Daily Kickoff: “Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner” | Purim at the White House | AIPAC official previews conference | YU’s big game today
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28 DAYS OF FEBRUARY — “‘Jared has faded’: Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished” by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once. But an unlikely cascade of events — set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid — crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.”
“Once the prince of Trump’s Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation’s deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe… One senior White House official described Kushner as looking “really beaten down” this past week, though the official said he remains “a smooth operator” even if the outside world no longer sees him as “the main artery to the president.”[WashPost]
HEADLINE DEPT: “The White House chief calligrapher has a higher clearance than Jared Kushner” [CNN]
PALACE INTRIGUE — “Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll” by Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman: “The dysfunction was on vivid display on Thursday in the president’s introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The previous day, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, warned the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he might resign if the president went ahead with the plan… Trump’s children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father’s success and as antagonistic to their continued presence…”
“Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements… and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded… In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with… Aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.” [NYTimes]
“Destroying Jared Kushner: a five-part play” by Jim VandeHei:“Rupert Murdoch, the master of Fox and the Wall Street Journal, has advised Kushner for years. They are allies, friends, mentor and mentee. There was nothing friendly about the lead editorial in Murdoch’s paper politely suggesting the “knives are out” and it’s time for Jared to skip town… One thing Jared and Trump have in common: they read Maggie Haberman and the New York Times. Nothing says family love and I’ve-got-your-back like this: “Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner…”” [Axios]
“Is Jared Kushner’s Leap To Power A Jewish Success Story — Or A Tragedy?” by Peter Beinart: “Kushner exposes the gap between the way many American Jews still see ourselves—as scrappy, embattled outsiders—and the reality of our cultural and class position in America in 2018. We have reached the point in our history when even an absurdly unqualified, wildly ignorant, Jew can be among the most powerful people in the United States. That’s an achievement, and a tragedy, at the same time.” [Forward]
“Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings” by Jesse Drucker, Kate Kelly and Ben Protess: “Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner… Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies… An Apollo spokesman, Charles V. Zehren, said Mr. Harris was not involved in the decision to loan money to Kushner Companies. He said the loan “went through the firm’s standard approval process.” [NYTimes] • Jared Kushner’s Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Before Blockade [TheIntercept]
“FBI counterintel investigating Ivanka Trump business deal” by Sara Murray, Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell: “The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver… The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump… Because Ivanka Trump and Kushner are married, concerns that arise during one partner’s security clearance investigation could stall or block both of them from receiving a full clearance.” [CNN]
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT — at Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s Megillah Reading on Purim Night: Per a tipster, Rabbi Sender Geisinsky of Chabad Bethesda read the Megillah. Notable attendees included Facebook’s Joel Kaplan, RJC’s Matt Brooks, VA Sec. David Shulkin, White House advisor Jason Greenblatt, Elliott Abrams, Aaron David Miller, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Tom Rose, Jason Isaacson, Ann Lewis & Myron Sponder, William & Heidi Daroff, Mark & Julie Levin, Richard & Phyllis Heideman, Boris Epshteyn, FDD’s Cliff May, Mark Dubowitz, Jeanie Milbauer, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Jeremy Diamond.
HEARD AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Approximately 50 Jewish staffers listened to the reading of the Megillah in the Secretary of War Suite at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The reading was arranged by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), who also organized readings on Capitol Hill, at the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC HQ. [Video]
AIPAC POLICY CONFERENCE PREVIEW — Thousands of pro-Israel activists are expected to make their way to DC to attend AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference, officially kicking off on Sunday morning at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Speakers at the general plenary sessions include: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Tuesday morning), Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador Nikki Haley, Ambassador David Friedman, Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tom Cotton (R-AR); House majority and minority leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), whips Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, Labor Chair Avi Gabbay, and outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
According to an AIPAC official, the conference will focus on three major legislative agenda items. The first is is to have congressional involvement and buy-in to the MOU (memorandum of understanding) by passing a five-year authorization, and taking in consideration the growing threat of Iran and their expansion to Syria for additional security assistance. The second item will be imposing additional sanctions on the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, (IRGC) and on entities and businesses that they own and have an investment in. The third item will the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that also addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council’s database on companies that have investments in Israel and the West Bank.
