👋 Good Wednesday morning!
All eyes on Mitch: There’s a greater than 50% chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will vote to convict President Donald Trump during an impeachment trial, according to Axios’s Mike Allen. The New York Times reported that McConnell has told associates he is pleased Democrats are moving to impeach Trump.
Starting the process: The House of Representatives voted last night 223-205 in favor of a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment — something Pence said he will not do. The House will reconvene at 9 a.m. today to vote on impeachment. More below.
Gary Gensler, a former financial regulator and Goldman Sachs executive, is said to be President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Biden inaugural committee is reportedly planning to refund a $500 donation from former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) after she registered as a foreign agent for a Chinese surveillance firm.
A special Jerusalem Municipality committee will reportedly convene today to approve two different sites in the city as potential future permanent locations for the U.S. Embassy.
Indiana insiders assess Pence’s post-Trump prospects
As more Republican lawmakers come out in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump for inciting a violent mob to storm the U.S. Capitol last week, Vice President Mike Pence has characteristically abstained from taking an active role in the debate. It remains to be seen how Pence will move forward with one week remaining until Joe Biden’s inauguration, but equally intriguing is what he has planned when he leaves office. Pence advisor Tom Rose deflected an email inquiry from Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel regarding the vice president’s future, offering that “perhaps we can communicate when all this is over.”
Pence unbound: Yet a number of Pence confidants from his home state of Indiana, where he served one term as governor before joining the current administration, tell JI that they are eager for the vice president to come out of the shadows and assert himself when Trump’s tempestuous term comes to an end. “He should take the bull by the horns and take the reins of the Republican Party,” Bernard Hasten, an Indianapolis businessman and pro-Israel activist who has known the vice president for decades, told JI. Hasten added his hope that Pence would make his own bid for the Oval Office as soon as possible. “He should run.”
Hoosier State loyalties: Pence has walked a delicate line over the past four years, positioning himself as the president’s dutiful servant. But their fragile relationship came apart at the seams last week, when Pence ignored Trump’s demand that he overturn the election results, prompting an accusatory tweet from the president as insurrectionists made their way into the Capitol. Forced to choose between Trump and Pence, the vice president’s Hoosier State allies are quick to make their loyalties known. “He did the right thing,” Bob Shuckit, Indiana council chair for AIPAC, said of Pence, a close acquaintance. “People respect him for what he ultimately did.”
Assessing the landscape: Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor emeritus at Indiana University who has known Pence for 30 years, believes Pence will slink away from public view for a time after he leaves office, and suggested any return to politics will likely depend on Trump’s standing within the GOP. “If the base remains so steady with Trump, then it’s going to be hard to see the oxygen for him to move forward,” said Michael Wolf, a political scientist at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A barometer of his appeal, Wolf argued, may become apparent during the upcoming midterms. “Is he going to be invited anywhere?” Wolf mused. “That, I think, will be the indicator of his future.”
Taking on Trump: For some Pence partisans, however, the vice president has already proven himself a worthy candidate for the White House. “He’ll advocate for good policies,” said Hasten, claiming to know “first hand” that Pence played a major role in moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — policies he supports. Hasten is hoping Pence will have the chance to enact his vision on a larger scale in 2024, even if Trump declares his candidacy as well. “He should challenge Donald Trump for the leadership of the Republican Party,” Hasten said of the vice president. “What is he going to lose?”
On the hill
Five Republicans break ranks to back impeaching Trump
The House of Representatives passed a resolution yesterday by a nearly party-line vote of 223-205 calling on Vice President Mike Pence to remove President Donald Trump from office via the 25th Amendment. With Pence vowing not to act on the resolution, the House is expected to vote on impeaching Trump today, with at least five Republicans backing the move, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod from Capitol Hill.
Breaking rank: Ahead of Wednesday’s impeachment vote, at least five House Republicans — Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Reps. John Katko (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Fred Upton (R-MI) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) — announced that they will join Democrats to vote in supporting impeachment. “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing,” said Cheney. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Direct threat: In a speech on the House floor, Katko said: “The president’s role in this insurrection is undeniable, both on social media on January 6 and in his speech that day. He deliberately promoted baseless theories, creating a combustible environment of misinformation and division,” he added. “To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequences is a direct threat to the future of this democracy.”
