Daily Kickoff: All eyes on Helsinki | Spicer explains how his ‘Holocaust centers’ remark came about | More details on Israel’s heist of Iran’s files


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DRIVING THE DAY — President Donald Trump is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. Trump and Putin are expected to discuss efforts on scaling back Iran’s presence in Syria. Addressing Israeli concerns about the U.S. leaving the Middle East, National Security Advisor John Bolton indicated yesterday that U.S. troops would remain in Syria as long as Iran continues to “menace” the region. • Live Updates [NYTCNN]

Senator Ben Sasse‏ (R-NE) tweets: “Things Every American Should Know Before the Trump-Putin Helsinki meeting: 1. Exactly who is Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader our president is about to meet with in Helsinki? And what does he want? It’s a complicated question. But here’s what we do know…  Putin is a crook and a liar. He has broken almost every agreement he has signed with the United States, including on Syria and Ukraine… President Trump should have only one message for Putin: Quit messing with America.”

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — With Trump strategy unclear, U.S. allies turn to Moscow to secure their interests in Syria — by Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick: “Confused by apparently conflicting administration messages, and doubtful that the United States has a plan for achieving its own long-term goals in Syria, regional allies have reached out to Russia… “It’s very clear that Russia and Israel are cooperating on Syria. The Saudis and Russia are cooperating,” said a senior international diplomat closely involved in the conflict… and described those contacts as a “good thing” to the extent that they “helped cool things down.” “The Americans,” the diplomat said, now consider “Syria . . . a Russian thing.” [WashPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem: “Yesterday I spoke with US President Donald Trump. We discussed security and diplomatic issues in light of developments in the region, with Syria and Iran first and foremost, of course… I thanked President Trump for his strong policy against Iran because since this policy has been taken, we have seen a great effect on – and inside – Iran. President Trump clearly reiterated his commitment to the security of Israel and his willingness to help the State of Israel in various fields and, of course, I thanked him for that.”

— Israeli officials said Netanyahu called Trump to coordinate before the Helsinki summit. [Axios

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro emails us… “Given President Trump’s desire for “a good relationship” with Vladimir Putin, his dismissiveness of NATO, his desire to get US troops out of Syria as soon as possible, and his compromised position on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, there is virtually no chance he can successfully pressure Putin to change Russia’s behavior on any of these issues. The bigger danger is that Putin will have him for lunch. The absolute best outcome we can hope for is that the summit is a nothingburger, with a few photos and handshakes, but no new decisions or commitments. We should be so lucky.”

ON THE GROUND — Israel Broadens Fight Against Iran — by Sune Engel Rasmussen and Felicia Schwartz: “Israel is ramping up attacks against Iranian supply lines in Syria to block the flow of weapons to Hezbollah and other Tehran-backed militias… In June Israel targeted a far-flung compound near the Syria-Iraq border, according to a security official, after carrying out multiple strikes closer to home against suspected Iranian military assets in Syria… A U.S. official confirmed that Israel was behind it… Israel considers it paramount to roll back Iran’s territorial expansion before the U.S. draws down its forces. Israel’s June strike so far to the east indicated that urgency.” [WSJ]

Syrian state media: Israeli rockets strike military position near Aleppo — by Lisa Barrington: “Syrian state media said on Sunday that Israeli rockets had hit a Syrian military position near Nairab airport on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo… It said the strikes were an attempt by Israel to support rebels in southern Syria, where Syrian government forces have been waging an offensive.” [Reuters]

FIRST LOOK — Adapted from former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicers’s upcoming book titled “The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President” — on “Holocaust centers” remark: “Earlier, I had been part of a small, impromptu briefing in the dining room off the Oval Office where Secretary [of Defense James] Mattis had explained to the president the degree of the current atrocities committed by Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad. He noted that not even Adolf Hilter had dared to use chemical weapons on the battlefield… When I went into the briefing room to begin the daily briefing, echoes of Mattis’s words were still with me…”

