Daily Kickoff: Jeff Flake recalls the release of Alan Gross from Cuba as his best moment in the Senate


Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here or for early access via Debut Inbox

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, on The Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod on how he got his start in politics: “I became sort of politicized when I was in Boston University undergrad school. I became involved, first in the Soviet Jewry movement, and then in the anti-Apartheid movement.”

Axelrod: Why in the Soviet Jewry movement? 

Weaver: “I was a Russian area major at the time and there were a number of Jewish students at BU. I was convinced to go down to an annual lobby they had in DC at that time to lobby members of Congress on behalf of Soviet Jewry, and I had a geography professor who heard I was going and she said, ‘I have a friend I would like you to meet.’ And I met this woman. Her mother was still in the Soviet Union and they weren’t letting her leave. I brought her case, actually, to [Senator] Pat Leahy from Vermont and he raised it with Soviet officials and she was ultimately released. It was an early example to me of political activism paying off.” [AxeFiles

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki on Recode Decode with Kara Swisher:“Years ago — probably four or five years ago — I spoke at the National Association of Reform Rabbis, and I presented them, “Hey, here’s all the different results people are getting.” People find out they’re 5 percent Jewish, 10 percent Jewish, 15 percent Jewish, and they’re walking into synagogues and are like, ‘We want to join, we’re part of the tribe.’”

Swisher: “You know what I found out? What? I was Jewish. Oh! And African. Okay. And Arabic. Yeah.” [Recode]

KUSHNER ON THE RECORD — White House senior advisor Jared Kushner discussed his relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the Trump administration’s response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the prospect for peace in the Middle East during a rare interview with Van Jones at the Citizen by CNN forum at the Time Warner Center in NYC yesterday.

Van Jones: You’ve got also on your plate, the Middle East. This situation that happened, it’s so horrific people around the world are concerned about it. Do you believe the Saudi’s account of what happened to that journalist?

Kushner: “I don’t have the Middle East. I was given the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians and I’ve dealt with a lot of the other regional partners in that effort. The president has a great foreign policy team led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Bolton — and Nikki Haley has done a great job at the U.N. — Secretary Mattis. So we’ve got a great team, and I have one small component of it.”

“With regards to the situation in Saudi Arabia, I’d say that right now as an administration we’re more in the fact-finding phase,” Kushner said. “We’re obviously getting as many facts as we can from different places, and then we’ll determine which facts are credible.”

Asked how the crisis with Saudi Arabia complicates the administration’s Middle East policy, Kushner stressed, “I wouldn’t say our strategy in the Middle East relies on Saudi Arabia.  I’d say our strategy in the Middle East relies on what are America’s interests, what are our strategic interests and then how do we utilize all the things that are available to us to try to push those forward… We’re always readjusting and reassessing and we’ll continue to do so.”

HOW IT PLAYED — ‘Where is Jared?’ no more: Kushner cornered on Saudi debacle —by Nancy Cook: “Jared Kushner’s critics say that, when the going gets tough for the Trump administration, Kushner goes quiet. But on Monday, amid the ongoing uproar over a Saudi Arabian journalist’s murder, Kushner unexpectedly stepped into the spotlight instead of avoiding it… It was unclear whether Kushner might have preferred to skip the event — or, as one Republican close to the White House suggested, whether he welcomed it as a safe space to break his silence on the alleged role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman… Kushner’s language was careful, and [Van] Jones did not press him hard on the explosive issue.” [Politico]

Kushner on Trump’s Mideast peace deal: “The president asked me to do the Middle East peace process, which is something that I think we’ve made a lot of progress on. I’m as optimistic as you can be about that… I think that what we’ll put forward will, hopefully, be something that people realize there’s a lot more reasons to be for it than reasons to be against it.  And I think that there’s a bigger gap between the negotiators than there is between the people… I think that what we’re working on will allow, both, the Israelis to have the security they want, and to allow the Palestinian people to have the opportunity that they want, while respecting a lot of the bigger issues.”

Van Jones: 
You know, other people have come up short. And this is the one area that dealing with the Palestinians feels to me, a little different. You don’t have that partner with the Palestinians. You’re good at that partnership finding. How are you going to get it done without the Palestinians with you?

Kushner: “One thing about this file is there’s about 1000 ways to fail.  And, you know, one thing that we determined very early on is that if we are going to fail, we’re not going to fail doing it the same way that people have done it before which is why we’ve taken the approach we have… Our sense is that, when we put our plan out, if there’s reasonable leadership, and if it’s a reasonable plan, then they’ll come to the table and try to fight for how to create the best opportunity, and the best outcomes for their people.” Watch the full Kushner interview [CNN]

REPORT — Trump told Macron he’s ready to pressure Netanyahu to back peace plan — by Barak Ravid: “President Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron last month that he’s ready to put pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept his upcoming Middle East peace plan… According to the four Western diplomats, Macron told Trump he has the impression Netanyahu doesn’t really want to move on the peace process “because he loves the status quo.” Trump said he was very close to reaching the same conclusion… Trump added that he has given Netanyahu a lot — like moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Trump even mentioned that every year the U.S. gives Israel $5 billion in military aid (the correct figure is $3.8 billion).”