Different route: Another group of Trump-skeptical Republicans, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), John Curtis (R-UT) and Peter Meijer (R-MI), who were also joined by Upton, introduced a resolution to censure Trump. Fitzpatrick, who wrote the resolution, accused Trump of “attempting to unlawfully overturn the 2020 presidential election” and “violating his oath of office” in a statement. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has ruled out pursuing censure of Trump instead of impeachment.
Security standoff: On Tuesday afternoon, House Acting Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett instituted a new policy requiring all members to pass through metal detectors and a bag search before entering the House chamber. Multiple Republicans blew past the checkpoints entirely, ignoring Capitol Police officers, and several loudly ranted about the new restrictions. In a particularly notable confrontation, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who has been vocal about her desire to carry a gun on the House floor, initially tried to enter the House through a closed entrance, and subsequently refused to open her bag to officers after setting off the metal detector. After a standoff in the House entryway with officers who initially refused to let her proceed to the floor, Boebert was allowed to proceed without a bag search.
Sheldon Adelson’s death sparks tributes from a wide range of figures
Sheldon Adelson’s death yesterday at age 87 set off a wave of tributes and memorials from figures in both the U.S. and Israel acquainted with the hugely influential businessman, philanthropist and major Republican donor. The billionaire casino mogul had announced just last week that he was undergoing treatment again for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, for which he first sought treatment in early 2017.
Across oceans: Minutes after Adelson’s death was announced, Miriam Adelson released a tribute to her late husband, noting that they had both grown up on coasts — in Boston and Haifa. “Together we sailed across oceans, pushed back the Pearl River Delta to help develop Macao’s future, recreated the Venice lagoon canals in Las Vegas. To me, Sheldon had power and depth and mystery like the sea. His devotion lifted me up, like waves, through challenges both personal and professional. And now he is gone. The supporting waters have vanished heavenward. Only a vast, dry seabed remains. The loss is colossal. Farewell, my darling, my one true love. After gaining and giving so much, you have earned this rest.”
Presidential prose: A statement issued by the White House said that Adelson “tirelessly advocated for the relocation of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and its neighbors.” In his own statement, Vice President Mike Pence invoked a bible verse: “When Abner fell, King David said, ‘Do you not know that a leader and a great man has fallen in Israel this day?’ Sheldon Adelson was a leader and a great man, whose legacy will inspire generations for years to come.”
Silver State: Democrats in Nevada praised Adelson’s contributions to the state, with Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) citing his family’s decades-long commitment to addressing opioid abuse and support of the Jewish community in Nevada. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said that Adelson’s “efforts to combat addiction and substance abuse in the Silver State changed the lives of many” and that the two were able to find common ground on addressing antisemitism. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also paid tribute to Adelson, noting the Las Vegas Sands’ CEO’s contributions to Nevada’s economy.
View from Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of Adelson, remembered him as “an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the alliance between Israel and America.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Adelson’s “contribution to the State of Israel, global Jewry and Jewish continuity at large was significant and has left an indelible mark,” while Opposition Leader Yair Lapid praised his financial support of Yad Vashem, Birthright, and other ventures that “strengthened the heritage of the Jewish people.”
Zeldin weighs in: Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday that Adelson leaves behind a legacy of patriotism and philanthropy, as well as support for the Jewish state. “It was a lifetime of service to country in uniform, right to the end… I’ve seen him in so many different rooms where he was just so passionately all in on causes, wanting to do everything he can to help.” Zeldin added that Adelson had many admirers, but had “a special personal connection with so many he motivated… Whether he was meeting somebody for the first time or saying hello to an old friend, he was one of those rare humans where, when he’s on location greeting people, the line will quickly be 10, 20, 30 deep just for the opportunity to say hello.”