“Eleven of the first fifteen questions focused on Syria… I was doing well, talking about the president’s reaction and concern. But then came the sixteenth question [about Assad]… I thought to myself, ‘I got this.’ I had been in a groove expressing the president’s concerns and Assad’s horrific actions. But instead of staying on the messages that had been working just fine. I tried to turn it up a notch…”

“I read the body language of not only the reporters but also my own staffers along the side of the room. I was beginning to realize I had misspoken badly… Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Natalie Strom, and Raj Shah gave me a look and said, ‘Deeper than the Titanic.’ Then I noticed a calendar on my computer. It read, ‘First day of Passover.’ Reince [Priebus] came into my office. ‘Remember the first thing you taught me in media training?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I said sheepishly. Never compare anyone to Hitler. I made a mistake, a big one, and I needed to say so. I went to the Oval Office to see the president. ‘Mr. President, I need you to know that I just stepped in it really badly, and I screwed up.’

“In May [when Trump visited Israel]… I was greatly moved by our brief visit to Yad Vashem… Coming out of Yad Vashem, the Israeli press yelled at me, ‘Hey, Mr. Spicer, What did you think? What did you think?’ Hope Hicks, who was between me and the president, whispered, ‘Just keep going.’ ‘I think I need to talk to them,’ I whispered back. I walked over to the press and spoke about what a profound impact Yad Vashem had on me… And then I just kept walking, in silence for the rest of the way to our vehicle.”

DEEP DIVE — How Israel, in Dark of Night, Torched Its Way to Iran’s Nuclear Secrets — by David Sanger and Ronen Bergman: “The morning shift of Iranian guards would arrive around 7 a.m., a year of surveillance of the warehouse by the Israeli spy agency had revealed, and the agents were under orders to leave before 5 a.m. to have enough time to escape… The agents arrived that night, Jan. 31, with torches that burned at least 3,600 degrees, hot enough… to cut through the 32 Iranian-made safes. But they left many untouched, going first for the ones containing the black binders, which contained the most critical designs. When time was up, they fled for the border.”

“Fewer than two dozen agents took part in the break-in. Fearing that some of them would be caught, the Israelis removed the materials on several different routes. At exactly 7 a.m., as the Mossad expected, a guard arrived and discovered that the doors and safes were broken. He sounded the alarm, and the Iranian authorities soon began a nationwide campaign to locate the burglars — an effort that, according to an Israeli official, included “tens of thousands of Iranian security and police personnel.” The effort yielded nothing.” [NYTimes]

— “This archive explains why we have doubts,” a senior Israeli official told U.S. journalists at the briefing in Tel Aviv… “It explains why the [nuclear deal] to us is worse than nothing, because it leaves key parts of the nuclear program unaddressed,” the official said. “It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb. It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” [WashPost]

— “Alireza Miryousefi, a minister-counselor at Iran’s U.N. mission,​ said in response to the new allegations: “Iran has always been clear that creating indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction is against what we stand for as a country and the notion that Iran would abandon any kind of sensitive information in some random warehouse in Tehran is laughably absurd. It’s almost as if they are trying to see what outlandish claims they can get a Western audience to believe.” [WSJ]

REPORT — Moscow hosted indirect Iran-Israel talks, claims Kuwaiti newspaper: “A Kuwaiti newspaper claimed on Friday that indirect talks have taken place in Moscow between Iran and Israel in an attempt to find solutions for a number of regional issues… Al-Jarida said that the visits to Moscow of senior Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the same time were not a coincidence. They were, it claimed, arranged by the Russians to conduct indirect talks.” [MiddleEastMonitor]

Truce Called After Israel Strikes Gaza Over Rockets, Arson — by Felicia Schwartz: “Israel and Gaza settled into an uneasy truce Sunday after their most intense fighting since the 2014 war over the weekend… Israel’s military struck dozens of Hamas targets in Gaza during an air campaign on Saturday that Mr. Netanyahu said was “the hardest blow” dealt to Hamas since Israel’s ground war four years ago, which was in response to an escalation of mortar and rocket fire from Gaza.” [WSJ]

