Daily Kickoff

Trump squares off vs. Squad using ‘Israel’ and ‘Jews’ | Interview with congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis | Tony Ressler, Matthew Bronfman turn 60

From left, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and President Donald Trump sit together during a meeting with Caribbean leaders at Mar-A Lago, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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DRIVING THE CONVO — President Donald Trump faced a wave of fierce condemnation from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as Jewish community leaders, for comments he made on Sunday about progressive Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was reportedly moving ahead with plans to vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s remarks as early as today. In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi said Trump “went beyond his own low standards using disgraceful language” on Sunday. Text of the resolution states that “President Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined the critics, calling Trump’s comments “destructive” and “spiteful.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged Trump to avoid personal attacks. 

Holding a press conference on Capitol Hill on Monday, the four congresswomen declared that it is “time for us to impeach this president.” 

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “While ADL has publicly disagreed with these congresswomen on some issues, the president is echoing the racist talking points of white nationalists and cynically using the Jewish people and the State of Israel as a shield to double down on his remarks. Politicizing the widespread, bipartisan support for Israel and throwing around accusations of antisemitism is damaging to the security of Israel and the Jewish community.” 

Abe Foxman tells JI, “There is no way to explain or rationalize President Trump’s comments. It is classic xenophobic, bigoted, and racist remarks directed at immigrants to our country since the days of the Pilgrims. The president’s use of that phrase only continues to tarnish his presidency as he did with his Charlottesville comments. He can repair it, but I fear he won’t. It will continue to legitimize prejudice in our country.” Foxman added that he’s “additionally troubled” by the president’s “efforts to drag Israel into his political fight.” 

The American Jewish Committee tweeted“Our nation was built by people who hailed from every corner of the globe and we are enriched by our diversity to this day. Surely we can have policy debates in this country without resorting to potshots at our opponents’ identities or origins.”

Haile Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, writes… “American Jews don’t want to be Trump’s political pawns: Many Jewish Americans reject the president’s transparent attempt to divert the country’s attention from his own moral failings, just as we reject his attempts to politicize Israel and the rise of antisemitism. The president should recognize that Jews see his 280-characters of hate for what they are — an utter lack of character on his part and a betrayal of the values that truly make America great. Jews have experienced the devastating consequences of hatred and intolerance throughout history and do not want to be used as political pawns in Trump’s Twitter feed.” [CNN]

But the president did not back down. During a White House event on Monday, Trump said he’s not moved by his critics, “because many people agree with me.” He added: “If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, you can leave. You can leave right now.”

He further defended his comments, explaining that Omar had said “horrible things about Israel… Hates Israel. Hates Jews. Hates Jews. It’s very simple.” 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the president during a press briefing at the White House. “I don’t find them racist,” he said of the tweets. “The president just went on and clarified his comments. I think he speaks for himself on that.”

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — Palestinians in the West Bank denouncedTrump’s attacks on their ‘hometown hero,’ Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Ibrahim Milhim, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, said that the president’s Sunday statement is “an insult to the Statue of Liberty, America’s most famous symbol, an insult to the American values where migrants from all over the world are united as one nation under one law.”

Speaking to The Washington Post, Bassam Tlaib, an uncle of the Michigan congresswoman, described Trump’s comments as “racist,” and meant “to target Rashida because she has Palestinian roots.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Elan Carr, the State Department’s special envoy on antisemitism, addressed a conference on antisemitism hosted by the Justice Department at the Great Hall in Washington, D.C. [CSPAN]

HIGHLIGHTS — Barr touched on the political debate during his remarks: “A body politic must have an immune system that resists antisemitism and other forms of racial hatred. My concern today is that under the banner of identity politics, some political factions are seeking to obtain power by dividing Americans, and they undermine the values that draw us together, such as a shared commitment to our country’s success.”

DeVos: “One of the most pernicious and prevalent examples of antisemitism on campus is the campaign known as BDS. These campus bullies claim they stand for human rights, but we all know BDS stands for antisemitism… Israel has a committed friend in the White House and Israel has friends at the U.S. Department of Education.”

JI INTERVIEW — Nicole Malliotakis, a New York State assemblywoman and a 2020 congressional candidate, spoke to JI’s Amy Spiro on Monday while visiting Israel. “This is my first trip to Israel, I’m here for a historical perspective, but also for current events, to see things first hand,” Malliotakis told Jewish Insider. 

Malliotakis recently announced a bid to challenge Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) in the 2020 elections. On Monday, her campaign announced that she raised $250,000 in the last quarter.

