👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on Gen. Charles Q. Brown’s comments on the Abraham Accords during his confirmation hearing to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and interview the Baltimore Ravens’ new chief of staff, Adam Neuman. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Tom Friedman, Dick Gephardt and Marlena Spieler.
Speaking with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell in Vilnius, Lithuania, on the sidelines of a NATO summit, Secretary of State Tony Blinken addressed the recently disclosed FBI investigation into Iran envoy Rob Malley’s handling of classified documents regarding Iran, describing Malley as “someone who has dedicated his life, his career, to serving our country, and he’s done so admirably.”
Malley has been absent from briefings and meetings in recent months, as speculation mounted that he’d been sidelined. The Biden administration official said last month that he was on leave while his security clearance was being reviewed.
Blinken and Malley are longtime friends. In the mid-2000s, the two played indoor soccer together — along with former Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) — on a local JCC team. Years earlier, Malley and Blinken were classmates at the École Jeannine Manuel in Paris.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the State Department’s response to his inquiry about Malley as “absolutely unacceptable” and said he wants a classified briefing on the situation next week.
The State Department’s letter to McCaul offered no specific details on Malley’s status, saying the department was “not in a position to provide further documents or information related to this personnel-security clearance matter” and that it “is our intention and practice to provide the best available information we have to Congress and the public.”
As the campaign season approaches, this is the time when many lawmakers decide whether they’re running for reelection again.
One senator at the top of many retirement watch lists is Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), whose anti-Trump positioning has alienated many GOP activists within his own party. With former President Donald Trump as the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, the pathway for Romney to win renomination down-ballot is getting trickier.
Romney is already facing a serious primary challenge from Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, who said he raised a healthy $1 million since announcing his exploratory committee, and supplemented that total with $1.2 million of his own money. Romney only raised $111,000 in the first three months of the year, and hasn’t yet reported his latest fundraising totals.
Another centrist senator whose reelection plans are unclear: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is currently trailing in polls against his likely GOP challenger, Gov. Jim Justice.
Manchin has been courted as a presidential prospect by the third-party No Labels organization, seeking to find an alternative candidate to Trump and President Joe Biden for the general election. Manchin will reportedly be in New Hampshire next week for an event with the group, according to the Daily Mail.
name to know
Joint Chiefs nominee offers support for Abraham Accords, commitment to countering Iran
Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the nominee to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he would continue to support the Abraham Accords and efforts to counter Iran, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Brown, previously the Air Force chief of staff, is set to be the top military advisor to President Joe Biden and was the first Black chief of any military branch. He has spent significant time focused on the Middle East, including as the leader and deputy leader of the U.S. Air Force under Central Command.
Quotable: “I do see… greater cooperation between the nations in the Middle East. It’s something that we will have to continue to help support,” Brown said. “Part of that is ensuring that, as we do this, we’re also providing the capabilities to be able to support efforts to push back against Iranian aggression in all its forms…. We’ve got to continue to work hard with our partners in the region and give them the capabilities. And also working with them as well, because we’ve got to be part of the solution as… the United States and our military force.”
Priority: Brown added that growing shared concern among Middle East partners about Iran “provides us an opportunity to work more closely together in our collective efforts to deter the activities by Iran.” In written responses to the committee, Brown said he would “prioritize cooperation” with partners in the region “that results in their increased ability to deter and defend against Iranian aggression.” He called such partnerships crucial to the U.S.’ regional power, and noted that relying on such partners will be critical as the American foreign policy focus remains on China.
Read the full story here.
House Appropriations Committee proposes significant funding boost for antisemitism envoy
The House Appropriations Committee has proposed $2.5 million in funding for the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, a funding level that far exceeds both the White House’s request and a bipartisan funding request from lawmakers, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Details: The special envoy’s office was funded at $1.5 million in 2023. The proposal, laid out in an explanatory report written by the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, would increase that level by a full $1 million.