KEY LINE: “I can be as tough with Bibi as I have been with the Palestinians.”[Axios

Aaron David Miller emails us… “This account just isn’t persuasive. I’ve been predicting a blow-up between Netanyahu and Trump for past year and a half, and it hasn’t happened. Why would it occur over a peace plan that — unless it’s full of surprises — is likely going to be DOA. The potential for Bibi and Trump to annoy the hell out of one another has been possible all along. But the US-Israeli relationship – so far – has been all honey and no vinegar.”

Shalom Lipner writes… “After the Midterms, Could a Threatened, Volatile Trump Flip on Israel? A potential thaw in Trump’s relations with Turkey’s President Erdogan could put unfriendly Ankara back in America’s good graces. Meanwhile, fallout from the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi interrogators is all but guaranteed to drive a wedge between Washington and Riyadh – perhaps turning hopeful Israeli-Saudi cooperation into a liability… Frequent turnover among the ranks of senior administration officials has… but also seen the departure of treasured allies such as departing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. This turnstile will be working overtime during midterm season, and the newcomers may be even less capable of restraining Trump’s darker impulses.” [Haaretz

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM CITIZEN BY CNN — Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) shared his best moment in the Senate during an interview with Jake Tapper: “I went down to see Alan Gross, along with Tom Udall from New Mexico, in prison in Havana. And he was not doing well. I came back and the administration had been negotiating for his release… Three planes landing all at once in Havana and then taking off. We brought Alan Gross, the American, back. I’ll never forget the best moment was we were in the air for about half an hour and the pilot came on and said, ‘We’ve now entered U.S. airspace.’ And Alan Gross and his wife was there too. Alan just stood up and shook his fist in the air and just breathed in and out several times and said, ‘Now I know I’m free.’ It was just a moment I’ll never forget. Tough to top that one… Alan sends me a card every December 17, and it’s just something I’ll always remember.” [Video]

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on whether he would ever run for president: “I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I have no interest of — I did eight years in the Oval Office. I have no interest in returning to the White House.” Moderator Fareed Zakaria: Ever? Emanuel: “I have no interest in doing it, never.” [Video]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Retiring Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) met with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday in Jerusalem: “We have never had a better defender of Israel and a better defender of the truth. So I want to thank you,” Bibi told Ros-Lehtinen. [Pic] • The Congresswoman also met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein [Pic]

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem this morning: “The two discussed ways to deepen cooperation and encourage continued economic development by focusing on encouraging investments in innovation in Israel and New Jersey,” the PMO said in a statement. [Pic] • Murphy also visited the Western Wall [Pic]

MIDTERMS — New York 19: Democratic House candidate, Antonio Delgado, claimed Israel is “not a Jewish democracy” during a live-streamed debate yesterday. “It has become clear to me that being pro-Israel and being pro-peace is critical but I am also pro-democracy. And as currently constructed, you know, Israel is not a Jewish democracy. Those settlements make it so that it can’t be,” said Delgado, who’s running against Rep. John Faso (R) in New York’s 19th Congressional District.

Delgado — who noted that his wife and kids are Jewish — said he was opposed to Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. “I think unilaterally moving in that direction sends a wrong signal to that region,” he explained. Faso called his opponent’s remarks “insulting to its citizens and to our relationship with that nation. It is imperative that the United States stands strong side-by-side with the state of Israel and the Israeli people. Antonio Delgado doesn’t seem to understand that Israel is both a democracy and a Jewish State.”

Delgado clarified his remarks in an emailed statement to Jewish Insider“As I made clear in the debate and in my statements throughout this campaign, I have a deep personal and family connection to the state of Israel. As a member of Congress, I will do everything in my power to ensure it’s security is safeguarded, which is also profoundly in America’s national interest. I am committed to a two-state solution—a Jewish state of Israel and a sovereign Palestinian State—because it is the only way for Israel to fulfill its own aspirations to remain a Jewish democracy for future generations.” [JewishInsider]

NY Sen — The Republican Jewish Coalition is co-hosting a “Farley for Israel rally” tonight in support of Republican Senate candidate Chele Chiavacci Farley, who is running against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan. Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) is featured as the guest speaker.

