Daily Kickoff: Tom Barrack’s standing in Trump world | White House envoy to Israel next week | Jordan joins Rubenstein and Guber in e-sports group


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FIRST LOOK — Tom Barrack Got Trump Right, Then Things Went Wrong — by Caleb Melby: “Trump’s inauguration marked the peak of Barrack’s influence. The president-elect named him chairman of the inaugural committee, and he raised a record $106.7 million—important to a man who likes to claim records. On the day Trump took the oath of office, Barrack was seated behind Trump’s brother Robert and in front of Sheldon Adelson… Even as he celebrated, however, some within Colony [Capital] worried. Management reminded employees that the firm had achieved new prominence thanks to the political activities of its founder, but many found that, to the contrary, its association with the president was producing headwinds. Fundraising in Europe, where Trump was unpopular, had become more difficult, and a pickup in Israeli interest wasn’t enough to close the gap.”

“Barrack’s diplomatic efforts were backfiring, too. Trump made Saudi Arabia the first stop on his first overseas trip in May 2017, partly as a result of Barrack’s lobbying. But a month later, just as MBS was being named crown prince, he and other Gulf leaders announced a blockade of Qatar… Barrack was blindsided, one friend says. Trump’s tweet in support of the maneuver was a blow to Barrack’s credibility with his Qatari investors… After the blockade began, Barrack reached out to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson… to help contain the fallout. But Kushner, who’d built a relationship with MBS and backed the blockade, had more influence with Trump.” [Bloomberg]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Israel’s Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni at the Israel Policy Forum annual event in Manhattan: “When President Trump had his first meeting with Netanyahu (in Feb. 2017), he said, you know what? I want a deal. I really don’t care if it’s one state, two states, or three states. I was happy. I will tell you why. Because in order to have a deal you need two sides. So, if the idea is to reach a deal. you need to put something on the table that both sides can live with.”

“I don’t know what in [Trump’s peace plan]. I am not sure there is anybody that really knows. I hope that it will be something that both sides would agree to. I am not sure that this is the situation. I hope and pray that this will not be something that the Palestinians would say no to, and in Israel, it would be an excuse to say again and again, and again, that there’s no partner on the other side, so let’s annex the territories and forget the idea of two states for two people.”

“So, on one hand, I hope that it would be positive, and frankly, I am also scared and worried that this would lead us to more frustration, violence, and complete lack of hope.” [Video]

Sir James Wolfensohn, who was recognized for his work served as President of the World Bank Group and as Special Envoy for the Gaza disengagement for the Quartet in 2005, discussed gaining acceptance in Arab countries: “It gave me the opportunity on behalf of, not only the World Bank but also the Jewish people to say quite frankly to all the friends in the Arab countries, which I visited very frequently, just what was the intent and the ideas of Israel and the Jewish community around the world.” [Video

IPF Chair Susie Gelman: “Being pro-Israel does not mean cheerleading on behalf of the policies and actions that are at odds with Israel’s Jewish, democratic, and secure future. We reserve the right to wear the pro-Israel mantle proudly and out of love for the state and the people of the Jewish homeland.” [Pic

SPOTTED: Amb. Martin Indyk, Rep. Nita Lowey, Robert Goodkind, Susie Stern, Alisa Levin, Jim Walker, Larry Gottlieb, Robert Sugarman, Robert Elman, Marc Stanley, Peter Joseph, Charles and Rita Bronfman, David Halperin, Michael Koplow, Martin Irom, and Jonathan Greenspun,

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump’s Middle East peace envoy to travel to Israel next week — by Barak Ravid: “Jason Greenblatt… will travel to Israel to continue talks with Israeli officials on the White House’s upcoming peace plan… Israeli officials said Greenblatt will stay in Israel for almost a week and meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials and politicians… At this stage, it is highly unlikely that Greenblatt will meet with Palestinian officials.” [Axios]

