Good Wednesday morning!
Ed. note: Wishing all of you a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend. The next Daily Kickoff will arrive in your inbox on Monday morning.
President-elect Joe Bidenindicated yesterday that neither Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) nor Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will likely be appointed to a position in his Cabinet.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeocriticized several of Biden’s foreign policy appointments yesterday, saying they “lived in a bit of a fantasy world” and “led from behind” on Iran.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneisaid yesterday that Iran has little interest in returning to negotiations with Western nations over its nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly planning to visit Bahrain for the first time as early as next week.
Yesterday, Pompeo toldFox News that he expects more normalization announcements between Israel and Arab states: “Whether they’ll come in the next 30 days or 60 days or six months is difficult to know.”
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Jonathan Swan on migrating to the Biden beat
Jonathan Swan, the star national political correspondent at Axios, has built a reputation as one of the most deeply sourced reporters covering the White House. But for a brief period over the summer, his exasperated visage, captured in a combative TV interview with President Donald Trump, earned him a moment of international celebrity. Swan, 35, realized his face had unexpectedly become a social media sensation when friends from his native Australia messaged him in shock that his well-coiffed mug had hit their shores. “They’d realized I’d finally made it when Snoop Dogg Instagrammed me,” he said wryly in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “That was, I think, one of the things that really impressed my friends more than anything else.”
Scoop hound: Swan’s quizzical expression would not have gone viral at all if his aggressive line of questioning hadn’t so effectively exposed the president’s effort to deflect responsibility for his mishandling of an unprecedented national crisis. But Swan, a tireless Trumpologist, was well prepared for the task, thanks to his four years delivering a fusillade of scoops on such consequential matters as the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while providing readers with a fly-on-the-wall portrait of Trump’s mostly unstructured life in the White House.
‘He bedeviled me’: Swan’s reporting amounts to no less than a scrupulously detailed chronicle of the president’s time in office — one historians will surely appreciate, and which his colleagues in the field have had no choice but to reckon with as they’ve sought to keep up. “He bedeviled me,” Maggie Haberman, The New York Times’s White House correspondent and another uniquely sourced Trump whisperer, told JI, laughing with what sounded like a mix of awe and frustration. “There are many instances in which he has scooped me, which I think I’ve repressed the specifics of,” she said. “You just always have to watch out for him.”
Covering Trump: With just under two months until Inauguration Day, Swan remains on the prowl, averring that he has no intention of letting up in his reporting on the Trump administration before the clock strikes noon on January 20. At least for the moment, he is reluctant to reflect on Trump’s legacy, but from a procedural standpoint, he was willing to expound on his time covering the White House — a chaotic experience by any measure. “Things were sort of blurted out and leaked out and shaken out,” he recalled. “I used to laugh at some of the commentary you’d get from people who used to work in previous administrations — ‘Oh, this story was clearly the press shop.’ It’s like, give me a break. That’s not how this Trump White House worked.”
The Biden beat: As the Trump era comes to an end, Swan is making preparations to cover the incoming Biden administration. For the moment, he has found it more difficult to cultivate sources in Biden’s orbit relative to the current administration. With Trump, he said, there was “real-time leaking out of the Oval Office.” The Biden camp, by comparison, “is a very disciplined and very tight-knit group of people who actually have real information,” Swan observed. In taking stock of the Biden landscape, Swan believes his reporting will “require a different mindset and a different approach,” he said with some level of mystification. “There’s just not going to be as many people willing to talk in an unauthorized capacity.”
Shelter in Shabbat: Swan, who is Jewish, finds downtime with his family on Friday nights, when they sit down for Shabbat dinner. His wife, Betsy Woodruff Swan, who is not Jewish, has learned how to make challah for the occasion. “She’s very good at it,” Swan said. Otherwise, according to Swan, “you make your own weekends as a reporter.” He has little sympathy for journalists who complain about the notion that Trump has stolen their time and thrown their schedules into a state of flux. “There are plenty of people who have had it really tough in America over the last year,” Swan said. “I don’t put White House reporters at the top of the list.”
Jewish communal leaders, aides, pay tribute to David Dinkins
Former aides and close friends of former New York City Mayor David Dinkins recalled their early experiences and the late mayor’s support of Jewish causes in interviews with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, after the mayor’s death Monday night at age 93.
Background: Dinkins, who was the first African American to lead the city, was elected in 1989 after narrowly defeating Republican Rudy Giuliani, who would go on to unseat Dinkins four years later. The historic nature of his election was overshadowed by soaring violent crime and his response to the 1991 Crown Heights riot. Jewish leaders in Crown Heights accused Dinkins of restraining the police and allowing rioters to harm the Jewish community in the neighborhood. In 1993, Dinkins lost his reelection bid by a little over 40,000 votes; exit polls showed that Giuliani received close to 70% of the Jewish vote, including nearly 100% of the Orthodox Jewish community.
