Daily Kickoff: Gottheimer on Tlaib’s unprovoked attack | Pelosi praises Israel as one of greatest 20th century accomplishments | Sam Fox turns 90
DRIVING THE CONVO — Yesterday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) was targeted by the Intercept in a lengthy piece, knocking him for, among other things, his support for Israel, his role in the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus and willingness to interact with Republicans, and for a meeting he and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) held with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in February to discuss why Rep. Tlaib’s past antisemitic comments were hurtful. In January on Twitter, Rep. Tlaib had charged that pro-Israel members, “forgot what country they represent,” widely perceived as an accusation of dual-loyalty.
In the piece published yesterday, Rep. Tlaib alleged that during the February meeting, Gottheimer acted as “a bully,” who “had a goal of breaking me down.” Tlaib claims that Gottheimer brought along a binder of statements she made and “confus[ed] me with other colleagues.”
Rep. Luria, who was in this meeting, disputes Tlaib’s characterization. The meeting was a “cordial and professional interchange between all of us,” Rep. Luria tells Jewish Insider. “My recollection of the meeting is that we went into it with good intentions to try to build a personal relationship so that we could talk about these issues,” says Luria. “And the meeting was cordial. We did not agree on policy issues. I mean specifically on BDS, [but] I remember the meeting ending well. I don’t have any recollection of [Rep. Gottheimer] bullying or being rude or anything like that.” Luria recalls that Rep. Gottheimer “gave her a hug on the way out and said, ‘thanks for coming and [I] look forward to meeting with you again.’”
Rep. Gottheimer tells us, “Rep. Rashida Tlaib and I do not agree on everything. But we’re both Democrats, and all healthy political parties are host to a range of views. I have a very different recollection of the meeting she discussed in that piece. I recall Rep. Luria and me honestly explaining how hurtful it is to have your loyalty to America questioned and how, historically, that has harmed the well-being of the Jewish people — those whose loyalty was put into question in the first place. Rep. Elaine Luria and I held that meeting together, at the leadership’s request, in a good faith effort to bring unity and understanding in an increasingly upsetting situation. In it, we shared some of what we believed were antisemitic statements made by multiple members of Congress. We had what we believed, at the time, was a mutually productive conversation. I’m disappointed by the misleading way this attempt to bridge differences was characterized.”
Worth noting: It’s highly unusual for a member of Congress to launch an unprovoked attack against a member of their own party through the press. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined in on the seemingly coordinated campaign against Gottheimer tweeting yesterday, “What’s funny is that there are Dems that do act like the Tea Party – but they’re conservative.”
In another cheap shot against Gottheimer, the Intercept wrote, “This spring, he was one of just a handful of Democrats at a private retreat on Sea Island, Georgia, hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, mingling with Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other Republican heavyweights.”
According to a copy of the AEI schedule, Gottheimer spoke on a late Saturday afternoon panel alongside fellow Democratic Representative Tom Suozzi. Pence addressed the nonpartisan free-market conference on Saturday morning, Kushner on Thursday night and Pompeo on Friday afternoon. That Gottheimer ‘mingled’ with those Trump officials is inaccurate, but that didn’t stop AOC from further tweeting that Gottheimer went to “fundraise $ w/ Mike Pence.”[JewishInsider]
ICYMI — Late last month in Politico Magazine, Steven Perlberg published a deep dive titled “How the Intercept Is Fueling the Democratic Civil War.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a conversation with the Washington Post’s Robert Costa: “The establishment of the State of Israel is one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century. It was a political, official establishment of a country. It was so exciting. And so, Israel — we have shared values with our friend in the Middle East for a long time — our most serious friend in the Middle East, let me put it that way. So Israel’s security is very, very important to us.
“Many of us support a two state solution, that has a secure Jewish state and a state for the Palestinians to reach their fulfillment as well. What’s happening there is in some ways moving away from that. But again, a peaceful resolution of that is what members of Congress, by and large, would support. There are some who have said things that are not a reflection of our consensus, you know, and we had pointed that out. But again, Israel’s security is important to us. We think Israel security is further ensured by having a two state solution, and we don’t want to move away from that.”