Ben Caspit reports: “According to a senior Israeli Cabinet member, the reason Netanyahu is forced to capitulate to Hamas in Gaza is to avoid inflicting a military blow on them and instead “contain” the violence on the border fence… because he is waiting tensely for Trump’s peace program. Meanwhile, Netanyahu does not want a flare-up on the Palestinian front, as he fears this would create a false impression of emergency and goad Trump into publicizing his program. The prime minister is playing for time, and this foot-dragging arouses criticism from his voter base.” [Al-Monitor]   

Khashoggi killing complicates Trump’s peace plan — by Jonathan Swan: “The Palestinian leadership won’t deal with the White House after the Jerusalem embassy decision, and there’s no obvious avenue to engage them before the plan’s release. But the one thing Kushner’s team has going for it: Expectations of success couldn’t be lower.” [Axios]

ON THE HILL — President Trump signed yesterday the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act, which strengthens and expands the scope of economic and financial sanctions imposed by the original Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act in 2015. “We will target, disrupt, and dismantle [Hezbollah’s] operational and financing networks… and we will never forget what they did to our great Marines in Beirut,” Trump said during a signing ceremony marking the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing in 1983. The bill was co-authored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Trump on Iran sanctions: “On November 5th, all U.S. sanctions against Iran lifted by the nuclear deal will be back in full force — every sanction that we had on there originally, which if they would have just left it a little bit longer, it would have been so much easier than what we’ve been through over the last number of years… And they will be followed up with even more sanctions to address the full range of Iran’s malign conduct. We will not allow the world’s leading sponsor of terror to develop the world’s deadliest weapons. Will not happen.” [CSPAN]

U.S. Hesitates Over Scope of Finance Sanctions on Iran — by Ian Talley and Laurence Norman: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled that the U.S. may not force Belgium-based financial-messaging service Swift to disconnect Iranian banks from the global banking network… But other powerful voices close to the president, including national security adviser John Bolton, are ready to sanction Swift should it ignore Washington’s call to disconnect Iranian institutions.” [WSJWashExaminer

Saudi Spy Met With Team Trump About Taking Down Iran — by Betsy Woodruff and Erin Banco: “Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, the Saudi intelligence chief taking the fall for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, hobnobbed in New York with Michael Flynn and other members of the transition team shortly before Trump’s inauguration. The topic of their discussion: regime change in Iran… The New York meetings were attended and brokered by George Nader… [and] Israeli social media strategist Joel Zamel, who has been questioned by Mueller for his role in pitching top campaign officials on an influence operation to help Trump win the election… Steve Bannon was involved as well in conversations on Iran regime change.”

“According to communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, Zamel flew to New York to help pitch the Iran idea to Assiri and Trump’s team, delivering a bound presentation full of tactics to undercut the country’s government.”[DailyBeast]

DEEP DIVE — $6 Billion of Iranian Money: Why Israeli Firm Black Cube Really Went After Obama’s Team — by Chaim Levinson and Hagar Shezaf: “The pursuit of [Ben] Rhodes, [Colin] Kahl and [Caroline] Tess was supposed to yield intelligence that would then enable a number of legal operations. The first was the location of unknown Iranian assets, such as bank accounts in the Gulf states or the Far East. The second was assistance to Iran in hiding its assets in violation of U.S. or international law. If it turned out that a certain bank helped Iran hide assets, Black Cube believed it would be possible to sue it. The third was assistance to Iran in shifting money in violation of American or international laws.”

“If it were possible to prove that the Obama administration officials acted illegally – an allegation that has never been proven – in a case like this, you could sue the banks or the U.S. government in order to get Iranian money… The Black Cube background document includes mention of “gathering intelligence leveraging the banks to disclose information on Iranian assets.” [Haaretz

PALACE INTRIGUE — John Bolton’s Whisper Campaign to Oust Mattis — by Lara Seligman: “Bolton and Mira Ricardel, the deputy national security advisor… believe [Defense Secretary James Mattis] is “not ideologically aligned” with President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a former senior defense official. The two are trying “to build the sense that he is done for,” the former official said… But Mattis’s allies insist the defense secretary will not resign. If Trump wants him out—and that’s still a big “if,” they say—the president will have to fire him.” [ForeignPolicy]

