Daily Kickoff: Rep. Ilhan Omar vs. Elliott Abrams | Why Howard Schultz keeps a stone from Auschwitz on his desk | Annie Leibovitz’s early years
SCOOP: HEARD LAST NIGHT — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on a conference call hosted by Jim Zogby, Co-Chair of the DNC’s Ethnic Council, when asked about the controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tweets about AIPAC:“I talked to Ilhan last night to give her my personal support. We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
PHILLY SCENE — Howard Schultz discussed his potential independent run for president in a conversation with Bill Kristol at Free Library of Philadelphia. During the event, Kristol asked the former Starbucks CEO why he is not seeking the Democratic nomination, “assuming you are not going to come over and win the Republican nomination.”
“I am not asking nothing,” Schultz jokingly replied. To which Kristol joked: “I can help you with that. Also, I have a bridge to sell you, if you’d like.”
Schultz then explained why he would run as an independent: “I have nothing against the Democratic party. I have a lot of friends who are Democrats and I have friends who hold office who are Democrats. This is not personal against the party of them. If I should decide to run for president, in many ways, I am running against the two party broken system. With regards to the Democratic Party, I no longer feel as if I have a home there. I feel that the party is moving so far left, and almost every day even further left… I am trying to suggest a more centrist approach… and I don’t think the Democratic Party is interested in listening to a centrist position. If I had to make a prediction, the Democratic person who is going to get the nomination is going to be a far-left-leaning person who is going to run against Donald Trump, and I am not clairvoyant, but I worry a lot about whether or not a far-left person on the Democratic side can defeat Donald Trump.”
Schultz concluded the conversation by noting: “I’m a Jewish kid from Brooklyn that has lived the American dream. And if someone told me when I was 15-years-old that I would reach this level of success, I would not have believed it.”
— Why Howard Schultz keeps a stone from Auschwitz on his desk: In a speech to the Atlantic Council on May 10, 2018, Schultz told the audience, “Twenty years ago, as a Jewish person, I had the opportunity to go to Poland and visit Auschwitz for the first time… It was a very cold, gray winter day, and the two three hours that had passed while we were there was a gruesome, gruesome visual understanding of what took place in these camps… Somehow when we were leaving the camp, in the mud and in the sand, I reached into the sand and into the mud, and I somehow found this stone. And this stone had been sitting on my desk for the last twenty years.” [JewishInsider]
— Schultz’s lead political strategist Steve Schmidt referenced the speech in an interview this week when asked to explain the potential 2020 candidate’s foreign policy views.
ON THE HILL — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the House Republican Conference Chair, urged Speaker Pelosi to bring an anti-BDS measure for a vote in a floor speech on Wednesday. “Helping our key allies in the Middle East ensure their security should not be controversial,” said Cheney, urging the Democrats to pass a House version (H.R. 336) of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act in a bipartisan manner. “We are now at a moment in this body, where we are facing real anti-Semitism from the other side of the aisle. It is time Madam Speaker, that we all come together as a body in a bipartisan manner to stand against anti-Semitism, to condemn it, to ensure that everyone understands it has no place in this House, in this body, or in our public discourse.” [JewishInsider; CSPAN]
House votes to take stand against anti-Semitism in an unexpected way — by Lindsey McPherson: “The House overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to take a stand against anti-Semitism in all forms and did it in an unexpected way. The vote was surprising because the language was added to an unrelated resolution on removing U.S. armed forces assisting the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen… The amendment added through the motion to recommit says ‘it is in the national security interest of the United States to combat anti-Semitism around the world because,’ and then lists a few reasons… Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel spoke in favorof the GOP’s motion to recommit and Democrats followed suit in voting for it… It was adopted, 424-0, with two members voting present. The Yemen resolution passed 248-177.” [RollCall; Politico] • House Votes to Halt Aid for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen [NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Elliott Abrams, special envoy to Venezuela, clashed over his role in the Iran-Contra affair and possible U.S. military involvement in Venezuela during a hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Referring to him as “Mr. Adams,” Rep. Omar started her questioning by casting doubt on Abrams’s credibility. “In 1991, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George HW Bush,” Omar said. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.” As Abrams attempted to respond, Omar cut him off by saying she was making a statement and not asking him a question. “It is not right that members of this committee can attack a witness who is not permitted to reply,” Abrams interjected. [JewishInsider] • Watch the full exchange here [CSPAN]
Democrats Grapple with the Ilhan Omar Fallout — by Abigail Tracy: “Largely satisfied with Omar’s mea culpa, Democrats want to forgive and forget. ‘It was a mistake. She apologized,’ explained the Democratic aide. ‘Some people were more satisfied with her apology than others. But we can’t waste days and weeks on this, because this is totally going to distract us from our agenda if we get hung up on this infighting.’ The tweet about AIPAC, this person said, was ‘obviously a big self-inflicted wound, but we are not going to now look at the Republicans moving the goalposts and be responsive to them.’ Republicans, however, aren’t ready to move on.” [VanityFair]
Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on his criticism during a visit to Warsaw on Wednesday. “The Republican leadership was right to condemn Steven King’s remarks and also to remove him from the committee,” Pence told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “There were consequences to what he said, and unless Rep. Omar resigns from Congress, at minimum Democrat leaders should remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.” [Video] • Kevin McCarthy on deleted tweet about Bloomberg, Steyer and Soros: ‘That had nothing to do about faith’ [WashPost]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back against the administration during an interaction with a CNN reporter on Capitol Hill: “As I heard the President speaking this morning, all that was going through my mind was ‘Jew-S-A, Jew-S-A’ at his rallies that he never distanced himself from. They shouldn’t go down this path, they do not have clean hands.”