Pennsylvania 01 — Wallace Snaps, Curses In Synagogue During Debate With Fitzpatrick — by Rick Rickman: “Challenger Scott Wallace lost his cool during a debate with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. Sunday night at the Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem, Wallace used an expletive and “dropped an f-bomb” in front of those attending. “Ironically, there was a later question about the need for civility in politics,” Fitzpatrick told WBCB. “Well, a good start is to not use vulgarities in the sanctuary of a synagogue in the middle of a congressional debate. Both candidates were standing on the synagogue’s ‘bimah,’ an elevated platform used for reading the Torah during services, when Wallace used the expletive.”

Wallace in a statement: “I apologize for any offense that might have been taken, I am passionate about protecting people from insurance company abuses, and I’m sorry that in this instance, my frustration got the best of me.” [WBCBNews]

Virginia 07 — Dave Brat Tells Incarcerated Addicts He Has a Hard Life, Too  — by Sarah Jones: “Dave Brat is stressed. Four years after booting Eric Cantor from what seemed to be a safe seat in Congress, the Republican representative for Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District has entered troubled waters. Monmouth’s most recent poll places him in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger, Abigail Spanberger, who raised $3.6 million last quarter.” [NYMag]

Texas Senate — Senator Ted Cruz at a campaign rally with President Trump in Houston Texas: “Beto O’Rourke has the most anti-Israel record of any Democratic Senate nominee in the country. Let me give you specifics: In 2014, when Hamas was raining rockets down on Israel, rockets were raining on Israel, Beto was one of eight members of the House of Representatives to vote against funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Virtually every Republican voted yes. Virtually every Democrat voted yes. Nancy Pelosi voted yes. Maxine Waters voted yes. But Beto O’Rourke voted no and wouldn’t stand with the people of Israel.” [CSPAN

Chris Evans, Communications Director for the O’Rourke campaign, emails us… “Senator Cruz has voted against more than $22 billion in support to Israel, regularly voted against Iron Dome funding, and has even voted to slash U.S. funding for Iron Dome. Since being elected to Congress, Beto has voted for nearly $20 billion in aid to Israel including almost $4 billion for missile defense systems such as Iron Dome. He also worked to pass an additional $38 billion to support Israel over the next 10 years.”

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — Trump during the Houston rally: “You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, ‘Really? We’re not supposed to use that word.’ You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. Okay? I’m a nationalist. Use that word. Use that word.” [Bloomberg]

Abe Foxman texts us…“It is a word and a title that will make many of us cringe. For those of us who remember history, to hear an American President embrace and describe himself as a ‘Nationalist’ is alarming, and it sends a shiver up our spine.”

DONOR CIRCUIT — Miriam and Sheldon Adelson gave $55 million to conservative Super PACs in September — by Bill Theobald: “Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his physician wife Miriam gave $55 million to three conservative political action committees over a two-day period in September… The Adelsons gave the most, $25 million between them, to the Senate Leadership Fund… The Adelsons gave $20 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund.” [USATodayBloomberg]

ON THE HILL — Senate Dem asks tech companies to look into Saudi propaganda efforts — by Harper Neidig: “Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent letters to Facebook, Google, Reddit and Twitter on Monday asking them… to look into whether Saudi Arabia had employed social media tactics to boost then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign… The senator pointed to media reports tying both the Trump campaign and the Saudi government to the Psy-Group, an Israeli firm specializing in intelligence and public influence campaigns… Blumenthal asked each company about the Psy-Group and other firms affiliated with its founder, Joel Zamel, and if they had purchased advertisements or used fake accounts on their platforms.” [TheHill]

** Good Tuesday 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: Carl Icahn scores $757 million profit after American Railcar announces merger [CNBC] • Josh Kushner announces Thrive VI has totaled $1 billion [Medium] • SoftBank, Walmart, Airbus Partner with Israeli Startup Foundry Team8 [CalcalistReuters] • New Holographic Content Push Planned by Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Partnership [HollywoodReporter]

STARTUP NATION — Israel Startup Rolls Out Tiny Solar Panels for Smart Electronics — by Anna Hirtenstein: “A startup in Israel is implanting tiny solar panels on electronic devices that allows the devices to sustainably generate their own power, the latest sign that falling costs are pushing renewable energy technologies deeper into everyday use. Closely held 3GSolar Photovoltaics Ltd. was founded in 2010 and is based in Jerusalem.” [Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH — Despite the Moonves Baggage, CBS Insiders See a Case for Ianniello —by Joe Pompeo: “The C.E.O. hunt is entering a more formal phase. Last week… CBS settled on the executive-recruiting firm Korn Ferry to lead the search… [Joseph] Ianniello last week elevated Showtime boss David Nevins to the new position of chief creative officer. Besides running Showtime, Nevins will assume responsibility for all of the company’s television programming—including its streaming service, CBS All Access—at the precise moment when legacy players, like CBS, are struggling to keep up with increasingly powerful over-the-top insurgents like Netflix and Amazon… Ianniello appears to be positioning the company for the very sort of corporate evolution that one imagines [Shari] Redstone and the board are advocating.” [VanityFair]

