👋 Good Thursday morning!
The House of Representatives voted 232-197 yesterday to impeach President Donald Trump, making him the first president to be impeached more than once. More below.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has launched a new PAC, titled Stand for America, fueling expectations that she will run for president in 2024.
In a letter obtained by Jewish Insider, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote to President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday calling on “all federal departments and agencies” to consider adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
In addition to the Conference of Presidents leadership, the letter to Biden was signed by the heads of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah and the Orthodox Union.
Several progressive Jewish groups including J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now issued their own statement yesterday opposing enshrining the IHRA working definition into law.
The statement, issued by the Progressive Israel Network, claims that the working definition “risks wrongly equating what may be legitimate activities with antisemitism,” and urges Biden “to reject facile, oversimplified doctrines.”
Several of the groups that signed on to the statement, including Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Labor Committee, are member organizations of the Conference of Presidents.
Back in power
Biden taps Samantha Power to lead USAID
President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, a decision he announced on Wednesday, is in some ways an unusual choice. Power, a well-known former ambassador to the United Nations, humanitarian activist and foreign policy expert, will be tasked with running a low-profile, nonpartisan agency whose basic goals include administering assistance to developing countries. “She won’t be making policy,” Martin Peretz, the former owner of The New Republic who published Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning first book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, in 2002, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “There is no ideological content to her job.”
Quick study: But throughout her protean career in journalism, academia and politics, Power has often demonstrated a facility for adaptation — as well as an ability to lend urgency to whatever role she occupies. Power’s strong views in favor of humanitarian intervention earned her a job with Barack Obama when he was still the junior senator from Illinois, after which she crossed over into the White House as the former president’s senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security Council. Between 2013 and 2017, Power served as Obama’s ambassador to the U.N.
Uphill battle: Still, the 50-year-old Power “has her work cut out for her,” according to a former high-ranking USAID official who served in the Trump administration and asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely. The agency has foundered under Trump, the official told JI, citing a lack of capable leadership as well as the administration’s recent order freezing billions of dollars in foreign aid, which has hamstrung USAID’s efforts in the final months of the president’s term. “She’ll have to do a lot of clean-up,” the official said.
Approach to Israel: Jessica Trisko Darden, an assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service, said that Power’s appointment suggests that human rights “will be a key area of foreign policy focus” for the Biden administration. But she added that “Power’s nomination is likely to be challenged by supporters of Israel who were alienated” by her role five years ago as U.N. ambassador in abstaining from voting on a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That Power didn’t veto the resolution was considered a strong rebuke toward Israel.
Allies speak up: Power’s allies in the pro-Israel community say her record is solid. “She has a deep understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer, who worked for Power as a senior policy advisor focusing on Israeli-Palestinian issues, among other matters, when Power was at the U.N. Abe Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League and a friend of Power’s, was enthusiastic about Biden’s pick. “SP will bring to USAID not only great experience, smarts and wisdom but also neshoma — heart and soul — in addressing humanitarian needs and crises,” he told JI via email. “She will ably advance America’s interests globally with a clear sense of moral conscience. She literally put Yom Kippur on the U.N. calendar.”
House impeaches Trump for a second time in bipartisan vote
The House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump by a vote of 232 to 197 on Wednesday afternoon, accusing him of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Ten Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats in what was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in U.S. history, as well as the first time a president has been impeached twice, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod from Capitol Hill.
Historic moment: “This is one of those votes that transcends any kind of political implications at the moment. This is one of those [votes] that you’re going to look back at when you’re 80 and this will be the one you talk about,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who voted in favor of impeachment yesterday, told reporters. “I don’t know what the future is, I don’t know what that means for me politically, but I know I’m at real peace right now.”
Safety concerns: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), one of the authors of the article of impeachment and a House impeachment manager, said before Wednesday’s vote that “several” Republicans expressed concern for their and their families’ safety if they voted to impeach. But several Republicans who have distanced themselves from Trump in recent weeks, including freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), defended their “no” votes on impeachment by arguing that the process had moved too quickly. “What we’re doing now is setting an unconstitutional precedent that there is no due process, no matter how guilty you believe somebody is,” Mace said.
To the Senate: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Wednesday there “is simply no chance” that Trump’s trial will wrap up before the president leaves office and Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. McConnell said Wednesday that he had yet to decide if he will vote to convict Trump — a distinctly different posture than he took on the previous impeachment proceedings.