UNRWA Un-funded: The report includes provisions that are likely to be rejected in final budget negotiations between the House and Senate, such as cutting all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in addition to the U.N. regular budget and the U.N. Human Rights Council. The report does not include a specific funding topline for aid to the West Bank and Gaza. It additionally directs the State Department to designate a specific individual to review “a significant and representative selection” of UNRWA education materials and report to Congress on the contents. It requests a separate report on UNRWA’s vetting procedures to screen for supporters of terrorism, and its compliance with its neutrality and impartiality policies.
Targeting BDS: The Appropriations Committee report pushes for additional vetting procedures related to combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, to ensure that no U.S. assistance is provided to any individual or organization that “advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, the BDS movement.” It requests additional reporting to Congress on BDS efforts in both the public and private sectors and steps by the State Department to “discourage or end politically-motivated efforts to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel and Israeli entities.”
House to begin consideration of 2024 defense policy bill
The House will begin debate on Wednesday on the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act and some of the 1,500 amendments to the bill filed by lawmakers. Around 20 of the amendments set to be considered are germane to Israel and Iran policy, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Paving the way: Late Tuesday evening, the House Rules Committee took a procedural vote allowing the bill, and nearly 300 proposed amendments, to proceed to the House floor. However, further procedural steps will be needed before final passage of the bill, as Freedom Caucus-aligned conservatives spar with House leadership over whether to include hot-button social issues in the defense policy bill. Further amendments could be subsequently cleared for consideration.
On the floor: Amendments up for debate on the floor include a provision accelerating the delivery of KC-46 refueling aircraft to Israel, expediting training for Israeli pilots and positioning U.S.-owned KC-46s in Israel in the interim, as well as one providing the president authority to transfer retired U.S. tankers to Israel in case of an emergency.
returning to his roots
Big Ten Conference chief of staff Adam Neuman returns to his flock
For Adam Neuman, a rising star in professional sports management, the chance to work for the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL team he joined on Friday as chief of staff and special adviser to the president, represents a personally fulfilling return not only to his beloved native city but to a robust Jewish community that has long kept him centered — even from afar. “Being a Baltimorean has always been in the fabric of who I am, and I’ve learned a lot from the people who have raised me,” Neuman said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a certain grittiness, a certain toughness, a certain hospitality that exists in Baltimore.”
New York City living: For the past several years, Neuman, 33, has lived in New York City, logging hours at a white-shoe law firm before being snatched up by the Big Ten Conference, where he served as chief of staff for strategy and operations as well as deputy general counsel. In his time at the storied college sports conference, Neuman worked side by side with its influential commissioner, Kevin Warren, who won plaudits for brokering a multibillion-dollar TV deal that set a record for college athletics.
Up-and-comer: Thanks in large part to his assistance in such negotiations, Neuman was recently included in The Athletic’s inaugural “College Sports 40 Under 40” list — which applauded the up-and-comer as “a major player behind the scenes in one of the most powerful conferences in college sports.”