The Republican lawmaker criticized Rose, the freshman Democrat she hopes to unseat, for not condemning Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on concentration camps and for supporting Omar remaining on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Now more than ever, we need elected officials at the city, state and federal level who will strongly condemn those in our government expressing antisemitic and anti-American sentiments, not turn a blind eye to it,” she said. [JewishInsider]

Rep. Rose sent Jewish Insider the following statement: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times more: As a Jewish-American, I disagree with politicians invoking the Holocaust in any capacity. I also find it disgusting that while in Israel, rather than learning about the real dangers of antisemitism that Jews face around the world, Nicole would play politics with someone else’s faith. She should realize how offensive it is to try and lecture me about my responsibilities as a Jewish person… Plain and simple, Nicole Malliotakis is not fit to serve in Congress… I don’t have time for her using the Jewish people as some kind of prop for her political campaign and neither do the people in my district.”

IRAN WATCH — European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday that Iran’s breaches of the nuclear deal are not yet significant enough to take action. “Technically all the steps that have been taken, and that we regret have been taken, are reversible,” Mogherini said at a press conference in Brussels, following a meeting of EU foreign ministers. “We invite Iran to reverse the steps and go back to full compliance.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement Monday that Mogherini’s statement “reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s. Then, too, there were those who stuck their head in the sand and did not see the approaching danger. It seems there are those in Europe who will not wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles land on European soil. But then it will be too late, of course.” 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — who is in New York — told NBC’s Lester Holt on Monday that while he does not believe President Donald Trump wants war, he believes “there are people around him who wouldn’t mind.” Zarif added that the Iranian regime “will not take a military attack lightly.” But Zarif signaled a willingness to negotiate with the Trump administration if the new sanctions are lifted. “Once those sanctions are lifted, then… the room for negotiation is wide open,” Zarif said.

Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “I happen to think that a military option might not succeed anyway. Sanctions are what’s been basically driving the Iranians crazy, and tightening them up even more is probably the right way to go. The Europeans are desperate because they’re terrified that the Iranians are going ahead with their nuclear program and they’re still locked into the old JCPOA. Right now, the Europeans are making it easier for the Iranians to get around our sanctions… And we need to be sure that they can’t do it. I don’t think sanctions will bring down the ayatollah, but it could bring them to their senses and force them back to the negotiating table.” 

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Several bills related to Israel will move through the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with a markup announced for Wednesday. One of the bills scheduled for debate is H.R. 1837, Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D-FL) legislation codifying the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Also slated for debate are Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-IL) resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; a resolution by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), which puts Congress on record as supporting the two-state solution; Rep. Brian Mast’s (R-FL) bipartisan legislation calling for sanctions on foreign groups that provide support for Palestinian terrorism; and a resolution authored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), supporting Arab and Muslim-majority countries for working toward normalization with Israel.

Lowenthal’s bill, H.Res. 326, recently gained the support of House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), bringing the total number of Democratic co-sponsors to 144. Yet Republicans are unlikely to join the effort, with one GOP source saying the bill is “one-sided,” referencing “occupation” and “settlement activity” as red flags for Republicans, and that the resolution doesn’t call for Palestinians to enter direct negotiations with Israel. 

NEXT GEN — Matt Lieberman, the son of former Senator Joe Lieberman, is considering a run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Monday. Lieberman is reportedly “fed up” with the Republican incumbent, Sen. David Perdue. 

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — Washington Governor Jay Inslee indicated an openness to moving the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. In response to a follow up from JI’s Ben Jacobs on Saturday about relocating the embassy, Inslee said, “I don’t have an answer to that.” He added: “I will do whatever is necessary to keep the possibility alive for a two-state solution and I believe that is the ultimate goal, along with the preservation for the security of a democratic Israel. I will pursue whatever is appropriate to those goals.” [JewishInsider]

2020 BRIEFS — Joe Biden’s cancer non-profit suspended its operations indefinitely… Biden leans on maximum donors to fund 2020 campaign… Money gap among Democrats grows as Jay Inslee, Julian Castro and Kirsten Gillibrand report small hauls… Beto O’Rourke’s fundraising falters… NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio raised just $1.1 million in the second quarter, mostlyfrom high-dollar donations… Pro-Booker super PAC raised $1.1 million in the first half of 2019… 

GOP mega-donors pour money into Trump campaign — by Alex Isenstadt: “Some of the high-dollar contributors are familiar to the president. The list of six-figure givers included several longtime Trump friends, including investor Howard Lorber, Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, and Las Vegas casino executive Phil Ruffin.” [Politico]

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak pushed back against attacks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party over his ties to accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in an interview with The Daily Beast. 