‘Give peace a chance,’ UN envoy tells Palestinians — by Khaled Abu Toameh: “UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov appealed to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to halt rocket and mortar attacks on Israel… during a news conference in Gaza City… “I appeal to the Palestinian factions to not provoke incidents at the fence, to stop firing rockets and mortars, to stop the incendiary kites and to give peace a chance,” Mladenov said.” [JPost]

Israel has Iran on the brain, and all the kites in Gaza won’t change that — by Avi Issacharoff: “Israel sees getting dragged into a complicated war in Gaza over incendiary kites as unnecessary for the IDF while a much more critical campaign is being waged in Syria over Iran.” [ToI]

REPORT — Price tag for Trump’s $250,000 Jerusalem embassy is in – at $21.5 million — by Bryant Harris: “Documents uploaded this week to the official database of federal spending show that Maryland-based joint venture Desbuild Limak D&K has been awarded a $21.2 million award to design and build “addition and compound security upgrades” to the embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood. That’s in addition to the $335,000 spent to get the facility… ready for its ritzy grand opening as an embassy back in May.”[Al-Monitor]

2018 WATCH — In rebuke of Dianne Feinstein, Kevin de León wins endorsement of California Democrats in Senate race — by Phil Willon: “California Democratic Party leaders took a step to the left Saturday night, endorsing liberal state lawmaker Kevin de León for Senate in a stinging rebuke of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein… The endorsement was an embarrassment for Feinstein, who is running for a fifth full term, and indicates that Democratic activists in California have soured on her reputation for pragmatism and deference to bipartisanship.” [LATimes]

4,500 Tech Workers, 1 Mission: Get Democrats Elected — by Kevin Roose and Sheera Frenkel: “In a year and a half of existence, Jessica Alter‘s Tech for Campaigns has become a kind of Democratic Geek Squad — a national volunteer network consisting of more than 4,500 tech workers with day jobs at companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Airbnb. These volunteers, who include engineers, marketers and data scientists, are matched with Democratic campaigns across the country to provide training on digital skills, such as how to promote themselves on social media, build their email lists and use data analytics to identify potential donors.” [NYTimes]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Democratic congressional candidate (NY14) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained her criticism of Israel in an interview on PBS’ Front Line: “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of the two state solution… But I also think that what people are starting to see in the occupation of Palestine is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian conditions and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue… I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words – I know this is a very intense issue… Middle Eastern politics is not exactly at my kitchen table every night, but I also recognize that this is an intensely-important issue for people in my district, for Americans across the country. And I think at least what is important to communicate is that I am willing to listen and that I’m willing to learn and evolve on this issue as I think many Americans are.” [Video]

David Remnick: “Come November, Ocasio-Cortez is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Will her democratic-socialist identity push the Party to the left? [NewYorker]

Bernie Sanders Calls Out Disney CEO Bob Iger: “Bob Iger is overpaid, according to Bernie Sanders. The longtime senator from Vermont took the Disney chief exec to task on Friday, asking in a tweet why Iger is paid hundreds of millions of dollars, while workers at Disney theme parks struggle to make ends meet.” [TheWrap]

2020 WATCH — $88 Million and Counting: Trump Amasses Huge Head Start for 2020 Campaign — by Ken Vogel and Rachel Shorey: “President Trump has raised more than $88 million for his re-election campaign over the last year and a half… The committee received $169,500 from the real estate developer Stanley Chera. Mr. Chera partnered with the company owned by the family of Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on a $1 billion deal to sell the retail space at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan… Separately, America First Action, a “super PAC” dedicated to supporting Mr. Trump and allied candidates, filed a report on Sunday night revealing that it had raised more than $5 million between mid-May and the end of June. Major contributions came from the Los Angeles real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer, who donated $2 million, and the casino executive Cherna Moskowitz, who donated $1 million.” [NYTimes]