The AIPAC official on the Taylor Force Act legislation: “The legislation is a priority for us and we continue to work for its passage – it will certainly be discussed with our delegates during the conference.”
On AIPAC’s bipartisan approach: “We would arguably say that this is the greatest bipartisan gathering in American public life… The bipartisanship transcends, it goes from administration to administration. Bipartisanship is part of our DNA because that’s the way you get things done in Washington. AIPAC is looking for the long term, all the time. It’s unique at a time of polarization. That’s why we believe it’s very fundamental to have the long-term commitment that Israel is not turned into a partisan issue, and that’s going to be reflected on the stage, and at every reception. We are an oasis of bipartisanship in a sea of polarization right now.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan is the only congressional leader who will not speak at this year’s AIPAC gathering. Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed to Jewish Insider that the Republican leader will not have a speaking role and noted that the House Speaker keynoted the prior two years in a row.
AARON DAVID MILLER PREVIEWS BIBI’S U.S. VISIT: “How Netanyahu Will Use Trump to Save His Hide: Bibi will likely invite Trump to the embassy opening, and the President might even accept. (Barack Obama went to Cuba, remember?)… In Trump, Netanyahu is likely to find an unusually kindred spirit. Under pressure from assertive police investigators; pressed by an attorney general weighing the possibility of indictments, and hounded by the media, Trump is going to give Netanyahu a port in the storm. As for the substance of the visit—what to do about Iran, Syria and the fate of Trump’s mysterious peace plan—all of that can wait… Bibi’s Indispensability Show is all that counts—and if there is anything that binds these two leaders, it is that they both know how to put on one hell of a performance.” [Politico]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Police probe Netanyahu in corruption case ahead of D.C. visit: “Israeli police were questioning Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife as part of an investigation into a corruption case involving the country’s telecom giant on Friday, casting a shadow on the prime minister’s upcoming visit to Washington.” [CBSNews; Haaretz
TRUMP TRAIN (STATION)? — Daily Beast political editor Sam Stein asked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Morning Joe earlier today:There was a news report late last year that the train station near the Western Wall was going to be named after Donald Trump. Is that actually happening? Barkat: “It’s too early, but we would like to recognize President Trump, and commend him and thank him for what he has done, for the fact that he’s moving the embassy and the recognition, the deep recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people.” Stein: So you’ll name the train station after him? Barkat: “We will seriously consider this; it’s a process, but we’ll seriously consider it.” [Video]
HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert on the Trump peace plan: “We have not released our plan. When it is ready to be released, the White House will go ahead and put that out. And some are trying to not only prejudge it but to try to draw conclusions about what is in that plan.” Q: Is the Secretary of State involved in this process? Nauert: “Yes, the Secretary of State has been involved in meetings and conversations about this entire process.”
ON THE HILL — “Taylor Force’s family, West Point classmates plead with senators: Stop ‘Pay for Slay'” – by Eric Shawn: “Although Taylor’s family and friends met with eight Senators from both sides of aisle, some were not ready to go on the record about the meetings and how they will vote… After a long exhausting day walking from office to office, the group remained hopeful. “Every bit of energy we’ve dedicated, it’s totally worth it,” said Stuart [Force]. Robbi Force said that the presence of the whole group, with Taylor’s West Point pals, made “a big difference.” Now they will wait for the pending Senate action.” [FoxNews]
Sen. Chuck Schumer in a statement after meeting with the Forces: “I am a strong supporter of the Taylor Force Act… As I told the Force family, I will do everything in my power to make sure Congress enacts this bill.”