🇺🇸🇮🇱 Trouble in Paradise: In The New York Times, Tom Friedman opines that the U.S. is beginning to reassess its diplomatic approach to Israel due to the actions of the Netanyahu government. “If you want to get just a whiff of the tension between the U.S. and this Israeli cabinet, spearheaded by extremists, consider that hours after Biden mentioned to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria just how ‘extreme’ some of Netanyahu’s cabinet members were, one of the most extreme of them all, the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, told Biden to butt out — that ‘Israel is no longer another star in the American flag.’ Nice, eh? According to a 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Israel has received the most U.S. foreign assistance of any country in the world since World War II, at $146 billion, not adjusted for inflation. That’s quite an allowance and one that might have merited a little more respect for the U.S. president from Ben-Gvir, who in his youth was convicted of inciting racism against Arabs. There is a sense of shock today among U.S. diplomats who’ve been dealing with Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and a man of considerable smarts and political talent. They just find it hard to believe that Bibi would allow himself to be led around by the nose by people like Ben-Gvir, would be ready to risk Israel’s relations with America and with global investors and WOULD BE READY TO RISK A CIVIL WAR IN ISRAEL just to stay in power with a group of ciphers and ultranationalists.” [NYTimes]
👀 Oppo Era: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer takes a deep dive into a yearlong opposition research campaign against Peter Thiel. “On some level, the anti-Thiel campaign is at the vanguard of a few new political trends. The first is what you might call Oppo 2.0, a new era in which researchers — savvy with Instagram tags and pittance checks — are cosplaying as journalists and private investigators. At one point in February, a member of [Democratic political operative Peter] Bury’s team attempted to reach out to Ronan Farrow for advice on how to establish trust with a ‘victim.’ (Farrow did not respond to the message.) But the project has also exposed a subterranean tension within modern politics — how much is too much? Do the ends justify the means? Where do we draw the line anymore?” [Puck]
👴 Trump Tactics: Politico’s Natalie Allison deciphers former President Donald Trump’s approach to Iowa in his presidential bid as he snubs some institutions and Republican politicians. “In a more competitive presidential primary, not being on the debate stage or snubbing Gov. Kim Reynolds might matter more. But in this GOP contest, it’s a reflection of Trump’s dominance that he can dismiss them — so far, with seemingly no price to pay. ‘Part of the reason he’s five laps ahead is this how he deals with things,’ said Dave Carney, a Republican strategist based in New Hampshire. ‘He doesn’t play the traditional candidate card. He will not mow a single lawn in New Hampshire this summer — other candidates might.’ Trump sent shockwaves through Iowa GOP circles this week when he posted on social media seemingly attacking Reynolds — who has an 86 percent approval rating among Iowa Republicans — for not endorsing his presidential bid. Reynolds said she is staying neutral in the primary, but in recent months has appeared alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans currently vying for president, while keeping her distance from Trump.” [Politico]
📚 Truth Police: In USA Today, Judy Rakowsky questions whether the U.S. is in danger of following in the footsteps of other countries that have “memory laws” to control the way history is discussed. “In 2015, the right-wing Law and Justice Party came to power [in Poland], channeling desires for national pride and heroes. Three years later, the government implemented a law steeped in grievance over how Poland’s World War II history is described. The 2018 memory law forbids any expression describing complicity by Poland in the Holocaust….The United States does not seem removed from the politicization of memory. The final report released in 2021 of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission called for a ‘patriotic education’ and supported Donald Trump’s call for a new pro-American curriculum. The report drew sharp criticism from historians. But pitched battles over book bans and acceptable historical narratives taught in schools and universities still rage. [USAToday]
📽️ Casting Call: For CNN, pop culture historian Roy Schwartz reflects on the casting of David Corenswet, an actor whose father is Jewish, in the role of Superman in an upcoming film. “White-looking Ashkenazi Jews like me are about 65% of world Jewry (40% in Israel). Over 30% in the world are Mizrahi, Jews with darker skin from the Middle East and Northern Africa. Others are Sephardi, from Spain, Portugal and other Mediterranean and Balkan countries. Others yet come from Ethiopia, East Asia and elsewhere. American Jews also come from these varied backgrounds, but are consistently underrepresented in the media. Some identify by another race category in addition to or instead of their Jewishness. Since I look White, and in the US I’m often considered White, I enjoy the benefits of White privilege. Whatever obstacles I face in life, prejudice based on my appearance isn’t one of them. But I’m also secular, so I don’t wear Jewish signifiers like a yarmulke, and I don’t have curly hair or a big nose or some other stereotyped feature. Friends who are more visibly Jewish have almost all experienced antisemitic bigotry. So have I, at times when my Jewishness was more evident. We’re only White as long as we’re not obviously Jewish, at which point we’re seen as something else and treated differently. Like Superman and Kent, we’re both, but only one at a time.” [CNN]
Around the Web
🇮🇱 Hochstein in the Holy Land: Biden administration official Amos Hochstein met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi in Jerusalem to discuss efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as recent tensions along Israel’s border with Lebanon.