THE DAILY KUSHNER — How Jared Kushner Helped Bring the 2026 World Cup to North America — by Emily Jane Fox: “Last July, around the time when the White House was starting to dig into helping with the FIFA bid, Kushner took a surreptitious trip to Saudi Arabia where he spent considerable time with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. (The two reportedly stayed up until 4 A.M. in the morning in private conversations.) This person said that Kushner asked M.B.S. directly for Saudi Arabia’s vote. He did the same with the House of Khalifa in Bahrain. “He was asking for a very large thing—to vote for the U.S. instead of a more natural partner, in Morocco,” this person said. “And yet, they were very willing.” … Kushner leaned on the relationships he’d developed in his NAFTA talks with both Mexico and Canada to make sure the other two countries were on track in putting their bid packages together. [VanityFair]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Goldman Sachs is expected to name its president, David M. Solomon, as its next chief executive early this week [NYTimes] • Inside the House of Plepler, Creatives See an “Insurance Policy” That Will Protect Them from Becoming Netflix [VanityFair] • Leon Black sued in dispute over insurance takeover [FinancialTimes] • Kushner tenants: We were pushed out for luxury condo buyers [AP• Uber Rival Gett Is Said to Mull Sale of Ride-Share Startup Juno [Bloomberg]

PROFILE — The Education of a Brotelier — by Katherine Rosman: “[Ben] Weprin is the founder and chief executive of AJ Capital Partners, the Chicago real estate company that is behind Graduate Hotels, a four-year-old chain of boutique hotels situated near college campuses and designed to cater to the nostalgia and local boosterism that are part of the culture of university towns… He and his company are trying to create a brand that will find year-round business by catering to more than just alumni coming back for once-a-year football weekends or 10-year anniversaries of their graduating classes.”

“Jonathan Tisch, the chairman and chief executive of Loews Hotels, met Mr. Weprin about six years ago, when Mr. Weprin was attending a Giants game with Eli Manning’s wife, Abby. (The Tisch family owns the Giants.) The men, along with their wives, have become friends. (Mr. Tisch’s wife, Lizzie, persuaded Mr. Weprin to include her student ID photo on a key card for the Graduate in Ann Arbor…)” [NYT

He said he was ‘going to burn down the building with all the f—— Jews,’ Miami Beach cops say — by Howard Cohen: “A resident at a Miami Beach condo was angry after learning he was about to be evicted so he planned to burn down the building and had one group, in particular, targeted, police say. Along with gasoline and some of the materials he planned to use to fan the flames, detectives found artifacts with swastikas and books of Nazi ideology inside his apartment. Miami Beach police said their quick action responding to a tip stopped a condo complex on Collins Avenue from going up in flames Thursday afternoon.” [MiamiHerald]

How Should Children’s Books Deal with the Holocaust? — by Ruth Franklin: “[John] Boyne, who is not Jewish, has said that he spent only a few days writing [The Boy in the Striped Pajamas]. He has defended his approach by saying that the writer’s obligation is to the “emotional truth” and that it’s “presumptuous to assume that from today’s perspective one can truly understand the horrors of the concentration camps.” This seems disingenuous. Whether or not it’s possible to understand another person’s horrific experience, writers and readers of fiction operate under the assumption that such an understanding is worth trying to achieve.”

“Holocaust novels—for adults as well as for young readers—tend to include extensive afterwords detailing the stories on which they are based and the ways, if any, in which they deviate from their sources. Such research alone isn’t sufficient to make a novel effective, but at least it assures the reader that the novel has a basis in reality. Worryingly, Boyne’s book is now often included in Holocaust-studies curricula at schools, and many teachers say that young readers who first learn about the Holocaust by reading it form a drastically ahistorical impression of what took place.” [NewYorker]

HOLLYWOOD — Benjamin Millepied heading to Tel Aviv this fall — by Amy Spiro: “Natalie Portman may have very publicly turned down a trip to Israel earlier this year. But this fall, the actress’s French husband, Benjamin Millipied, will be visiting Tel Aviv. Millipied, a famed French dancer and choreographer, will be in Israel in October for a series of three performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Millipied will be appearing with the troupe he founded in 2011, the LA Dance Project.” [JPost]  

Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest: “In the first episode of “Who is America?”, Baron Cohen poses as an Israeli anti-terror expert who gets two U.S. congressmen to voice support for his fake “Kinderguardians” scheme for children as young as three. [Reuters]

SIGHTING — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was spotted riding a bike at Cooper’s Beach, Southampton yesterday. [Pic]