Explosive Device Found Near George Soros’s Home in Westchester County — by Sarah Mervosh and William Rashbaum: “An explosive device was found on Monday in a mailbox at the Westchester County home of George Soros… It did not explode on its own, and bomb squad technicians “proactively detonated” it… Mr. Soros was not home at the time. The police said they had turned the case over to the F.B.I.” [NYTimes]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Will Be Wearing a Hanukkah Scrunchie Year-Round — by Emily Burack: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg loves scrunchies. She wears them all the time… This is why Rabbi Yael Buechler, who founded Midrash Manicures, a company dedicated to “creative religious expression,” recently decided to send RBG a Hanukkah scrunchie… Rabbi Buechler did not expect a reply from RBG. But she got one. As she wrote to Alma in an e-mail, “In the aftermath of pretty challenging SCOTUS news, this letter was really a beacon of hope.” In the letter, RBG writes, “My dear Rabbi: Thank you for today’s surprise, a scrunchie I will wear not only at Hanukkah, but year round.” [HeyAlma]

A Holocaust Memorial Expands in Philadelphia — by Jon Hurdle: “A new downtown plaza built around the “Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs,” a Nathan Rapoport sculpture that has stood on the site since 1964, opened on Monday. The plaza adds to the memorial physical items from the Holocaust and uses technology to allow visitors to hear from survivors, some of them now residents of the Philadelphia area…  The plaza also features a sapling from a silver maple tree that was planted and cared for by children in the Theresienstadt camp in the former Czechoslovakia before many of them were killed at Auschwitz… David Adelman, the foundation’s chairman, said that the foundation was warning about any possible drift toward autocracy.” [NYTimes]

Museum of the Bible in D.C. removes items billed as Dead Sea Scrolls after experts find they are not authentic — by Marisa Iati: “Five of 16 fragments thought to be historical Dead Sea Scrolls that have been displayed at the Museum of the Bible… may not be real after all, the museum announced Monday. The pieces have been removed from exhibition after the Germany-based firm BAM tested them and concluded they might not truly be parts of the ancient manuscripts found in the Qumran Caves of Israel’s West Bank… The museum… sent the five fragments to BAM for analysis in April 2017 after previous studies raised questions about other Dead Sea Scroll fragments owned by the museum.” [WashPost]

First-Of-Its-Kind First Amendment National Conference Held In Pittsburgh — by Julie Grant: “The National Conference on the First Amendment is the first of its kind in the country… “I think everybody has to pass what I call the shoe-on-the-other-foot test, and that is if you promote free speech for your view, would you make the same argument if the shoe were on the other foot?” legal scholar Alan Dershowitz said.” [CBSPittsburgh]

Mark Wilf Announced as New Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America: “On Sunday, October 21, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) held its annual Board of Trustees meeting at the General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Israel, and unanimously voted to elect Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf as the new chair. “Mark Wilf will be an outstanding chair,” said current JFNA Board Chair Richard Sandler. “In business, his accomplishments are many…As a philanthropist, his generosity is matched by few.” [Vikings]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Cardi B, Rich the Kid perform at dueling bar mitzvah parties — by Mara Siegler and Emily Smith: “The city’s swankiest tweens lived it up over the weekend at dueling lavish bar mitzvahs, we hear. Uptown, Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick’s son Ryan was fêted at the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur — the same setting as Vogue’s annual Met Gala — with music by Rich the Kid and DJ Irie. An insider told us the performance by Kid probably cost “between $200,000 and $300,000.” … Meanwhile, at Tao, we hear another birthday boy, named Jake, entered his bar mitzvah flanked by the Knicks City Dancers. Cardi B performed at the downtown bash, calling it “epic” on Instagram.” [PageSix]

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman emeritus of the shopping mall developer Simon Property Group and the principal owner of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Herbert “Herb” Simon turns 84… Distinguished professor of American and Jewish Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz, Gerald Sorin turns 78… Filmmaker, actor and producer famous for creating the cult horror Evil Dead series, as well as directing the original Spider-Man trilogy (2002-07), Sam Raimi turns 59… Founder of New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute, Simon Rosenberg turns 55…

Former Editor in Chief of the New York Observer and Kushner-confidant, Ken Kurson turns 5-0… Director of rabbinic and community engagement at J Street, Shaina Wasserman turns 41… AIPAC’s associate area director for Bergen County NJ and Rockland County NY, Ayelet Kahane turns 30… 2014 graduate of Brown University, now in the 2019 class of Harvard Law, she has worked for Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI-1) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Annika Lichtenbaum turns 26… MBA Candidate at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Allison Rachesky… 2014 graduate of American University where she was on the Jewish student association board, now a junior digital strategist at Veracity Media, Rachel Shabad turns 26… Richard Rubenstein


Comments are closed.