Support for Israel: In 1975, Dinkins formed a group of Black leaders who supported Israel in response to a U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism. Dinkins visited Israel three times during his political career, including twice as mayor, and once with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. During his run for mayor, Dinkins had a wing of the Efal Mishan-Histradrut Senior Citizens Home in Tel Aviv named in his honor. In 1991, during the First Gulf War, as Iraqi Scud missiles were fired at Tel Aviv, Dinkins briefly visited Israel to express his city’s solidarity. He returned to Israel during his reelection campaign in 1993 and met with Jerusalem’s iconic Mayor Teddy Kollek, who was facing his own tough reelection bid.
The whole picture: Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston who worked for Dinkins at City Hall in the early ‘90s, told JI that while Dinkins’s handling of the outbreak of violence in Crown Heights was “very much a central part of his leadership,” it is impossible to have a “fair accounting” of his mayorship without talking about his decades-long relationships and good deeds. “There’s a lot more to the story of David Dinkins and the Jews beyond Crown Heights,” Burton stressed.
Mensch alert: Herbert Block, the executive director of the American Zionist Movement who served as a close aide to Dinkins since he was elected borough president in 1985, described the late mayor as a “mensch.” Judith Rubin, former president and chairman of the 92nd Street Y, who served as commissioner for protocol in the Dinkins administration and remained a good friend of the mayor, called Dinkins “my mayor” and “a gentleman whose contributions to the city were significant and numerous.”
Turning a page: Despite his reelection disappointment, Dinkins kept up relations with the Jewish community. He continued attending local Jewish events and pro-Israel gatherings up until the coronavirus outbreak suspended in-person meetings earlier this year. Block, who served as Dinkins’s Jewish liaison, said the former mayor never blamed his election loss on the Jewish population and maintained immense respect for the community. “If he had anger or anything against the community, he wouldn’t have kept going to events,” he explained. “He never stopped loving the Jewish community,” Burton told JI. “He still very much loved his attachment to the Jewish community, he loved his relationship with the people in his life who were Jewish. He had great affection. This was not bitterness in the classic sense.”
How the finance world has come for TikTok influencers
The complex world of finance has invaded the Gen Z social media bubble of TikTok, according to a report by The New York Times’s Taylor Lorenz, Peter Eavis, and Matt Phillips, as investors turn an increasingly bullish attitude toward the influencer market, including taking it public.
Dealmaking: West of Hudson, a business which “operates a network of content houses where many prominent young influencers live,” is owned and run by New Jersey real estate magnate Amir Ben-Yohanan. In a complex maneuver this week, West of Hudson was acquired by Tongji Healthcare Group in a reverse takeover, “in which a private company (in this case, West of Hudson) is acquired by an already-public one (Tongji Healthcare) but ends up in control… before the reverse merger, Tongji itself was acquired by the investors who control West of Hudson.”
Tik Tok famous: “Influencer content houses often revolve around drama. Many last only a few months before internal conflict or a dispute between talent and management leads to their disintegration,” reports the Times. “Clubhouse, the primary influencer house in West of Hudson’s network, was co-founded in March by Mr. Ben-Yohanan, Christian J. Young and Daisy Keech, a social media influencer. Its first location, in Beverly Hills, has expanded into a network of influencer mansions including Clubhouse Next, Clubhouse for the Boys, Clubhouse Malta and Not a Content House.”
In the red: “In the first six months of the year, West of Hudson had revenue of nearly $96,000 but a loss of $983,000,” the newspaper revealed. “Mr. Ben-Yohanan, the company’s chief executive who controls 62 percent of the stock, according to a recent securities filing, provided it with a loan of just over $1 million. The company can draw nearly $4 million more from him, according to the filing, which also said Tongji may need to raise money in the markets to finance operations and grow.”
📝 Position Papers: In Foreign Policy, Steven A. Cook expounds on the “think tank land” that has already churned out dozens of op-eds during the transition period by people seeking to influence President-elect Joe Biden, which “warms the cockles of partisans’ hearts and generates lots of likes and retweets, but it serves little practical use.” [ForeignPolicy]
🏠 Stay Home:In The Spectator, British journalist Jonathan Sacerdoti offers up a “Jewish view on lifting lockdown for Christmas,” opining that, even as a Jew, “I can’t think of anything less in the spirit of Christmas than spreading disease and death to our families and beyond.” [Spectator]
🖥️ Media Watch:Tablet magazine’s Armin Rosen explores how The Drudge Report has undergone major changes in recent years, leading to wide speculation about its enigmatic founder Matt Drudge, including that he may have secretly departed the site. [Tablet]
Around the Web
✡️ Life Story: Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken publicly recounted the story yesterday of how his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, came to the U.S. after escaping the Holocaust. Blinken’s great-grandfather, Meir Blinken, was a Yiddish writer in the early 1900s.
