Daily Kickoff: Jeb’s Jewish Insider interview | Mike Bloomberg commissioned poll for 2016 run | Putin’s Favorite Rabbi | Evolution of David Brooks

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TOP TALKER: “How Rolling Stone Magazine Handled a Get With Ramifications” by Ravi Somaiya: “Several months ago, Jann Wenner, a founder of Rolling Stone magazine, received a call from the actor Sean Penn. Mr. Penn, Mr. Wenner said in an interview on Sunday, wanted to discuss something important. But he did not want to speak openly over the phone, so the two began to speak elliptically about a potential project. That vague conversation was the beginning of what eventually became an article, written by Mr. Penn, that rocked both Mexico and the United States when it was published Saturday night. It was an exclusive interview with Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious drug kingpin known as El Chapo.” [NYTimes]

FLASHBACK: “Sean Penn raised eyebrows in Latin America before ‘El Chapo’ interview” by Catherine Shoichet: “Call him a favorite of the Latin American left if you will, but not all of the region’s left-wing leaders are fans of Penn. The actor ran afoul of Bolivia’s government and President Evo Morales as he pushed for the release of Jacob Ostreicher, a flooring contractor from New York who’d been imprisoned there on suspicion of money laundering tied to a rice-growing operation… Later that year, Ostreicher was whisked back to the United States. As the U.S. government denied involvement in Ostreicher’s return, rumors swirled that Penn had something to do with it.” [CNN]

MEDIA WATCH: “The Story Of Sheldon Adelson’s Purchase Of A Las Vegas Paper Is Even Crazier Than You Think” [HuffPostNewYorker]

ADELSON PRIMARY: “Vegas billionaire donor keeps GOP candidates guessing” by Jonathan Swan: “Adelson has joked privately that he belongs to a divided household: He likes Rubio and his wife Miriam likes Cruz. But the truth, more than half a dozen sources close to Adelson say, is more complicated. “The guy is cagey,” said a conservative leader who spoke with Adelson recently. A source familiar with Adelson’s thinking cautioned, “People who profess to be inside Sheldon’s head or know what he’s doing I would say are 99 percent full of shit or trying to promote their own self importance.” “The business side affects his general disposition,” the source said. “When he’s doing well the sky’s the limit and he feels better about giving.” And when things are going badly – as they are currently – Adelson questions even $2 million political investments, the source said.” [TheHill]

BLOOMBERG 2016: “For Republicans, Mounting Fears of Lasting Split” by Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin: “Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire media executive and former New York mayor, was intrigued enough by the prospect of Mr. Trump’s becoming the Republican standard-bearer that he commissioned a poll last month testing how he would fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, according to two sources close to Mr. Bloomberg. But he has often very publicly flirted with a run, savored the attention, then announced that he would not pursue the candidacy.” [NYTimes]

Top Tweet — Alex Burns: “Clinton vs. Trump vs. Bloomberg would finally give America a diverse range of NY-based oligarchs to choose from” [Twitter]

TRUCE: “Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump call truce during campaign: “Chelsea [Clinton] called Ivanka [Trump] and broke the ice after Donald said Hillary was a liar and blamed her for the world being in flames,” says a source close to the situation. We’re told that Chelsea made the call to wish the Donald’s daughter a Happy New Year and the two ladies agreed not to let the 2016 election ruin their friendship. In addition to having high-profile parents, Clinton and Trump are two peas in a pod who are both married to Jewish men.” [DailyNews]

We interviewed Jeb Bush on Thursday. Here are some additional highlights… 

–On Saudi Arabia: “If there was a sense that the United States had to back up Saudi Arabia, I don’t think they would’ve taken any kind of actions that would have provoked Iran. But I think if we had to pick between Iran and Saudi Arabia, we should be on the side of Saudi Arabia.”

–On rescuing Ethiopian Jews in 1985: “I give credit to my dad, who was in government and acted decisively and saved lives. I was simply a conduit to get people that were knowledgeable about the situation to brief my dad, and he acted.”

–On visiting Israel: “I’ve been to Israel five times. I don’t have plans to visit there. But what I’ve said is that on Day One, I would announce that the U.S. Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

–Why Jeb thinks Jewish donors are sticking with him: “Because they know I could be president. They know I have a steady hand. They know I have the leadership skills to keep our country safe. Look, people of the Jewish faith – that are Americans – love this country as much anybody else does and, first and foremost, they want a strong America. Yeah, they want a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship where there’s strong trust and that the relationship isn’t torn aside because of personal animosity, which this president has effectively done. They know that I will restore that trust and restore a relationship that will create security for Israel and security for the United States… I believe what I believe. I am not going to be pressured for political purposes to bent, and many of the other candidates seem to have a tendency to do that.” Full Interview [JewishInsider• Coverage of our Jeb interview [Haaretz]

SAUDIS VS. IRANIANS: “Arab foreign ministers accuse Iran of undermining regional security” by Ahmed Aboulenei: “Arab foreign ministers condemned attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran and warned on Sunday that the country would face wider opposition if it continued its “interference” in the internal affairs of Arab states.” [Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif OpEd: “Saudi Arabia’s Reckless Extremism” [NYTimes]