— “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) left open the possibility of disciplinary action. ‘Apologies are appropriate,’ Hoyer said. ‘But the real test are actions going forward… We need to treat one another with respect. If that doesn’t pan out, there may be further actions we need to take,’ he added.”[WashPost]
Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program who worked against the anti-BDS bill, tweeted: “The pressure on Ilhan Omar to apologize is only the tip of the iceberg. The ultimate goal is to silence her and boot her out of Congress for her courageous positions on foreign policy issues including her support to the BDS movement. Are you with Trump or Ilhan? #IStandWithIlhan.”
— Prof. Eugene Kontorovich: “Most Democrats, echoing ACLU, claim they don’t support BDS, they just oppose anti-BDS efforts out of poorly defined constitutional concerns. But if now the head of ACLU praises Ilhan Omar’s ‘support’ of boycotting Israel, maybe the constitutional arguments were just a facade?”
Omar fundraises: “We will not be silenced.” [Pic]
STATE-SIDE — Virginia Democratic Candidate Apologizes to Jewish Community for Past Statements — by Liel Leibovitz: “Ibraheem Samirah, a dentist and the Democratic nominee in a special election next week for a seat in the 86th District of Virginia’s House of Delegates, issued a written apology Friday for a slew of statements, made on social media over several years, including one comparing Israel to the KKK and another wishing for the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to ‘burn in hell.’ … And while some, including Samirah’s historically Jewish fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, have defended the candidate from accusations of anti-Semitism, others have said it remains to be seen whether Samirah has outgrown his offensive views.” [Tablet]
SCENE YESTERDAY — Elan Carr, the new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, met with a group of Jewish community leaders at the State Department. Carr pledged to aggressively pursue countries that have either passed new laws or are contemplating such that would outlaw Kosher meat or circumcision during the 90-minute meeting, according to several participants.
Among those who attended the meeting were Eric Fusfield, Stacy Burdette, Nathan Diament, William Daroff, Michael Lieberman, David Bernstein, Mark Levin, Rabbi David Zwiebel, Noah Silverman, Karen Paikan Barall, Candace Bryan Abbey, Lori Weinstein, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Halie Soifer, Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak. [Pic]
WARSAW SUMMIT — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu metwith Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the U.S.-led ‘Promoting a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East’ summit in Warsaw, Poland this morning. “You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It’s just not possible,” Pompeo told reporters at the start of their meeting.
— Jason Greenblatt tweets: “A lighthearted moment — Netanyahu’s microphone was not working so the FM of Yemen loaned him his microphone. Netanyahu joked about the new cooperation between Israel and Yemen. Step by step.”
Watch — Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa asked about meeting Netanyahu: “It will happen when it happens.”[Video]
Netanyahu, in a short video recorded on the sidelines of the summit, emphasized the significance of Israeli and Arab officials appearing in the same venue, noting that the summit was “not in secret, because there are many of those. This is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combatting Iran.”
Neri Zilber reports in today’s Kafe Knesset: Last night during a closed dinner, Netanyahu and Arab representatives sat and listened openly to each other. “Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area,” Vice President Mike Pence said in his remarks at the dinner.