“The man who introduced me to Epstein about 17 years ago was Shimon Peres,” Barak said. He said that since then he met Epstein “more than 10 times and much less than a hundred times, but I can’t tell you exactly how many.” The former prime minister said he “never attended a party with him. I never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.” He said that he did once visit the convicted sex offender’s private Caribbean island “once, for several hours,” but not during a party. Barak once again refused to reveal the purpose of a $2.4 million grant he received in 2004 from the Wexner Foundation, while Epstein was a trustee, and said he did not know if Epstein had any connection to the payment. 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Epstein appeared once again in court on Monday in Manhattan, just several feet away from two women who accused him of sexual abuse when they were teenagers. Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild both testified on Monday before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who said he would rule on Thursday on Epstein’s bid for house arrest. 
Prosecutors argued that Epstein is a flight risk, and revealed Monday that FBI agents found “piles of cash,” dozens of diamonds and an expired foreign passport in the safe of his Manhattan townhouse. The passport was issued in the 1980s under a different name but with a photo of Epstein and a listed residence of Saudi Arabia.

L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner wrote in a memo to his employees on Monday that he wasn’t aware of Epstein’s alleged criminal behavior, the Wall Street Journal reports. “I would never have guessed that a person I employed more than a decade ago could have caused such pain to so many people,” Wexner wrote. “I would not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior as has been reported about him.”

** Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? 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: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming startup Quibi to create daily news show with NBC [WSJ• Car finance co Lendbuzz, founded in 2015 by Amitay Kalmar and Dan Raviv, raises $150 million [Globes] • Sheryl Sandberg to inaugurate Facebook’s new space in Tel Aviv [ToI• Bank Hapoalim appoints Dov Kotler CEO [Globes] • SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum to step down, serve as chairman [JPost] • Tel Aviv Stock Exchange launches initial public offering [Reuters]

HEARD AT FORTUNE BRAINSTORM TECH — ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt blasted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg for not removing a doctored video depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during an appearance at the annual Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado. 

Zuckerberg “refused to offer the kind of answer responsible people would expect… It’s ugly and it’s got to change,” Greenblatt said. “If you go to Shake Shack and yell ‘Die dirty Jew,’ they will throw you out.” He added: “It’s long overdue for Facebook, Google, and Twitter to take people spewing racism, antisemitism and hate and throw them out.” 

IN THE ARTS — Singer Pink defends her children running, celebrating at Holocaust Memorial — by Michael Rothman: “Ahead of any backlash she thought may be coming, Pink took to Instagram to pay tribute to her Jewish faith and explain why her kids were running at a Berlin memorial. ‘Berlin, I love you. #holocaustmemorial,’ she wrote, next to a series of pics of the singer and her family in Germany. She then addressed the opening pic that had her children, Willow and Jameson, running around the Holocaust Memorial. ‘For all of the comments; these two children are in actuality Jewish, as am I and the entirety of my mothers family,’ she wrote. ‘The very person who constructed this believed in children being children, and to me this is a celebration of life after death. Please keep your hatred and judgment to yourselves.’” [ABCNews]

TALK OF THE NATION — Jewish group plans D.C. protest to occupy ICE detention centers — by Rebecca Klar: “Never Again Action is planning a #ShutDownICE protest at 11:30 a.m. on the National Mall as the group continues to push for the government to close the border facilities that reports have shown to be overcrowded… Tuesday’s planned D.C. protest comes as the Trump administration has announced mass ICE raids to deport certain immigrants. The movement began after Serena Adlerstein, 25, posted on Facebook asking ‘What if young Jews occupied ICE detention centers and shut them down?’” [TheHillNBCNews]

A judge ruled a neo-Nazi blogger should pay $14 million to a woman targeted in a racist ‘troll storm’ — by Salvador Hernandez: “A federal judge ruled more than $14 million should be awarded to a woman who was barraged with antisemitic and threatening messages online after a neo-Nazi blogger instructed his followers to target her and her family with a ‘troll storm.’ The ruling was handed down Monday against Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist and publisher of the website The Daily Stormer.” [BuzzFeedNews]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Rendering reveals vision for Jewish Federation’s Midtown HQ revamp — by Sean Keenan: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s modest Midtown campus could be on track to undergo a substantial makeover. A new rendering published by the Atlanta Jewish Times shows one architect’s vision for the potential transformation of the organization’s headquarters… The building had once been likened to ‘an aircraft carrier, an enormous craft that requires time to pivot in the water.’ Under the leadership of JFGA CEO Eric Robbins, who came aboard in 2016, it seems that pivot is beginning to happen.” [CurbedAtlanta]

As Bauhaus marks 100 years, Tel Aviv’s White City stands tall — by Alexandra Vardi: “While many in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv start the weekend at a sidewalk cafe, there is a small group of visitors walking the streets in search of Bauhaus buildings. Practitioners of the minimalist architectural movement, founded in Germany a century ago, were among European Jews who fled to British-ruled Palestine when the Nazis took power. Today Tel Aviv is a leading repository of the modernist style that celebrates its 100th year in 2019. Bauhaus and its variations are prominent among the 4,000 buildings which make up what is known as Tel Aviv’s White City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.” [AFP]