Unique introduction: Maniv Mobility founder Michael Granoff recalled meeting Adelson at an AIPAC event close to two decades ago. Adelson introduced himself as “Sheldon Adelson the Third,” Granoff tweeted. When Granoff appeared confused, Adelson said, “Buffett. Gates. Me. I’m the third richest person in the world!” Adelson “may have lacked humility, but he made up for it in generosity and whatever differences some of us may have occasionally had with his politics, the Jewish world does owe him a debt of gratitude for that,” Granoff wrote.
The former congressman who got a COVID-19 vaccine in Israel
Former Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL) was thrilled to receive a particularly hot-ticket item on Tuesday morning in Jerusalem: the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. “What’s going on in America versus here is so dramatic,” Deutsch told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro a few hours after he received his booster shot. “If I was living in America, I would be getting my vaccine in who knows when.”
Grounded: Since exiting Congress in 2005, Deutsch, 63, has split his time between Ra’anana and Florida. At least he did until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, grounding him in Israel for more than 10 months — his longest stint in one place for several decades. Deutsch, who is not an Israeli citizen, signed up with an Israeli HMO last year when he realized he would be in Israel longer than his standard 2-3 week visit. And when vaccine appointments opened up last month to citizens and residents over age 60 — he jumped at the chance. “We got an appointment — we actually drove to Jerusalem [from Ra’anana] because that was the next available appointment anywhere in the country.”
‘Messed up’: “I’m not a congressman anymore, I didn’t get any special treatment, I just got an efficient government that works — like America used to,” he said. “It highlights how messed up what’s going on in America is. It’s a plague on everyone’s house.” Deutsch added: “Americans are saying ‘hey it’s impossible’” to rapidly roll out the vaccine. “But it’s not impossible. It’s being done, really seamlessly” in Israel, he said. “The contrast is staggering. And it’s systemic and problematic on so many levels.”
Optimistic: Deutsch, who served as a Democrat in the House for a dozen years, told JI that he has not been in touch with the Biden transition team, but has close ties to many members of the president-elect’s team, including incoming chief of staff Ron Klain. “I am optimistic that, especially in terms of temperament, that [Biden] literally might be the right person at the right time for the country,” Deutsch said. But when it comes to the Middle East, Biden “has no bigger decision to make than how he’s going to interact with Iran,” said Deutsch, adding: “President Trump, for all of his faults, and clearly there are multiple, did some things that were significant, and hopefully they’re not going to be reversed.”
Bonus: Israel’s national pandemic coordinator predicted that children over age 12 in Israel could become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine within a few months, pending further research.
📝 History Lessons: Prominent GOP donor and former Republican Jewish Coalition chairman Sam Fox tells Haaretz’s Ben Samuels why he denounced his previous support for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) over Hawley’s efforts to challenge the election results. “Jews know all too well what happens when pluralistic democracy and the rule of law give way to mob rule.” [Haaretz]
📱 Twitter Diplomacy: Reuters reporters Stephen Farrell, Maha El Dahan, Lisa Barrington and Zainah El-Haroun spotlight a specialized team in the Israeli Foreign Ministry tasked with using social media to reach those in the Arab world “as part of a multi-pronged diplomatic effort to win over popular acceptance in the Middle East.” [Reuters]
😡 Hate Symbols: The Associated Press’s Elana Schor explores the prevalence of antisemitic symbols and signs seen at the Capitol riots last week, worrying but not surprising those who track such extremism. “When you see it in the nation’s capital, right in front of your face, it pierces the heart,” said Rabbi Jay Kornsgold. [AP]
🕵️ Deep Dive: An investigation by The Daily Beast revealed that dozens of fake news articles were published in 35 different Arabic news outlets over a period of close to two years, pushing “pro-Iranian narratives critical of the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia.” [DailyBeast]
Around the Web
💥 Taking Action: Overnight Israeli airstrikes on arms depots in Syria reportedly killed dozens of Iranian-linked operatives — and were carried out thanks to U.S. intelligence.
✈️ Low Flying: Lebanon plans to file a formal complaint with the United Nations over accusations that Israel routinely violates its airspace.
🗣️ Calling Out: The French Foreign Ministry called on Israel to halt a planned expansion of West Bank settlements.
🥡 No Delivery: French authorities are investigating complaints of antisemitism after a Deliveroo driver in Strasbourg refused to transport food from kosher restaurants.