REPORT — “Israel concerned by lack of U.S. action to counter Iran in Syria” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli internal security minister Gilad Erdan… used his speech at the gathering of the conference of presidents… to convey a message to the Trump administration on the issue. “Friends let me be direct. There is a need for greater American involvement in making sure that Iran doesn’t turn Syria into a puppet state… If the US chooses not to be a major player in shaping the future of Syria then others will — and trust me it won’t be the democratically elected representatives of the Syrian people.”” [Axios]
TOP TALKER: “Malcolm Hoenlein stepping aside as Conference of Presidents chief” by Ron Kampeas: “Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is stepping aside after more than three decades. An email from the current conference chairman, Stephen Greenberg, said Hoenlein… was timing the move to coincide with the search for a new chairman… He will remain with the conference in an as yet undetermined capacity… In an interview, Hoenlein said the process could take a year.” [JTA]
B’nai B’rith CEO and Executive Vice President Dan Mariaschin tells us… “Malcolm’s imprint on the Jewish community here and abroad is immense. He’s written the definitive book on how public diplomacy and pro-Israel advocacy intersect, and in the process, has won the respect and admiration of a succession of U.S. administrations and international political figures for over three decades. Malcolm’s special feeling for the Jewish people has made him both an effective and passionate spokesman. He will continue to be a powerful, and needed voice, going forward.”
AJC’s CEO David Harris said in an emailed statement: “Malcolm Hoenlein’s dedication, talent, Rolodex, and energy are legendary, even as he’s had one of the more difficult jobs in balancing the often wide-ranging interests and views in the Conference of Presidents. Fortunately, he’s not entirely leaving the CoP, so his political and diplomatic skills will continue to benefit our collective efforts.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Steve Schwarzman Collects $787 Million in ’17 to Rule Over Wall Street [Bloomberg] • Bill Ackman Surrenders in His Five-Year War Against Herbalife [WSJ] • Carl Icahn Says Epic Herbalife Battle With Ackman Was ‘a Good Fight’ [Bloomberg] • Expert Reveals Why Israel Crypto Ruling Could Spark a Bitcoin Boom [Inverse] • Hedge fund billionaire David Einhorn’s bad start to the year has gotten worse [BusinessInsider] • How Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal Disrupts His Daily Routine [NYT] • Featured speaker Mark Cuban cancels his scheduled appearance at SXSW [DallasNews]
SPOTLIGHT — “Trump Ally Was in Talks to Earn Millions in Effort to End 1MDB Probe in U.S.” by Tom Wright: “In emails dated during the past year, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and a longtime Republican donor, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney, discuss setting up a consulting contract with Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman at the center of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, which brought scrutiny to the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak… In one draft, there is a proposal that includes a $75 million fee if the Justice Department quickly drops its investigation… The emails also appear to show Mr. Broidy prepared talking points for Malaysia’s prime minister ahead of a 2017 visit to Washington that included a meeting with Mr. Trump and other officials… Mr. Broidy was a vice chairman for the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican Party during the 2016 campaign…” [WSJ]
STARTUP NATION — Israeli app will show you the behind-the-scenes of the Olympics: “The Israeli start-up Applicaster will develop international applications through which behind-the-scenes stories of the Olympic Games will be explored, as part of an agreement recently signed with the Olympic Channel… This app will allow viewers around the world access to stories and people who make the Olympic Games a world-class event. “ [Ynet]
TALK OF THE NATION: “Poland and Israel in Tense Talks Over Law Likened to Holocaust Denial” by Isabel Kershner and Joanna Berendt: “On Thursday, Israeli and Polish diplomats met for more than three hours in what the Israeli Foreign Ministry described as “candid and open dialogue,” although the talks were inconclusive… At the start of the talks, [Yuval] Rotem told the Polish team — led by the deputy foreign minister, Bartosz Cichocki — that it was “no secret” that the legislation was “a matter of concern to Israel and to the Jewish people worldwide.” … After the closed-door talks, the ministry said it was especially concerned about “the criminalization clause, which constitutes an obstacle to the study of the truth and to open historical debate.”” [NYTimes] • Poland attempts damage control over Holocaust speech law [Axios]