In an interview aired last night on Channel 13, Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal, a former intelligence chief, told diplomatic reporter Barak Ravid that Netanyahu needed to be more honest regarding what was possible absent Israeli-Palestinian peace. “Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue… From the Israeli point of view, Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around.”
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. to present Mideast peace plan after Israeli vote, Jared Kushner says — by David Herszenhorn: “The United States will put forward a Middle East peace plan after an Israeli general election on April 9, Jared Kushner told officials on Thursday. Ministers who took part in a closed-door session with Kushner at the conference in Warsaw said he told them that Israelis and Palestinians would each have to compromise.” [Politico]
HOW IT’S BEING PLAYED — Iran Rift Hurts U.S. Effort to Build Consensus on Mideast Policy [WSJ] • Anti-Iran Message Seeps Into Trump Forum Billed as Focusing on Mideast Security [NYTimes] • Middle East conference opens with warnings that all problems originate in Iran[WashPost]
Rudy Giuliani appears on stage with anti-Tehran group once branded terrorists — by James Shotter and Evon Huber, Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Demetri Sevastopulo: “Rudy Giuliani appeared at a rally against Iran’s regime in Warsaw on Wednesday at the behest of a controversial group once labeled a terrorist organization by Washington, and without the approval of the Trump administration. Mr. Giuliani, who serves as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, said he attended the demonstration at the invitation of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian resistance group that was on the U.S. State Department’s terrorist list until 2012… Mr. Giuliani conceded that he had not notified the administration of his plans to attend the rally in Warsaw.” [FinancialTimes]
U.S. Accuses Ex-Intelligence Officer of Giving Iran Secrets — by Aruna Viswanatha and
Dustin Volz: “A former U.S. Air Force special agent gave highly classified information to Tehran and helped hackers mount campaigns against U.S. spies after defecting to Iran, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday. Monica Elfriede Witt, who left the Air Force in 2008 and a job with a defense contractor two years later, showed persistence in trying to betray her country, prosecutors said.” [WSJ]
KAFE KNESSET — AG Decision Looming — and Bibi Knows It— by Neri Zilber: Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejected the Netanyahu legal team’s petitions to interview further witnesses in the multiple corruption cases arrayed against the premier. Analysts surmised this was a Netanyahu attempt to stall the legal process — and Mandelblit’s ultimate decision on the probes — until after the April election. The AG’s office stated in a letter that “at the current stage there is no need for further investigative action.” Netanyahu immediately took to Twitter to express his “sadness” that Mandelblit was succumbing to left-wing and media pressure, causing him to speed up his decision on whether to indict Netanyahu. The AG is now expected to issue his verdict in the next few weeks but not later than mid-March. Subscribe to read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [KafeKnesset]
2020 WATCH — Michael Bloomberg is preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket if he runs for president… Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand added top national, New Hampshire staff to 2020 campaign… Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Beto O’Rourke last week to discuss a possible 2020 Senate campaign against GOP Sen. John Cornyn…
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Suit Accuses Current, Former CBS Executives of Insider Trading [WSJ] • Disney CEO Bob Iger Flies to Brazil to Seal Fox Deal, Leaves Empty-Handed [Bloomberg] • Former Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer to Join BlackRock [WSJ] • Israel’s Bezeq Telecom turns to High Court in bid to merge units [Reuters] • Edward Lampert has a plan to turn around Sears: smaller stores, more tools and appliances [WSJ]
SPOTLIGHT — Annie Leibovitz Revisits Her Early Years — by Robin Pogrebin: “More than 4,000 images from her early years fill an exhibition of Ms. Leibovitz’s work opening in Los Angeles on Thursday at Hauser & Wirth, the first show with the gallery for the photographer, who turns 70 in October… The exhibition — “Annie Leibovitz. The Early Years, 1970-1983: Archive Project No. 1” — comes as photographers are increasingly promoted as artists by galleries… The exhibition takes up 24 walls of the gallery’s sprawling space in a downtown Los Angeles former flour mill, which opened in 2016. The images encompass the first 14 years of Ms. Leibovitz’s career, when she was shooting performers like Rod Stewart, Loretta Lynn, Elton John and Aretha Franklin, and public officials like Hubert H. Humphrey, Henry A. Kissinger and Edward M. Kennedy. To move through the show is to be immersed in the pivotal era between 1970 and 1983.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE TOWN — L line delayed during morning rush into Manhattan as crews remove train with swastika stickers from service — by Dan Rivoli and Clayton Guse: “An L was removed from service in Brooklyn Wednesday morning after a subway worker found anti-Nazi stickers — swastikas crossed out with a red line, like a no-smoking sign… The swastikas were first reported to police as ‘racist graffiti,’ the MTA said… Subway workers will now find a way to cover up decals until they can be removed later without holding up service… During the afternoon rush hour, L trains were held up again when a train with ‘offensive graffiti’ was yanked out of service at Broadway Junction shortly after 4 p.m, and sent to a train yard for cleaning.”[NYDailyNews]