Rediscovering a Jewish cultural legacy at ‘The Weimar Republic of Yiddishland’: “For 20 years, Yiddish Summer Weimar (YSW) has served to restore the vibrancy of Yiddish culture, and especially music, that was once a key part of European cultural life… ‘The Weimar Republic of Yiddishland’…celebrates a Yiddish creative heyday as secular Jewish culture peaked in Germany and Europe before Hitler rose to power. ‘Jewish artists were prominent in all fields of Weimar era culture, including literature, classical and popular music, theater, film, cabaret, fine arts and even modern dance,’ YSW festival director Alan Bern told DW.” [DW]

SCENE IN D.C. — At the National Conservatism Conference on Monday, Rabbi Menachem Zupnik kicked off the day’s plenary with a prayer. [Pic] • Rabbi Zupnick with Fox News host Tucker Carlson [Pic]

DESSERT — Pastrami Queen in Times Square is closing — by Michael Kaminer: “Just three months after a splashy opening, Midtown’s Pastrami Queen has gone to the big meat slicer in the sky… At the time, manager Jack Turner told the Forward that the new Pastrami Queen was ‘what I’d consider the only real kosher deli left in Midtown, where there used to be an abundance.’ … Now owned by Friedmans Restaurant Group, a Big Apple mini-conglomerate, Pastrami Queen still operates an Upper East Side restaurant.” [Forward]

BIRTHDAYS: Co-founder of both Apollo Global Management and Ares Management, owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Tony Ressler turns 60… Businessman and philanthropist, owner of interests in many Israeli firms including IKEA Israel, Israel Discount Bank and the Shufersal supermarket chain, Matthew Bronfman turns 60… Former State Department official under JFK and LBJ, later VP of Continental Airlines, and then Managing Editor of the NYTimesJames L. Greenfield turns 95… Former member of Knesset, winner of the Israel Prize, real estate developer and philanthropist, Stef Wertheimer turns 93… One of the three co-founders of Comcast Corporation, he served as its chief financial officer and vice chairman, Julian A. Brodskyturns 86… San Antonio-based financial advisor and real estate broker, Norman Lee Nonken turns 72…

World-renowned violinist, violist, and conductor, Pinchas Zukerman turns 71… Co-creator of the first-ever spreadsheet program (VisiCalc), he currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Alpha Software, Daniel Singer “Dan” Bricklin turns 68… Former high ranking civilian official in the Pentagon during the Bush 43 administration, now a senior fellow and director of the Center for National Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute, Douglas J. Feith turns 66… Senior Rabbi since 1997 at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, Rabbi Keith Stern turns 65… Immediate past chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and chair of United Israel Appeal, Cynthia D. Shapira turns 64… British solicitor advocate, known for his outspoken opposition to antisemitism, he represented Princess Diana in her divorce, he was chairman of The Jewish ChronicleAnthony Julius turns 63…

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter, Tony Kushner turns 63… Professor of psychology and philosophy at Tel Aviv University, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism at NYC’s John Jay College, columnist for HaaretzCarlo Strenger turns 61… President of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group (2004-2017), he is now an advisor at Quibi, Doug Herzog turns 60… Canadian journalist working for CNN International and La Presse, he is an anchor and correspondent for CNN’s International Desk, Jonathan Mann turns 59… Chief of Staff of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Jim Rosenberg turns 52… Chicago based philanthropist, Victoria Rivka Zell turns 51… Former NFL offensive lineman who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1991-1995) and the Minnesota Vikings (1996), he is now a division manager at Premier Mortgage Group in Boulder, Colorado, Ariel Solomon turns 51…

Israeli former professional tennis player, noted for her fitting last name for a tennis player, in 2003 she was ranked 15th in the world, Anna Smashnovaturns 43… Founder of Pinkitzel, a cupcake cafe, candy boutique and gift store located in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Jonathan Jantz turns 41… Marketing and communications strategist at Los Angeles-based Meteorite Social Impact Advisors, former White House aide (2006-2009) and VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at Univision, Steven Max Levine turns 35… White House staff assistant and liaison to the Jewish community in the Bush 43 administration (2006-2009), now a senior director in the Atlanta office of Stord, Scott Raymond Arogeti turns 35… Partner at venture capital firm, Sinai Ventures, Eric Reiner turns 28… VP of strategy and operations for healthcare legal solutions at Guidepoint, Chantal Low Katz George Nahas

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