🗳️ Nail Biter:The still-undecided congressional race between Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) and former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) in New York’s 22nd district has been delayed further due to a court injunction.
🏡 New Beginning:Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are planning their post-White House future, including a major addition to their residence at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, N.J.
💰 Startup Nation: Salesforce is investing more than $15 million in Israeli startup AppsFlyer, which has been valued at $2 billion. Israeli-founded insurance startup Hippo has secured a $350 million investment from Japanese insurance giant Mitsui Sumitomo.
💊 Admitting Fault: Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, pled guilty to its role in the opioid crisis as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement with the Justice Department.
🧑⚖️ Delayed Again: The evidentiary stage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has been delayed until February, though a plea hearing will be held in January.
🛬 Open Arms: Netanyahu told Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard yesterday that “we’re waiting for you” in Israel now that his U.S. parole restrictions have been lifted.
🤝 Behind the Scenes: According to Business Insider, U.S. officials reportedly arranged a meeting between the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia as a reward for Israel’s assasination of an Al Qaeda leader in Iran in August.
💥 Border Tension: Syria claimed Israel launched air strikes on southern Damascus overnight, in an area believed to be occupied by Iranian militants, killing eight.
📸 Under Fire:Egyptian celebrity Mohamed Ramadan sparked an uproar in his home country for posing for a photo with Israeli singer Omer Adam.
😷 Lip Service: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio brushed off questions about how the city failed to prevent a Hasidic wedding with thousands of attendees held earlier this month.
⚖️ Done Deal:Fox Newsreached a settlement with the family of former DNC staffer Seth Rich over network anchors’ repeated false claims that he was intentionally targeted as part of a plot targeting the DNC.
🗣️ Speaking Up: Actor George Clooney slammed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for accusing him of coordinating his criticism with billionaire activist George Soros.
⚠️ High Alert: A German government official warned that antisemitism has increased during the coronavirus pandemic and is common among anti-lockdown protesters.
🎥 Hollywood: Showtime is poised to sign a deal to adapt the Nathan Englander novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, into a TV series.
📺 Changing of the Guard: CNN’s Jerusalem correspondent, Oren Liebermann, will return to the U.S. to serve as the network’s Pentagon correspondent, and Tel Aviv-born Hadas Gold, a CNN media reporter now based in London, will replace Liebermann in Israel.
📰 Transition: Journalist Miriam Elder, who has worked for BuzzFeed News and The Guardian, has joinedVanity Fair as executive editor of VFHIVE.
👩 New Gig: Andrea Arbel has been named the next executive director of Keren Grinspoon Israel.
Pic of the Day
Yesterday, Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), a rumored candidate for NYC Mayor in 2021, met with Rev. Al Sharpton at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem, N.Y. to discuss the legacy of late Mayor David Dinkins.
Israeli fashion and wedding dress designer, frequently featured on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” reality TV show, Pnina Tornai turns 58…
Writer, lawyer, actor and economic commentator, including an Emmy Award-winning stint as a game show host, Ben Stein turns 76… Obstetrician and gynecologist, he is the immediate past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, Norman Ravski, MD turns 67… Beverly Hills commercial real estate investor, Albert Ahobim turns 67… Retired men’s college basketball coach with 615 career wins, he won coach of the year honors four times in two different conferences, Ben Braun turns 67… Director of the Chabad House in Johannesburg, Rabbi David Masinter turns 61… Recently retired senior research scientist at ExxonMobil and editor of Rav J.B. Soloveitchik’s commentary to the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur liturgies, Arnold Lustiger turns 67… Editor-in-chief at the Israel Hayom newspaper, he was previously Israel’s ambassador to Mauritania, Boaz Bismuth turns 56…
Actress, comedian, entertainer and past member of the Tel Aviv-Yafo city council, Orna Banai turns 54… U.S. special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, Elan Carr turns 53… Founder and former managing director at Beacon Global Strategies LLC, he was the deputy assistant secretary of state for strategic communications under Hillary Clinton, Philippe Reines turns 51… Attorney and former member of the Florida House of Representatives (2003-2011), Adam Hasner turns 51… Public relations and communications manager for the Union for Reform Judaism, Lauren Sueskind Theodore turns 50… Vice chair and commissioner at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Keith Sonderling turns 38… Managing editor at Jewish Insider, Melissa Weiss turns 34… Managing editor of VoteBeat, a pop-up newsroom covering election administration and voting, Kira Lerner turns 32… Bitcoin advocate and podcast host, Charles “Charlie” Shrem IV turns 31…