MIDTERMS — Top Super-PACs Have $113 Million for Final Push to Election — by Bill Allison and John McCormick: “Billionaires with ties to Wall Street donated tens of millions to the groups, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, brokerage firm founder Charles Schwab and hedge fund executive Stephen Schwarzman, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures filed Thursday. Bloomberg gave $20 million to the Senate Majority PAC, while philanthropist Herbert Sandler gave $1.5 million and media mogul Haim Saban gave $1 million.” [Bloomberg]

Michael Bloomberg drops $9.5 million on ads targeting GOP Reps. Rohrabacher and Knight in midterm election — by Michael Finnegan: “Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee has launched a major ad campaign aimed at unseating Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and Steve Knight of Palmdale… Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC reported spending $4.4 million on advertising against Rohrabacher and $5.1 million to promote Knight’s Democratic challenger, Katie Hill.” [LATimes]

Holocaust memorial group unwittingly funded Rep. King’s meeting with far-right Austrians — by Mike Debonis: “Rep. Steve King met with members of a far-right Austrian party with historical Nazi ties during a European trip financed by a Holocaust memorial group… King spoke to the Unzensuriert site Aug. 24 in Vienna, a day after concluding a five-day journey to Jewish and Holocaust historical sites in Poland, including the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The trip… was financed by From the Depths, an international nonprofit that seeks to educate lawmakers about the Holocaust.”

“In an interview Thursday, King… accused his “political opposition” of “ginning this up” ahead of the Nov. 6 election… King described his travels in Poland as a “very, very powerful experience” but also described later visiting historical sites separately from the From the Depths group to get a “Polish perspective” on the Holocaust… King defended his meetings in Vienna with Freedom Party members, noting that its leaders are participating in the Austrian government and that they “completely reject any kind of Nazi ideology or philosophy.”

“On Thursday, King… went on to repeat unfounded allegations that Soros, as a young teenager in occupied Hungary, collaborated with authorities against his fellow Jews. “Me pointing out the activities of George Soros is a matter of pointing out the facts, and there is no reason to refrain from the real truth,” he said. “I don’t think about George Soros as a Jew. I think about him as an operator, a leftist operator that’s been engaged in upsetting freedom and [being] more or less an enemy of conservatism.” [WashPost]

FL Gov — Gillum says he supports Israel; DeSantis gets Pence’s help — by Terry Spencer: “[Andrew Gillum] told about 500 people at Temple Kol Ami Emmanu-El near Fort Lauderdale that he will not appoint anyone who supports a boycott of Israel, and he backs funding to provide security to Jewish schools. Gillum told the crowd of mostly supporters that he is a “deep and unapologetic supporter of Israel” and has visited the country three times… He said he will “stand up any time anti-Semitism rears its head.” [ABCNews

IL Gov — Pritzker Breaks Campaign Finance Record, Annoys Illinois With $80 Million Of Ads — by Tony Arnold: “Campaign finance records show [J. B.] Pritzker has spent about $80 million on digital and TV advertising so far, ranging from casting Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner as a failed governor to declaring his love of puppies. While Pritzker has enjoyed the luxury of a double-digit lead over Rauner in recent polls, his ads show no sign of slowing down.” [NPR]

CO Gov — Jared Polis Wants to Disrupt Colorado Politics —by Lisa Wirthman: “Polis—the first openly gay person elected to Congress, who, if he wins, would be both Colorado’s first gay and Jewish governor—is seeking to lead the state with his unique blend of policy expertise, startup acumen, and fearless gumption. And with 39 percent of voters (and half of voters 25 and under) refusing to affiliate with a political party, Colorado is a state ripe for political disruption. “I like to think of myself as somebody who is bold and always offers new ideas,” Polis says… Polis credits his parents—who he calls every day (as his mother testified in a recent Facebook comment)—for instilling in him a sense of civic duty.” [5280]