💻 Word Choice: Microsoft’s GitHub is facing backlash for reportedly firing a Jewish employee after he warned coworkers that “Nazis are about” among the Capitol rioters last week.
👴🏻 Bernie’s Boost: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), poised to become chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is expected to pursue an aggressive progressive agenda.
🎙️ Podcast Playback: Jenny Kaplan, host of the podcast “Women belong in the House,” interviewed her mother, freshman Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), about what it was like to be inside the Capitol during the riot.
🧥 Shanda Fur: Aaron Mostofsky, who was photographed storming the Capitol last week in fur pelts, was arrested in New York yesterday on four federal charges. The Atlantic’s Luke Winkie noted: “It’s ironic that a white man would borrow an exoticized image of an aboriginal holy man while storming the Capitol to secure a Trumpian hegemony.”
🏢 Cutting Back: U.S. cyber security company McAfee will close its Tel Aviv office and lay off dozens of employees in an effort to cut costs.
📈 Hot Market: Max Levchin’s consumer lending company Affirm sold shares at a higher-than-expected range during its IPO that now values the company at $11.9 billion.
🚫 Not on Board: A Republican candidate for Staten Island borough president with a history of controversial tweets resigned from the board of the Staten Island Hebrew Public Charter School after video surfaced of her shouting “Heil Hitler” at a December protest.
📺 Cable controversy: On Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show last night, Glenn Beck compared social media companies banning Trump to Nazi ghettos. “This is like the Germans with the Jews behind the wall… this is the digital ghetto.”
🇦🇿🇦🇲 Peace Process: The governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to develop the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region after decades of tension culminated in a deadly conflict late last year.
🥯 Bringing Bagels Back: Tablet Magazine spotlights three efforts — The Vilnius Bagel Project, Beigelistai and Beigelių Krautuvėl — to bring bagels back to Lithuania.
✒️ Ink Blink: Brooklyn Beckham had the name of fiancee Nicola Peltz’s grandmother, who died last year, tattooed on the inside of his wrist as a tribute.
⚽ Sports Blink: Israeli soccer player Manor Solomon is reportedlybeing eyed by Arsenal for a possible offer this summer.
Song of the Day
Israeli singing legend Zehava Ben has released a new song, titled “Maybe in Another World,” ahead of her first album release in almost a decade.
Actress and producer, winner of 11 Emmy Awards, she is best known for “Saturday Night Live,” “Seinfeld” and “Veep,” Julia Louis-Dreyfusturns 60…
Marriage and family therapist in Bakersfield, Calif., Kathleen Chambers turns 75… Las Vegas resident, Cathy Nierenberg turns 74… NYC pediatrician at Carnegie Hill Pediatrics, Barry B. Stein, MD turns 64… Lifelong resident of the West Village, a two-time Emmy Award winner as a television producer, she worked for NBC Nightly News, Susanna Beth Aaron… President of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, she was the director of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships during the Obama administration, Cindy S. Moelis turns 60… Kaileh Lynn Pistol turns 60… Board member of the Federal Reserve of New York, a MacArthur fellow in 1999, Sara Horowitz turns 58… Author, journalist and a Conservative member of the Senate of Canada since 2009, she was co-chair of the 2018 campaign for the UJA of Greater Toronto, Linda Frum turns 58… Partner at King & Spalding, he served as deputy attorney general of the U.S. following 12 years as U.S. attorney for Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein turns 56…
Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel since 2013, Rabbi David Baruch Lauturns 55… Bruce Maclver turns 55… Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he works on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, Kenneth M. Pollack turns 55… Former North America director at the Israel Forever Foundation, Heidi Krizer Daroff… Statistician and writer who analyzes baseball and elections, he is the editor-in-chief of ABC News’s FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver turns 43… Former VP of donor relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, now an M.A. candidate at Pepperdine, Shira Berenson Feinstein turns 35… Director of communications at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Carly Freedman Schlafer turns 30… Publishing assistant to the president of Random House, Remy Bohrer… Lucia Meyerson… Rebecca Seider… Sandra Shapiro… German Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier mix, Jersey Brown turns 15…