“Israel’s battle between religious and secular Jews escalates with ban on Saturday shopping” by Ruth Eglash: “The truth is the Haredim don’t really care about Tel Aviv. They have accepted it is a liberal, secular city. But if this law is successfully enforced in Ashdod, then other cities will follow,” [Israel Cohen] said. At the Big Fashion Mall, however, shoppers and shopkeepers alike were troubled by attempts to close the place on Shabbat. “Oy vey if that happens,” said Arin Matias, a 24-year-old student working in an upscale deli packed with shoppers. “I study all week. The only day I have to work is on Saturday. How will I be able to pay for school?”” [WashPost]
COMING SOON — Prince William makes history with first royal visit to Israel this summer: “Prince William will make the first official visit by a member of the British royal family to Israel and the Palestinian territories… Kensington Palace said the trip “has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “this is a historic visit, the first of its kind.” He said William, who is second in line to the British throne, “will be received here with great affection.”” [USAToday]
HOLLYWOOD — “Ben Platt Lands First Film Lead Post ‘Dear Evan Hansen'” by Justin Kroll: “Following his Tony award-winning performance in the Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” Ben Platt has found his next feature film, signing on to star in Black Label Media’s “Love & Oatmeal.” “Camp X-Ray” director Peter Sattler is helming the project with Steve Waverly penning the script…” [Variety]
MEDIA WATCH: “Kushner-allied editor joins forces with Bridgegate mastermind” by Dana Rubenstein and Ryan Hutchins: “Ken Kurson, the former editor of Jared Kushner’s Observer who helped draft Donald Trump’s 2016 AIPAC speech, has joined forces with David Wildstein, the mastermind of the Bridgegate scandal, to relaunch a news site Wildstein created six months into his court-ordered probation… The company has no apparent web presence yet. But Kurson described himself as its majority investor. The company, he said, owns two sites, Modern Consensus, which covers cryptocurrency, and New Jersey Globe.” [Politico]
“The Instagram Stars Hiding Their Famous, Muslim-Hating Mom, Pamela Geller” by Taylor Lorenz: “Claudia, Jackie, Olivia, and Margo Oshry are a group of sisters in New York living the millennial dream… obsessively retweeting each other, posting photos of themselves while talking about the importance of family… But there is one family member in particular who is conspicuously absent from the Oshry sisters’ social-media posts: their mother… Pamela Geller… Family photos including their mother have been stripped from their Instagrams… The Oshry sisters Snapchat from Geller’s apartment, yet never allow her to appear in the background.” [DailyBeast] • In
TRANSITION — Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic’s politics editor, will move into a new role as editor of the publication’s forthcoming Ideas section, Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg announced in a memo to staff yesterday. “It is impossible to think about what the past two years might have been like for us had we not had Yoni steering the ship,” Goldberg wrote. “He is a superlative editor with an excellent sense of story and context, he is relentlessly entrepreneurial (he loves scoops more than any historian in the history of historians), and he’s fox-quick when it comes to landing the crucial piece that explains to the world the story behind the story.”
SPORTS BLINK — “After Fasting and Before the Sabbath, Yeshiva Debuts in N.C.A.A. Tournament” by Rick Rojas: “Yeshiva, with a record of 18-10, will face York College of Pennsylvania on Friday. The winner will play again on Saturday evening. (If Yeshiva wins, the game will be pushed back to 8:30 p.m., after the Sabbath has ended.)… One notable difference are the skullcaps that some of the players wear as they play… “It’s actually funny to see if a yarmulke falls off on the court and an opposing player picks it up,” said Joe Bednarsh, the university’s director of athletics and recreation… “Is it a holy object? Like, do I put it down gently? Do I fling it to the bench?”” [NYTimes] • Watch the game at 1PM EST [Livestream]