IRAN DEAL: “Nuclear Deal Fuels Iran’s Hard-Liners” by Jay Solomon: “There are growing fears in Washington and Europe that the deal—coupled with an escalating conflict with Saudi Arabia—instead risks further entrenching Iran’s hard-line camp. Since completion of the agreement in July, Tehran security forces, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have stepped up arrests of political opponents in the arts, media and the business community, part of a crackdown aimed at ensuring Mr. Khamenei’s political allies dominate national elections scheduled for Feb. 26, according to Iranian politicians and analysts.” [WSJ]

WH Chief of Staff Denis McDonough: “We Feel Really Good” Next President Will Preserve Iran Deal: “Iran now does not have a nuclear weapon and has no — if we get all these steps now in the next several weeks ironed, that they have to carry out to get to what we call implementation day, all their paths to a nuclear bomb will be blocked.” [TheCorner]

Speaker Ryan’s Office: “The House will not wait for the president to act. We will vote on legislation offered by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) to limit the president’s ability to remove sanctions on Iran as it continues to engage in illicit activities. We are committed to preventing a nuclear Iran and doing whatever is necessary to protect the U.S. and our allies from this dangerous regime.” [Speaker.gov] • “Democrats Press Obama Administration Over Iran” [WSJ]

Dennis Ross OpEd: “How Obama Created a Mideast Vacuum: He has overlearned the lessons of Iraq, the president’s former senior Iran adviser argues” [PoliticoMag]

HAPPENING TODAY: The Wilson Center hosts Dr. Dore Gold, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at an event titled “Current Middle East Meltdown: The View from Israel. The event will be introduced by Wilson Center CEO Jane Harman and moderated by Aaron David Miller. [Livestream]

**Good Monday 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**

SPOTLIGHT: “Schwarzman Scholars Announces Inaugural Class to Study in China” by Alessandra Stanley: “On Monday, the program will announce the first 111 scholarship winners. Mr. Schwarzman, chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group, the private equity and investment giant, started the program with a goal of identifying, as he put it, “your best guess as future leaders of the world.” He said that Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, had agreed to give internships to some Schwarzman scholars, and that Niall Ferguson, the historian, and Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary, would serve as visiting professors. Perhaps more significantly, Mr. Schwarzman said, his protégés would have access to some of the most influential people in the Chinese power structure.”[DealBook]

PROFILE: “Putin’s Favorite Rabbi” by Laura Secorun Palet: “Turns out Putin has a surprising affinity for the Jewish cause, which Italian-born, American-raised Lazar has leveraged, in return for his fierce loyalty, to help his community flourish, bringing in synagogues, schools and Jewish cultural centers. His combination of fervent religiosity and political machinations makes him one of Russia’s most divisive public figures. “Today,” Lazar writes OZY over email, “thank G-d, there is a renaissance of Jewish life in Russia.”

“The once-underground rabbi met our shirtless friend when he was elected Chief Rabbi; years into the relationship, Lazar recalls a story Putin once told him. According to the rabbi, Putin was often left home alone while his impoverished parents rushed around trying to make ends meet. His neighbors, Lazar tells, were kind Hasidic Jews who ensured little Vladimir had a hot meal and a place to rest.” [Ozy]

LongRead: “The Evolution of David Brooks” by Marc Fisher: “Some people pray at shul or at church or mosque, or in the woods. I pray by writing. And that means sometimes I’m like one of those creatures who’s preaching to himself from the pulpit. I’ve been observant mostly through my family. We kept kosher at home, my kids went to Jewish day schools, we had Shabbat meals. So at that moment, I was more traditionally observant than I am now. At the same time, I’m now reading a lot more Soloveitchik and a lot more Heschel. So in some sense my observance is down but my thinking is up.” [MomentMag]

HOLLYWOOD: “Golden Globes: Ricky Gervais Ripped Mel Gibson Apart With Digs at His Drinking, Anti-Semitic Slurs” by Jordan Zakarin: “Gervais made a joke about Gibson’s penchant for anti-Semitic remarks, noting that while it would make sense to blame NBC for the situation they found themselves in, “we know who Mel blames.” And Gervais got the last word in, too, by closing the show with one more dig: “From myself and Mel Gibson, shalom.” [Yahoo• Simon Wiesenthal Center accuses Golden Globe Awards of ‘Rehabilitating a Bigot’ with choice of Mel Gibson as Presenter [Algemeiner]

WEEKEND WEDDING: “Alison Brooke Gordon was married Jan. 9 to Kyle Eugene Gugerty, Rabbi Bennett Miller officiated. Gugerty, 27, is the assistant director for Birthright Israel. She works at its office at Hillel International in Washington. The couple met in 2010 while working at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville.” [NYT]

BIRTHDAYS: Mark Halperin turns 51… Actress Amanda Peet turns 44…

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