Pelosi on the much-anticipated Trump peace plan: “We’ve been waiting for over a year. I was in Israel last year around Passover, Easter, and we were told that the president’s plan was imminent. That was in the end of March of last year. Now we are 13 months past there and we keep hearing that his proposal is imminent. Maybe it is, we’ll see. But again, we have to find a peaceful way to resolve the conflict.” [JewishInsider] Watch the full exchange here [CSPAN]
JERUSALEM EMBASSY FINALE — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has notified Congress that no more presidential national security waivers will be required to defer the full implementation of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. “In March 2019, in consultation with the Government of Israel, we established a chief of mission residence in Jerusalem,” Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday. “I have therefore determined that the US Embassy in Jerusalem, including the chief of mission residence, is officially open, consistent with the Act.”
DRIVING THE DAY — The Trump administration expanded the sanctions regime against Iran on Wednesday, targeting its iron, steel aluminum and copper sectors. The move came just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that he would begin to walk away from some restrictions under the 2015 nuclear deal. The new sanctions come with a 90-day wind-down period in which allied countries and businesses are given notices to stop engaging with Iran, senior administration officials said.
In a statement attached to the executive order, President Trump stated, “One year ago, I dramatically strengthened our national security by ceasing America’s participation in the horrible, one-sided Iran nuclear deal.”
During a campaign rally in Panama City Beach, Florida on Wednesday night, Trump said, “I hope at some point — maybe it won’t happen. It possibly won’t — to sit down and work out a fair deal. We are not looking to hurt anybody. We want a fair deal, we just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. That’s all we want.”
In a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in London, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called Iran’s threat to withdraw from the deal “unwelcome” and urged it not to take “further escalatory steps.” French Defense Minister Florence Parly added that “nothing would be worse than Iran leaving this deal.”
“We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT,” read a joint statement issued by the European Union and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany on Thursday.
Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, accused Iran of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” so that other countries will give Iran the economic benefits that the Iranians think they deserve. Hookmaintained that while the U.S. is “not looking for war with Iran,” any attackon U.S. interests or on U.S. allies in the region “will be met with force.”
Victoria Coates, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East, said on a media conference call, “The president’s guidance is to continue increasing this pressure… until Iran is compelled to negotiate on terms favorable to the U.S.” She added, “The president’s offers to meet with the Iranian regime are sincere.”
Menawhile, NBC reported this morning that the U.S. decision to surge additional military forces into the Middle East was based in part on intelligence that the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces and surrogates that they can now go after American military personnel and assets in the region.
Ambassador Dan Shapiro emails us: “The clear intention of the Trump administration has been to get Iran to withdraw from the deal. They may be about to get their wish. What has never been clear is what comes next. Trump talks about cutting deals, but has shown little appetite for actual diplomacy. But he has even less appetite for wars in the Middle East. So if Iran resumes its nuclear program in a significant way, options are going to be very limited. The U.S. giving Israel a green light to attack is by no means the least likely scenario.”
Dylan Williams, J Street’s director of government affairs, tells JI: “President Trump understands how quickly John Bolton is leading him toward a war of choice. The most important step Congress can take today is to make clear that the president does not have its authorization for the use of military force against Iran. Secondly, lawmakers and presidential candidates, in particular, can make clear that the best way to address Iran’s partial noncompliance with the agreement is for the United States itself to come back into compliance with the agreement and then build upon it through further negotiations. We’re very happy that most of the presidential contenders voiced support for the United States re-entering the agreement. We’re continuing to push the contenders who haven’t said so to say they will or make clear what their approach to the situation would be.”
Ankit Panda writes… “The Slow Death of the Iran Nuclear Deal: As far as the administration will be concerned, the “maximum pressure” campaign prosecuted against Iran over the past year worked—not because it was ever meant to bring Iran to the negotiating table to reach a new agreement, but because it got Iran to begin a unilateral move away from compliance with the JCPOA.” [TheAtlantic]
Eli Lake writes… “Don’t Give In to Iranian Blackmail: Despite the PR campaign from Iran’s foreign ministry, the evidence shows that threats and pressure work against the Islamic Republic… Slowly and surely, the maximum pressure is building. Instead of trying to relieve it, the Europeans should use that pressure to get a better nuclear bargain with Iran.” [Bloomberg]
Financial Times editorial… “Iran nuclear decision raises tension with U.S.: The deal is not yet dead… Tehran has thrown down the gauntlet to European powers to back their symbolic support for the deal with tangible action. Yet these governments have few options… They will not choose Iran over the U.S.” [FinancialTimes]
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Ben Caspit reports: “‘Everything now depends on Trump,” a senior Israeli official told Al-Monitor… Trump’s unstable disposition and tendency to quickly lose interest in matters that were once at the core of his policies raise concerns in Israel and overseas. So far, he provided everything that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to the letter and in force. But it all could be cast into oblivion if the Americans’ determination does not persist over the next few months. Netanyahu has aspired to this point his entire life. Now that he has reached it, someone else is in charge.” [Al-Monitor]
ON THE HILL – By JI’s Laura Kelly: Republican senators on Wednesday introduced a resolution marking the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, putting Congress on record opposing sanctions relief unless Iran meets key conditions.