MAZELS — “Robert Kraft’s much younger girlfriend secretly had a baby” by Emily Smith: “There was speculation about Patriots owner Bob Kraft after his much younger girlfriend Ricki Noel Lander secretly had a baby — but he’s confirmed that the child is not his. Kraft, via a spokesman, told us, “Last fall, Ricki Noel Lander became the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy baby. While Robert Kraft is not the biological father, he is thrilled with Ricki’s blessing of having a healthy child. With respect to her family’s privacy, we will not be commenting any further.” [NYPost; BostonGlobe]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Holocaust survivor, he is the co-founder of one of the largest real estate development companies in Southern California, philanthropist Max Webb turns 101… Restaurateur, lawyer, financier and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow turns 68… Comedian, actress and writer, she was part of the original cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (1975-1980), Laraine Newmanturns 66… Former US Senator from Wisconsin (1993-2011), failed to win the seat back in a spirited election race in 2016, Russ Feingold turns 65… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Illinois who graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Samuel M. Parnass, M.D. turns 61… VP of marketing and operations at West End Strategy Team and adjunct faculty at Georgetown Law, Daphne Lazar Price turns 45… Culture reporter for the New York Times who writes frequently about film, television and comedy, David L. Itzkoff turns 42… Deputy chief of staff for Representative Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Yuri Beckelman turns 36… Israeli television and radio newscaster and host, she completed medical school in 2017, Hila Chaya Korach turns 34… Senior coordinating producer at talent agency William Morris Endeavor – International Management Group, Sally Rosen… Editor and Director of Communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC Jewfolk (a Jewish news, events and culture online media hub), Lonny Goldsmith… Donni Lurman…
SATURDAY: Australian residential property developer, colloquially known as “High-Rise Harry,” builder of almost 60,000 residential units, Harry Triguboff turns 85… Professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, author of 27 books and the former co-editor of Dissent magazine, Michael Walzer turns 83… Researcher in Yiddish language at Sweden’s Lund University’s Centre for Languages and Literature, Henrik Lewis-Guttermann turns 69… Best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of financiers and politicians, Ron Chernow turns 69… Baltimore-born NPR personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show “This American Life,” Ira Jeffrey Glass turns 59… Dean of Pace University School of Law since 2014, previously chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, David Yassky turns 54… Co-founder and co-president of Clarity Capital, an investment management firm based in NYC and Tel Aviv, also chair, co-founder and trustee of NYC-based giving circle, the Natan Fund, David Steinhardt turns 49… SVP and general counsel to Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, Anat Hakim turns 49… Founder of Bunk1, a provider of parent-engagement software for summer camps, he is a co-owner of the Miami Marlins as a member of the Derek Jeter investment group, Ari Ackerman turns 47… Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and an adjunct professor of law at NYU, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Scalia (2012-2013), Danielle R. Sassoon… Steven Kantor… Deputy Press Secretary for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Freddi Goldstein…
SUNDAY: Tennis player who in 1951 won both the Australian and Wimbledon men’s singles championships and was ranked World No.1, the first ever Jewish athlete to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, Dick Savitt turns 91… Composer and conductor, founder and initial conductor in 1950 of the US Army’s Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra, on the Julliard faculty, Samuel Adler turns 90… Former New York Times correspondent and Pentagon and State Department official, he is president emeritus of the Council of Foreign Relations, Leslie H. Gelb turns 81… Broadcast journalist and author, best known as a correspondent for the ABC news magazine “20/20,” Lynn Sherrturns 76… British promoter of rock concerts, charity concerts and television broadcasts, Harvey Goldsmith turns 72… Founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools and a former City Council member for the Upper East Side, Eva Moskowitz turns 54… President of the New England Patriots, Jonathan Kraft turns 54… Member of the New York City Council since 2014, he was previously a New York State Assemblyman (2007-2012), Rory I. Lancman turns 49… Evan L. Presser turns 48… Staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and a senior research fellow at Yale Law School, Emily Bazelon turns 47… Second youngest member of the current Knesset, a member of the Likud party, Sharren Haskel turns 34… Director of Public Policy and Best Practices for the International Council of Shopping Centers, Abigail Goldstein “Abby” Jagoda turns 33… Brazilian entrepreneur and software engineer who co-founded Instagram in 2010, sold to Facebook in 2012, Michel “Mike” Krieger turns 32… Singer, music producer and composer, Aryeh Kunstler turns 32… Israeli-born basketball player who starred at Wichita State (2006-2008), played for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, now playing in the Liga ACB (the top Spanish league), Gal Mekel turns 30…