2020 WATCH — Bernie Sanders Isn’t Tired. He’s “Just Waking Up” — by Ruby Cramer: “At 77, Bernie Sanders might say he’s old, but he will never tell you he’s tired. On the tour, built to drive Democratic turnout in college towns and liberal pockets of red states like Iowa and Arizona, Sanders is greeted as part celebrity, part familiar face… On the road, Sanders is obsessive about how many people are following his tour via Facebook and Twitter. Of the staff he’s brought along with him, nearly half are dedicated to video and social media. At every stop, they chase after him with a camera. Everything is filmed and livestreamed and tweeted.”

“He is particularly interested in how his reach compares to traditional news outlets… “Ari! Ari.” He turns to Ari Rabin-Havt, another senior adviser. “What did we get? A million and a half, 2 million people watching that income inequality town meeting?” “A million and a half — 1.6 million,” Rabin-Havt answers. “We had far more people than CNN that night,” says Sanders.” [BuzzzFeed

** Good Friday 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: Dan Loeb sues Campbell Soup in bid to delay annual meeting [NYPost] • Larry Ellison criticizes Apple for fighting FBI request to hack shooter’s iPhone [BusinessInsider] • Google reportedly protected Andy Rubin [Bloomberg] • Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, says the pressure of higher wages is having an impact on the hotel business [CNBC] • Adam Pritzker’s Assembled Brands Raises $100M in Capital from Oaktree to Provide Credit Financing to Next Generation Brands [BusinessWire]

VIDEO FROM TEL AVIV — Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reminisces on a Davos meeting with the late Shimon Peres during a conversation with Dr. David Agus at the Prime Minister’s Israeli Innovation Summit on Thursday. [Video]

University Backed by George Soros Prepares to Leave Budapest Under Duress — by Benjamin Novak and Marc Santora: “Now, as Hungary drifts toward authoritarian rule under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the [Central European University] says it is being forced to close its Budapest campus, portraying itself as a victim of Mr. Orban’s efforts to vilify Mr. Soros… On Thursday, university officials said they would stop admitting new students in Budapest after failing to resolve a dispute with the government over a new law that appeared to require it to open a branch in the United States. “For 18 months, we have defended our right to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest, but we are unable to secure the guarantees we need from the Hungarian government to preserve our academic freedom,” the university’s president, Michael Ignatieff, said at a news conference… Mr. Ignatieff said that the university’s central operations would be moved to Vienna.” [NYTimes]

In Two New Books, Unhappy Conservatives Ask: What Now? — by Jennifer Szalai: “The Corrosion of Conservatism” does double duty as a mea culpa memoir and a political manifesto, detailing [Max] Boot’s “heartbreaking divorce” from the Republican Party after decades of unstinting loyalty. He charts a political trajectory that gave his life social and emotional meaning. As the 6-year-old son of Jewish refuseniks, Boot emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1976; at 13, he was inducted by his father into the world of “learned, worldly, elitist” conservatism with a gift subscription to National Review.” [NYT]

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND — Over 1 million to ditch phones for Day of Rest, says South Africa’s chief rabbi — by Yaakov Schwartz: “This year, the Shabbat Project, which begins sundown on Friday, October 26 and lasts for 25 hours until the conclusion of the Jewish day of rest, has grown to include participants in over 1,400 cities across 98 countries worldwide. [South African Chief Rabbi Warren] Goldstein, who is Orthodox, said that unifying diverse groups of Jews was one of his major goals in founding the program – as can be seen by the project’s tagline: “Keeping it Together.” [ToI]

SPORTS BLINK — Michael Jordan jumps into e-sports, joining Team Liquid ownership group: “Basketball legend Michael Jordan will invest in the Los Angeles-based e-sports ownership group aXiomatic Gaming… during a $26-million round of Series B funding. The round is being led by Jordan, investing through his family office, and Declaration Capital, the family office of Carlyle Group billionaire co-founder David Rubenstein… Lakers legend and current president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, who also owns part of the Dodgers, is a major investor. The firm’s ownership group includes Dodgers and Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber.” [LATimes]