“Iran’s ongoing nuclear misbehavior underscores why the United States was absolutely right to withdraw from the flawed deal,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), co-sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), another co-sponsor, called on European nations to join the U.S. in pressuring the Iranian regime in the face of the threats by the Islamic Republic to increase its uranium enrichment program. “Europe must not give in to Tehran’s nuclear blackmail as the ayatollahs threaten to renew their rush toward the bomb. The United Kingdom, Germany, and France ought to walk away from their financial backchannels with Iran and join the United States in imposing maximum pressure on the regime,” Sen. Cotton said in a statement.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) declared, “Congress must be briefed in full on any new actions Iran has taken to threaten the United States or its allies, why escalating steps are being taken and what responses from Iran are anticipated, what new strategy is being implemented, and what goals it hopes to achieve.”
Nearly $75 million in security assistance for synagogues and other houses of worship are being supported in the Homeland Security budget, a bipartisan group of Senators announced on Wednesday, in light of high-profile deadly attacks on the Chabad of Poway and Tree of Life synagogues.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) are among 33 Republicans and Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – looking to increase the coffers of the Non-Profit Security Grant Program, established in 2004 to provide non-profit organizations money to increase security measures to prevent violent attacks.
“We applaud a third of the Senate who are calling for increased funding for the nonprofit security grant program,” JFNA’s William Daroff said in a statement. “This program counters those threats by providing needed resources for target hardening, and the integration of nonprofit preparedness activities with broader state and local preparedness efforts.”
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of an effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining that National Security Advisor John Bolton wants to get him “into a war,” the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Despite Trump’s grumbling, Bolton’s job is safe, two senior administration officials said. At the same time, Trump appears to be more comfortable with the Iran policy Bolton is pursuing.
Former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who now serves as chairman of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), explained on Wednesday that the American public is not properly weighing costs when debating the military’s role in the Middle East and that long wars are manageable when waged alongside allies. He added that Americans should view the war in Afghanistan as essentially an “insurance policy” against what could happen in the country.
SCENE IN NEW YORK — A delegation of rabbis led by Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis met with New York Timespublisher A.G. Sulzberger and the newspaper’s editorial page editor James Bennet at the Times’s office in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday to discuss the recent antisemitic cartoon. “Everyone was very forthright, very frank about what they felt,” Potasnik said after the meeting. “I felt it was a healthy, honest exchange, and that’s what’s necessary.”
2020 WATCH — Joe Biden headlined the first Hollywood fundraisers of his 2020 campaign last night…Billionaire Reid Hoffman, one of the most powerful Democratic donors, is raising money for Cory Booker… Kamala Harris is trying to reset her campaign by taking on Trump… Beto O’Rourke hiredJeff Berman, the “unsung hero” of Obama’s first campaign.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Dealmaker Bernard Mourad, who left Morgan Stanley to become chairman of Patrick Drahi’s Altice Media Groups, says he’s owed $1.5 million in deferred pay [Bloomberg]• South African Tycoon Ivor Ichikowitz On Why Country’s Youth Are Disillusioned Ahead Of Elections [Forbes] • David Rubenstein is bullish on U.S.-China trade talks [Yahoo] • Bob Iger’s Disney put more than $400 million into Vice Media. Now it says that investment is worthless [Vox] • Why some Uber executives think Travis Kalanick is plotting a comeback [VanityFair]
MORE BRIEFS: Google employees demand Larry Page address walkout and retaliation [TechCrunch] • Aby Rosen selling 345 Park Avenue South to medical fund manager Deerfield [RealDeal] • Crescent Heights and Terra’s South Beach mixed-use project, by David Martin and Russell Galbut, wins partial design board approval [RealDeal] • For Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone, Insurance Is Next Big Push on Route to $1 Trillion Asset Goal [WSJ]
SPOTLIGHT — Justice Department charges Deep Dot Web administrators with money laundering — by Zack Whittaker: “U.S. prosecutors have formally brought charges against the alleged co-owners and administrators of Deep Dot Web, who were arrested Tuesday. Tal Prihar, 37, and Michael Phan, 34 — both Israeli citizens — were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering… Prihar, who resided in Brazil, was arrested by French police in Paris on Monday, while Phan was arrested by Israeli police in a simultaneous raid.” [TechCrunch]