DESSERT — WeWork bans meat at company events and won’t let employees expense meals that include meat because it’s bad for the environment — by Rachel Sandler: “In an email to about 6,000 employees on Friday, the $20 billion office rental company announced that it will no longer reimburse employees for meals that include red meat, poultry, or pork and will stop serving meat at company events. Employees who need medical or religious allowances are being referred to the company’s policy team.” [BusinessInsiderBloomberg]

In Los Angeles’ Valley Village, Café Florentine Is Tweaking Israeli Comfort Food — by Josh Lurie: “Chef Ofir Arbel hails from Atto in northern Israel and spent the last 12 years in Tel Aviv… He visited his brother in L.A. and fell for the city… Arbel teamed with business partner Liran Sankesh, a seafood wholesaler who runs the Kosher sushi restaurant Sushiko on Pico Boulevard’s Kosher Corridor. The partners decided on Valley Village because the area has a large Jewish community and a lot of simple Kosher restaurants that mainly focus on shawarma and hummus. Café Florentine counter-programs with a concept that Arbel calls “Israeli style, Tel Aviv style, lots of fusion dishes.” [LAMag]

Cafe Landwer in Audubon Circle is a taste of home for local Israeli-born residents — by Sheryl Julian: “Moshe Landwer opened the first Landwer coffeehouse in Berlin in 1919. He moved the business to Tel Aviv in 1933 and became a coffee roaster. Today, Landwer has two branches that are separate but work together, explains [Nir] Caspi, one that roasts coffee and one that operates the cafes… Landwer’s menu dishes up many of Israel’s greatest hits…” [BostonGlobe]

BIRTHDAYS: Former State Department official under JFK and LBJ, later VP of Continental Airlines, and then Managing Editor of the NYTimes, James L. Greenfield turns 94… Billionaire, former member of Knesset, winner of the Israel Prize, real estate developer and philanthropist, Stef Wertheimer turns 92… One of the three co-founders of Comcast Corporation, he served as its chief financial officer and vice chairman, Julian A. Brodsky turns 85… San Antonio-based financial advisor and real estate broker, Norman Lee Nonkenturns 71… World reknowned violinist, violist, and conductor, Pinchas Zukerman turns 70… Co-creator of the the first-ever spreadsheet program (VisiCalc), he currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Alpha Software, Daniel Singer “Dan” Bricklin turns 67…

Senior fellow and director of the Center for National Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute, Douglas J. Feith turns 65… Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, MA, since 1997, Rabbi Keith Stern turns 64… Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Cynthia D. Shapira turns 63… British solicitor advocate, he was chairman of The Jewish Chronicle, Anthony Julius turns 62… Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter, Tony Kushner turns 62… Professor of psychology and philosophy at Tel Aviv University, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism at NYC’s John Jay College, columnist for Haaretz, Carlo Strenger turns 60… President of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group until January 2017, Doug Herzog turns 59…

Co-founder of Ares Management, and owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Tony Ressler turns 59… Businessman and philanthropist, owner of interests in many Israeli firms including IKEA Israel, Israel Discount Bank and the Shufersal supermarket chain, Matthew Bronfman turns 59… Canadian journalist working for CNN International and La Presse, he anchors both of the weekend editions of CNN’s International Desk, Jonathan Mann turns 58… Chicago based philanthropist, Victoria Rivka Zell… Former NFL offensive lineman who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers(1991-1995) and the Minnesota Vikings(1996), Ariel Solomon turns 50… Israeli former professional tennis player, Anna Smashnova turns 42…

Marketing and communications strategist at Los Angeles-based Meteorite Social Impact Advisors, former White House aide (2006-2009) and VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at Univision, Steven Max Levine turns 34… White House staff assistant and liaison to the Jewish community in the Bush 43 administration (2006-2009), now a director in the Atlanta office of Rubicon Global, Scott Raymond Arogeti turns 34… Partner at venture capital firm, Sinai Ventures, Eric Reiner turns 27… Chief of Staff of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Jim Rosenberg… Legislative Director for Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), Louise C. Bentsen… Chantal Low Katz… George Nahas


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