🗳️ Gephardt’s Gambit: Former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) intends to launch a new bipartisan group next week in an effort to thwart No Labels’ third-party presidential initiative.
🏃♀️ Maryland Moves: Hagerstown, Md., Mayor Tekesha Martinez filed to run for the Maryland congressional seat being vacated by Rep. David Trone (D-MD).
🐘 Jumping Ship: Georgia state Rep. Mesha Mainor, previously a Democrat, is switching parties, attributing the move to the GOP to disagreements with state Democrats over school vouchers and disciplining prosecutors.
🇦🇪 Travel Bug: Nearly one in 10 Israelis has visited the UAE since the Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
🤝 Multiplier Effect: Nearly three years after establishing diplomatic ties, representatives from a group of Arab countries and Israel met this week in Bahrain to brainstorm ideas about forming a regional free-trade alliance, The Circuit reports.
🇪🇹 Kidnapped in Ethiopia: An Israeli citizen was kidnapped in Ethiopia’s Gondar region, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, noting that the incident is believed to be of a criminal nature.
🛫 Africa Tour: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is set to travel to Kenya today, as part of a three-day trip that also includes stops in Uganda and Zimbabwe, the first visit to Africa by an Iranian leader in 11 years.
🛢️ Trade Agreement: Iraq announced yesterday that it will begin trading crude oil for Iranian gas in order to resolve an issue of payment delays due to the need for U.S. approval.
🚢 Oil and Water: Indonesian maritime officials stopped an Iranian-flagged tanker believed to be illegally transporting 272,000 tons of crude oil.
🕯️ Remembering: Jewish cookbook author Marlena Spieler died at 74.
Pic of the Day
Demonstrators march in Tel Aviv yesterday in response to the initial parliamentary vote to repeal Israel’s reasonableness standard.
Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Rita E. Hauser turns 89…
Former congressman (R-OK) for 16 years, Marvin Henry “Mickey” Edwards turns 86… Former executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Dan Botnick… Canadian journalist, social activist and author of three bestselling books, Michele Landsberg turns 84… Former member of the Florida House of Representatives for 8 years, Franklin Sands turns 83… Best-selling author, screenwriter, and playwright, sister of the late Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron turns 79… Professor of religion at the University of Vermont, he was an advisor to Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign, as an undergraduate at Yale his roommate was Joe Lieberman, Richard Sugarman turns 79… Co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer turns 72… Board-certified lactation consultant based in Riverdale, N.Y., Rhona Yolkut… Founding executive director (now retired) of Newton, Mass.-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Arlene Remz… Co-owner of the Midland Group, Eduard Shifrin turns 63… Former member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, Alon Tal turns 63… Chief television critic for The New York Times, James “Jim” Poniewozik turns 55… Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel turns 52… Israeli journalist and former member of Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Anastassia Michaeli turns 48… Founder of Innovation Policy Solutions, Jennifer Leib… U.S. senator (I-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema turns 47… Israeli news anchor, television presenter and journalist, Yonit Levi turns 46… Winner of an Olympic gold medal (Athens, 2004) and a silver medal (Sydney, 2000) as a freestyle swimmer, Scott Daniel Goldblatt turns 44… Co-founder of Aspiration, Joseph N. Sanberg turns 44… Senior reporter at CNN, Edward-Isaac Dovere… Partner in the Des Moines-based public relations firm AdelmanDean Group, Liz Rodgers Adelman… Israeli media personality, sociologist and fashion and jewelry designer, Ortal Ben Dayan turns 42… President of executive communications firm A.H. Levy & Co based in NYC, Alex Halpern Levy… Actress, she is well known for playing the title character in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Rachel Brosnahan turns 33… Registered nurse now living in Jerusalem, Rena Meira Rotter… Benjamin Birnbaum…