HOLLYWOOD — MTV Enlists Sheila Nevins to Launch Documentary Films Unit — by Cynthia Littleton: “MTV has recruited renowned HBO alum Sheila Nevins to launch the MTV Documentary Films banner to operate as part of Viacom’s growing MTV Studios operation… Nevins, who left HBO in early 2018 after a storied 38-year run as documentary chief, will build a team to produce programming for MTV and affiliated Viacom outlets as well as for outside buyers.” [Variety]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Man accused of making threatening anti-Semitic calls to bagel shop — by Tim Swift: “A Miami man was arrested Tuesday after police said he made threatening phone calls to a Miami Beach bagel shop, targeting the business because its owners were Jewish… Rucinque made several calls on Monday to Bagel Time Cafe in the 3900 block of Alton Road. In one of the calls, Rucinque told the owner’s wife that he would ‘explode the Jewish community.’ After his arrest by the Miami Beach Police Department’s Intelligence Unit, Rucinque told officers that he sought out Jewish businesses by searching the internet for key words such as ‘Jews’ and ‘kosher.’ Rucinque works as an Uber driver.” [Local10]
Another Brazen Assault On A Jewish Man Caught On Video: “Another brazen assault on a Jewish man in Brooklyn has been caught on video. The hate crime comes as New York City is seeing a spike in anti-Semitic incidents. Officials are worried as each seems more violent than the last… Rachel Grinspan of the Anti-Defamation League says anti-Semitic attacks are not only becoming more common, but more violent.” [CBSNewYork]
DESSERT — The Wynwood Yard in Miami Closes Out Its Run With Dancing in the Rain — by Laine Doss: “Sunday afternoon, as thousands gathered at the Wynwood Yard to celebrate both its last day and Cinco de Mayo, a massive storm threatened to dampen the festivities. For about two hours, Wynwood was engulfed by a storm bearing howling winds and sideways rain. As lights flickered and the electricity started to give out, Yard founder Della Heiman managed a joke: ‘So it’s hailing. The last plague.’ Heiman was referring to last week’s New Times story, where she compared some of her experiences at the Yard to the ten plagues in the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus.” [MiamiNewTimes]
PODCAST REC — Jay’s 4 Questions features interviews by Jay Sanderson with a variety of Jewish leaders, media types, chefs, comedians, astronauts, rabbis, musicians and politicians. Sanderson, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, typically asks his guests about their ‘Jewish aha moment,’ the one question they would ask God, and rugelach or babka?[JewishLA]
BIRTHDAYS: Owner of St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries, investor in 200 companies in 40 industries, US Ambassador to Belgium (2007-2009), Sam Fox turns 90… Budapest-born philanthropist and social activist, she marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965, Eva Haller turns 89… Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter, James L. Brooks (family name was Bernstein) turns 79… Guitarist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock-pop-jazz group “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” Steve Katz turns 74… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he is a professor of structural biology at Stanford University and lives in both Israel and California, Michael Levitt turns 72…
Pianist, singer-songwriter, composer and one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, Billy Joel turns 70… Physician in Burlington, Vermont, she was the First Lady of Vermont from 1991 until 2003 when her husband (Howard Dean) was Governor, Judith Steinberg Dean turns 66… Principal of R&D holding entity Bitzerland and CEO of PlayMedia, Brian D. Litmanturns 65… Film director, film producer, playwright, author, marketing executive and arts philanthropist, Barry Avrich turns 56… DC-based, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich turns 54… Business executive and philanthropist, he is a co-managing partner of Bain Capital and owner of a minority interest in the Boston Celtics, Jonathan Lavine turns 53…
EVP of global public policy at Facebook, he was previously the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (2006-2009) and a law clerk for Justice Scalia (1999-2000), Joel D. Kaplan turns 50… Senior counsel in the political law practice at Perkins Coie LLP, Danielle Elizabeth Friedman turns 36… Co-founder and editor-at-large at Vox, he formerly wrote for and edited Wonkblog at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein turns 35…Senior manager of communications and public affairs at the International Franchise Association, Jenna Weisbord turns 31 (h/t Playbook)… Student at Harvard Business School, he was previously a real estate debt strategies associate at The Blackstone Group, Nathaniel Rosen turns 29… Fellow in the Public Interest Fellowship, Mikhael Smits turns 23…