Ritchie Torres revives permanent Capitol fence plan
Freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) revived the Capitol Gateway Plan, a previously rejected security proposal to encircle the entire Capitol grounds with a permanent secure fence, as a House bill yesterday. Torres formulated the proposal — which comes in response to the January 6 riot at the Capitol — after reading a Jewish Insider interview the following day with former Senate Sergeant-at Arms Terry Gainer, who spearheaded the Capitol Gateway Plan in 2013, the New York congressman told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Low security: “Compared to the White House, which has long been heavily guarded and enclosed, the security of the Capitol has long been an afterthought for federal law enforcement,” said Torres. “Congress is a co-equal branch of government. And we should strive to make the Capitol every bit as secure as the White House itself.” The original Capitol Gateway Plan was rejected because it was too expensive and lawmakers worried about enhancing perceptions of a security state.
Sign of the times: Torres described the Capitol’s traditional prioritization of public access as a “romantic vision” which is “longer defensible in a world of violent white supremacy, at a time when there are known attempts by white supremacists to assassinate members of Congress.” While the congressman said he wanted to preserve some public access, he argued “the status quo is untenable and so is the complete absence of a permanent barrier on the perimeter of the Capitol.”
More needed: The Capitol was flooded yesterday with hundreds of additional national guard troops, now armed and wearing body armor and helmets. But “personnel can only bring you so far,” Torres insisted. “If you have a mob of thousands and thousands of insurrectionists descending on the Capitol, what is required is not simply more manpower, what’s required is a security fence that prevents an invasion.”
Bonus: After numerous House Republicans spent two days evading the newly erected metal detectors outside the House chamber, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that members who refused to comply would face a $5,000 fine, rising to $10,000 for future offenses.
Barbara Leaf could play a key role in Biden’s Middle East policy
Barbara Leaf, who will reportedly join President-elect Joe Biden’s Middle East team at the National Security Council, believes the new administration will look to repair relations with the Palestinians in the wake of the historic Abraham Accords, which normalized ties between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Low expectations: Leaf, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the U.S. ambassador to the UAE from 2014-2018, has tempered her optimism for progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during the Biden administration. In late November, she explained to JMORE, a Jewish publication in Baltimore, “The Biden administration is not intending to launch into any kind of full-scale engagement on a peace process but will look to knit up relations with the Palestinian community and its leadership.”
Credit due: Leaf has also downplayed the larger implications of the Abraham Accords, arguing that the Trump administration does not deserve much credit for brokering the deal. She explained to JMORE that she believes the UAE-Israel peace talks were motivated by the then-upcoming U.S. presidential election, rather than the Trump administration’s broader Middle East policy.
Slow down: In an October talk with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Leaf encouraged the next administration to take its time in addressing rapprochement with Iran. “Let them just sit and think about where Washington will end up,” she said of Iranian leaders. “Consult deeply and thoroughly with those countries… who feel themselves very much on the front lines of Iran’s disruptive behavior, and think through a process that is not wholly interlocking,” she said. “You’ve got to have Tehran understand that it doesn’t just go back to the [2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], [that] all’s forgiven.”
🇮🇱 Living Legacy: New Yorker contributor Ruth Margalit explores the legacy that Trump leaves behind in Israel, where “parallels between Trumpism and what’s known in Israel as Bibism are unmistakable: an outward contempt for — and inward obsession with — the media; a disdain for cultural élites and elements of a so-called deep state.” [NewYorker]
🇮🇳 Preserving History: In Vice, Arathi Menon highlights the “Jew Town” neighborhood in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where one Muslim man is looking to turn a former home into a museum to “not just preserve traces of history but also serve as an educational tool,” as the town’s Jewish population dwindles. [Vice]
📰 Media Watch: In The Atlantic, Simon van Zuylen-Wood takes a closer look at The Epoch Times, the mysterious and suddenly ubiquitous pro-Trump newspaper founded in 2000 by a follower of the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong. “Falun Gong came to see Trump as a kind of killer angel, summoned from heaven to smite the Chinese government. The Epoch Times ramped up its spending on Facebook ads and hitched its wagon to the 45th president.” [Atlantic]
🍯 Milk and Honey: In Reuters, Rami Ayyub and Lisa Barrington spotlight how several companies based in Israeli settlements are working to export their products to the United Arab Emirates — despite strong objections from Palestinians. The UAE declined to say if it would place special labels on settler goods. [Reuters]
Around the Web
🚦 Green Light: Jerusalem authorities granted preliminary approval yesterday to a site for a new permanent U.S. Embassy in the capital.