HEADLINE — “Schmaltz Makes Key Play as Blackhawks Beat Rangers 4-1” [NYTimes]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Flam Family Heritage — by Yitz Applbaum:“Sometimes the best things in life are right in front of your nose and you just cannot see them. I have passed the Flam Family Reserve at the Ben Gurion Airport duty free shop hundreds of times and never thought to buy it. This past Shabbat I needed to be in Dublin and picked up the bottle as I was running to catch a flight. The Family Heritage ended up brightening an otherwise dreary and cold Shabbat dinner.”

“This wine is brilliant. It is cacophony of five different grapes. The Cabernet Franc and Merlot give you an earthy mushroom flavor, while the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot blend together like a mixed bowl of fresh blueberries and sour cream. This wine can lift you out of any sour mood you may be in and make you feel good about yourself and your surroundings. This wine pairs exceptionally well with sea bass or cod. I would strongly suggest putting as many bottles of this as you can fit in your suitcase while this wine remains available.” [FlamWinery

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turns 71… Actress who has appeared in 25 films plus 68 episodes of Will & Grace, Shelley Morrison (born into a Sephardic family as Rachel Mitrani) turns 82… South African judge who led the notorious 2009 UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Richard Goldstone turns 80… Actress best known as one of Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981 TV series), Jaclyn Smith (family name was Kupferschmidt) turns 73… Evie Sullivanturns 72… Rabbi of Congregation K.I.N.S. and Dean of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, both in Chicago, he is a past president of the Rabbinical Council of America, Leonard Matanky, Ph.D. turns 60… Director of Communications at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 2011, he was formerly at Hillel, Jeffrey Rubin turns 59… Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiffturns 57… Founding Partner and President of Global Strategy Group, who served for 15 years as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Jefrey Pollock turns 47… Figure skater who won a 2006 Olympic silver medal, plus three World Championship medals and the 2006 U.S. Championship, Alexandra Pauline “Sasha” Cohen turns 34… Senior product manager at CoStar Group, Danielle Feldman (h/t Playbook)… Alberto Calo… Evan May

SATURDAY: Gordon Gerson turns 82… Producer and director of many popular films including Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Twins, Ivan Reitman turns 72… Rabbi at Miami Beach’s Temple Beth Sholom (1985-2018), now Rabbi Emeritus, Gary Glickstein turns 71… Author, actress and comedienne, Fran Lebowitz turns 68… Specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service (an arm of the US Congress), Dr. Kenneth Katzman turns 59… EVP of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a director of English football club Manchester United, both teams owned by his family, he is the son of the late Malcolm Glazer, Bryan Glazer turns 54… Television meteorologist, currently working for The Weather Channel, Stephanie Abrams turns 40… Appropriations associate and foreign affairs legislative assistant for Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-17), she was previously director of government affairs for JFNA, Elizabeth (Liz) Leibowitz turns 30… Co-founder of Arch, Ryan Eisenman

SUNDAY: Actress best known for her TV roles as Judy Miller in CBS’s “Still Standing” and as Debbie Weaver in ABC’s “The Neighbors,” she is an owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Jami Gertz turns 53… Spiritual leader of the Village of New Square (Rockland County, NY) and Hasidic Rebbe of Skverer Hasidism worldwide, Rabbi Dovid Twersky turns 78… Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, she also serves as Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Sofa Landver turns 69… Philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates turns 63… Sixth President of Iran (2005-2013) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turns 62… Member of the Knesset for Likud since 2015, he serves as the Deputy Minister of Construction, he was mayor of Beit She’an (2002-2013), Jackie Levy turns 58… Manager of MLB’s Oakland Athletics since 2011, Bob Melvin turns 57… Creator and editor of the Drudge Report, previously an author and host of radio and TV shows, Matt Drudge turns 52… Member of the Knesset for Likud since 2015, Oren Hazan turns 37… Larry Berlin


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