimmerman turns 59…

NYC correspondent for Haaretz, contributing editor of The Forward and author, Debra Nussbaum Cohen… Editor of the English language edition of Haaretz, Charlotte Hallé… Managing director of Mercury Public Affairs focused on government relations, public affairs and politics in NYC, Jonathan Greenspun turns 47… Brooklyn, NY resident who is a general assignment reporter for DNAinfo, Ben Fractenberg turns 39… Senior director for CEO Communications at PepsiCo, former Obama speechwriter (2009-2011), a Fulbright scholar who earned an M.A. at the London School of Economics, Adam Perecman Frankel turns 37… Founder and CEO of beauty and cosmetic firms Into The Gloss and Glossier, Emily Weiss turns 33… Creator and director of the Yehi Ohr program at Jewish Community Services of South Florida, Zisa Levin… MLB first baseman, now a free agent, he has played for the Mets, Pirates, Athletics and Yankees, he starred for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Isaac Benjamin “Ike” Davis turns 31… Press secretary for Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Sarah Alice Frank Feldman turns 30 (h/t Playbook)… Energy and environment reporter at the Washington Examiner, Joshua Adam Siegel turns 28… CEO of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre), previously spokesman for the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, James Sorene… EVP of public affairs at the Federation of American Hospitals, representing the investor-owned hospital industry, Jeff E. Cohen… Beatrice Stein


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