🛑 Boycott: Hamas forces in Gaza are barring patients from visiting a field hospital operated by a U.S. charity in response to allegedly insufficient services.
🤝 Joining Forces: Former Israeli Consul General to New York Dani Dayan has joined Gideon Sa’ar’s “New Hope” Party ahead of the March national election.
⚠️ Warning: The International Atomic Energy Agency told the U.N. Security Council this week that Iran is continuing to flaunt its noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
🏭 Ramping Up: Iran is building an assembly line to manufacture equipment that it says it will use to create uranium metal, which can be used as the core of atomic weapons.
☢️ Getting in Position: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering appointing a special envoy to handle the Biden administration’s push to reenter the Iran deal.
🖼️ Rightful Heir: A 19th-century painting by Carl Spitzweg, which was looted from its Jewish owner in 1939, became the last piece of art returned to heirs from a extensive trove discovered in 2012.
👮 Apprehended: The man photographed at the Capitol riot wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt was arrested Wednesday morning in Newport News, Va.
🚓 Gotcha: Police have apprehended an individual who vandalized one of Montreal’s largest synagogues with antisemitic graffiti yesterday.
🤳 Hate Speech: Amazon accused social media site Parler of being systematically unwilling to remove violent content, “including calls to hang, shoot or kill Black and Jewish people.”
💰 Hedging Bets: Jim Simons’s Renaissance Technologies’ exclusive Medallion Fund surged 76% in 2020, while its other funds, available to outsiders, racked up major losses last year.
💾 Switch Up: VMWare chief Pat Gelsinger will replace Bob Swan as the CEO of Intel, after Third Point’s Daniel Loeb called for sweeping changes at the company.
🎓 Campus Beat: A teaching assistant at Johns Hopkins University is under investigation after she suggested that she would lower the grades of pro-Israel students in her classes.
🏈 Sports Blink: New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman hinted that he may be retiring or moving to another team in a vague tweet appearing to say goodbye to Patriots fans.
🎭 Curtain Call: The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s production of Soul to Soul, which explores the connection between African-American and Jewish music, will be streamed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
💉 Immunity: Renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, 92, received the COVID-19 vaccination in New York yesterday.
🕯️ Remembering: Barbara Weisberger, the founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet, died at 94.
Washington Nationals baseball fan known as Rubber Chicken Man, he waves a rubber chicken over the Nationals dugout and is one of the few fans for whom Topps has issued a baseball card, Hugh Kaufman turns 78…
Chairman emeritus of the publicly traded Empire State Realty Trust, he is the father-in-law of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter L. Malkin turns 87… Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for NPR since 1975, focusing primarily on the U.S. Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg turns 77… Screenwriter, director and producer, best known as co-writer of the films “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi,” Lawrence Kasdan turns 72… Orthopedic surgeon, inventor and philanthropist, he sold his medical patents to Medtronic in 2005 for $1.35 billion, Gary K. Michelson, M.D. turns 72… Painter, editor, writer and book artist, she taught art reviewing and criticism at the University of Pennsylvania, Susan Beeturns 69… Shaul Saulisbury turns 63…
President of the Sprint Foundation and Sprint’s 1Million Project Foundation, Doug Michelman turns 62… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, she holds a Ph.D. in criminology, Anat Berko turns 61… Professor at Brooklyn College and the media columnist for The Nation, Eric Alterman turns 61… Founding member and co-managing partner of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, Michael L. Tuchin turns 56… Actress best known for her movie roles in the late 1980s in “The Goonies” and “Lucas,” Kerri Lee Green turns 54… Staff writer at The New Yorkerand a CNN global affairs analyst, Susan B. Glasser turns 52… Venture capitalist and brother of Michael Dell, one of his start-ups was acquired by Goldman Sachs in 2018 where he is now a partner, Adam R. Dell turns 51… Movie and television producer and co-founder of Electric City Entertainment, Jamie Patricof turns 45… Sales associate in the Montclair, NJ office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, David Frey turns 42… Associate attorney in the Toronto law firm of Zarek Taylor Grossman Hanrahan, Aryeh Samuel… Barbara Singer-Meis… Marty Zack…