A Year After the Parkland School Shooting That Was Supposed to Change Everything — by Patricia Mazzei: “Sarah Lerner, 38, an English and journalism teacher and yearbook adviser at Stoneman Douglas, compiled stories from shooting survivors into a book. Two of her students, Jaime Guttenberg and Meadow Pollack, were killed. ‘I went to the cemetery on Sunday. The first place I went to was Meadow. I just got out of the car, and I lost it. I was ugly crying. I apologized for what happened to her. I told Jaime that my daughter, Hannah, dedicates her competitive dances to her. On Rosh Hashana I asked my rabbi if it would be O.K. to say Kaddish, the memorial prayer. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to those whose immediate family member had died. He’s like, ‘Of course it’s appropriate, Sarah. They meant so much to you.’ It was just so awful, to say it for people who shouldn’t have gone so young and shouldn’t have gone that way.'” [NYTimes]
TRANSITIONS — Binyamin Appelbaum, a reporter in Washington who has covered the economy for nine years, has joined the NYTimes editorial board as its lead writer on business and economics.
Josh London has joined the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) as its Director of Government Affairs.
DESSERT — Grand Bakery now in the bagel business — by Alix Wall: “Last fall, Grand Bakery started making its own kosher bagels and holding pop-ups on occasional Sundays, when customers could come to the production facility in Oakland, California and buy a dozen bagels along with a shmear and lox. Earlier this month, the pop-ups became a regular thing, and now are being held on the first Sunday of the month… Jason Scott, who owned Authentic Bagel Company in Oakland’s Jack London Square for seven years, has come on board in a new partnership with Grand owner Sam Tobis. And he brought his bagel recipes with him. ‘It’s the new bagel brothers from different mothers. Red Sox vs. Yankees, Authentic keeps it rolling with Grand Bakery. Let the world know,’ Scott said.” [JWeekly]
BIRTHDAYS: Former president and CEO of Bear Stearns from 1985 until its demise in 2008, he is a renowned bridge player, James Cayne turns 85… Recently ranked as the 8th richest person in the US ($51.8 billion), former Chairman of Johns Hopkins University (1996-2002) and Mayor of NYC (2002-2013), Michael Bloomberg turns 77… Award-winning investigative journalist for The Washington Post and author, who together with Bob Woodward did much of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal, Carl Bernsteinturns 75… British businessman and founder of WPP plc, Sir Martin Stuart Sorrell turns 74… Former Borough President of Brooklyn (2002-2013) and New York State senator (1979-2001), Marty Markowitz turns 74… Chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, Stephen A. Schwarzman turns 72… Born in Lakewood, NJ, film producer and chairman and EVP of the NFL’s New York Giants, winner of a Golden Globe award, an Academy Award and two Super Bowl rings, Steven Elliot “Steve” Tisch turns 70… Host and co-executive producer of “Fresh Air” on WHYY-FM in Philadelphia since 1975, an interview program distributed throughout the United States by NPR, Terry Gross turns 68…
Sports executive and former All Star basketball player, she served as president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) for 6 years and SVP of the PGA Tour for 17 years, Donna Geils Orender turns 62… Board member at the Los Angeles Museum of The Holocaust, Paulette Nessim turns 59… Attorney, venture capitalist and executive chairman of Townsquare Media (owner of 310 radio stations), he was previously Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (2001-2003), Steven Price turns 57… Volleyball and beach volleyball star, she is the only Brazilian athlete in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Adriana Brandão Behar turns 50… Jewish hockey player selected in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft, he then played on four NHL teams and was also a player on the United States national team, Eric Nystrom turns 36… Financial advisor in the Boca Raton office of Morgan Stanley, Alan Feinberg Jr. turns 40… Co-founder of Run for Something, a PAC dedicated to helping progressive young people run for office, she was Hillary Clinton’s email director, Amanda Litman turns 29… Actress best known for her role as Charlotte on the CMT comedy television series Still the King, Madison Iseman turns 22…