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SCOTUS TALK: "President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, elevating a 49-year-old judge who has served on a federal appeals court for more than a decade to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia... Gorsuch's past rulings give conservatives confidence that Gorsuch is a strong supporter of religious freedom rights. Last September, he joined a dissent arguing that requirements for contraception coverage in Obamacare ran roughshod over the rights of religious nonprofits." [Politico]
What We're Hearing Through The Grapevine -- Judge Gorsuch is good friends with Ken Mehlman, Bush 43's campaign manager in 2004 and former Chair of the RNC, who is also a prominent Republican LGBT activist. Gorsuch and Mehlman attended Harvard Law School together, along with future President Barack Obama. In fact, Mehlman tweeted "Congrats to my former HLS housemate and forever friend Neil Gorsuch on SCOTUS nomination. Neil is a fair minded gentleman and scholar."
We're also hearing that Judge Gorsuch visited Israel on an exchange trip this past fall and considers himself a friend of Israel. We're still gathering additional details on that trip...
Gorsuch's HLS classmate Norm Eisen emails us: "He is a fine person, and although I don't agree with his judicial philosophy across the board, an exceptionally talented judge. He was confirmed unanimously for the circuit and he would have sailed through again, but for the fact that the GOP changed everything in wrongly rejecting Garland. That was a senatorial coup. Democratic leadership in the Senate, and all of us Democrats, need to decide what the consequences for that illegitimate action should now be. It is terrible that the Senate majority's misconduct put a cloud over my classmate and an otherwise outstanding nominee."
INBOX -- Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner of the RAC: “We are concerned by the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court... We are greatly troubled by Judge Gorsuch’s record, which suggests that he may not have the attributes and values a nominee to the Supreme Court ought to have in order to mete out justice and interpret the laws that affect us all. We look forward to engaging in the confirmation process to further evaluate Judge Gorsuch's views on issues of core importance to the Reform Movement, including civil rights, separation of church and state, religious freedom, women's rights, LGBTQ equality, and many more."
Orthodox Union's Nathan Diament: “While there is more of Judge Gorsuch's record to be reviewed, we are very encouraged by his record in religious liberty cases – the area of Constitutional law of paramount concern to the Orthodox Jewish community. His opinions in cases such as Hobby Lobby and American Atheists v Davenport show a jurisprudential approach that venerates religious conscience and pluralism in American society.”
David Frum: "Everyone’s going to enjoy the Gorsuch debate, because it’s the kind of debate you would have if things were normal" [Twitter]
Yair Rosenberg: "Here's the thing: a principled small government states' rights jurist is really the best liberals could hope for in era of Trump overreach" [Twitter]
PALACE INTRIGUE: "Steve Bannon Builds a New Node of Power in the White House" by Kimberly Dozier: "There’s a new center of influence that’s quietly being built in the White House—and answers to two of President Donald J. Trump’s most influential, most controversial advisers. Counselor to the president Steve Bannon, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner—arguably the top two aides to Trump—have set up a brand-new body called the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House think tank... The Strategic Initiatives Group is run by assistant to the president Christopher Liddell, and includes deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, who has worked closely with Bannon while writing for Breitbart." [DailyBeast]
"Where Is Jared Kushner?" by Frank Bruni: "Remember the good old days — by which I mean just a few weeks ago — when there was hope and talk that Donald Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law would play the angel to Steve Bannon’s devil, tempering the president’s policies and keeping his crudest and most belligerent tendencies in check? Well, the devil is running rampant in the Trump administration so far. The angel looks ever paler and frailer, with a halo that’s hard to find. Jared Kushner, where are you?" [NYTimes]
Playbook Found Him -- "SPOTTED -- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump eating at RPM Italian Monday night. They also took a jog Saturday with their security detail on the trails on Rock Creek Parkway." [Politico]
"Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat: If Trump’s First Week Is Four-Year Trend, God Help Us All" by Jack Moore: "Erekat, one of the potential candidates to succeed aging Palestinian leader Abbas, also said that the Trump team had yet to make any contact with the Palestinian leadership. “I don’t know the guy. I don’t know any of them,” Erekat says of Kushner. “We have sent them letters, written messages, they don’t even bother to respond to us.” [Newsweek]
TOP-OP: "So You Want to Move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem? Here’s How" by former Amb. Dan Shapiro: "I supported all three presidents’ use of their national security waiver authority to delay the move in the interest of pursuing Middle East peace. But I have never believed that arguments for moving the embassy were groundless, or that it must await a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. I’m influenced by my love of Jerusalem — an emotional attachment born of decades studying its history — and sense of justice for Jewish claims to the city that are far too often called into question. The presence of a U.S. Embassy in parts of Jerusalem no one disputes are Israeli territory is one way of acknowledging the centuries of history that link the Jewish people to the city, the questioning of which is closely linked to the denial of Israel’s very legitimacy."
"A conservative estimate is that it will take a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars for such work. In the interim, the current inefficiencies of U.S. diplomats traveling regularly to Jerusalem would be magnified. The ambassador would be separated from the bulk of his or her staff, making coordination, management, and consistency of message more difficult. And the ambassador will need to visit Tel Aviv regularly to engage with leading Israeli economic and security institutions based there... The United States should never be intimidated from pursuing its interests by the threat of violence. And I have no doubt that Israeli security services can effectively protect the embassy, wherever it is. But we also should not pretend that the risk of violence does not exist." [ForeignPolicy]
"Israeli Officials Are Worried That Trump Will Actually Move The US Embassy To Jerusalem" by Sheera Frenkel and John Stanton: "King Abdullah of Jordan Tuesday told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Israeli intelligence officials are worried that Trump will move forward with relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to a lawmaker present at the meeting, who asked not to be named, King Abdullah said that Israeli officials are concerned that moving the embassy would “enflame tensions among radical groups.” “This has been a hypothetical for a long time and we prefer it stay that way,” said one Israeli intelligence officer... earlier this month." [BuzzFeed]
Politico, Morning Consult Poll on moving the Embassy -- As you may know, there have recently been discussions regarding a possible move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Do you think the U.S. should move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or not? Should move -- 23%; Should not move -- 26%; Don't know/no opinion -- 50%. And, of the 'don't know/no opinion' if you had to say, do you think the U.S. should move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or not? Should move -- 38%; Should not move -- 62%. [FullResults]
"Israel Begins Clearing Illegal West Bank Outpost" by Rory Jones: "Israeli security forces on Wednesday began clearing an illegal outpost in Palestinian territory that for years has been at the center of the legal and political struggle over Jewish settlement of the occupied Palestinian territory. A column of buses, police vehicles and ambulances, led by hundreds of police officers on foot, converged on the hilltop outpost of Amona, which overlooks the settlement of Ofra." [WSJ]
KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev: The most right-wing government in Israel’s history has been dreading this day for months, but the Amona evacuation doomsday finally arrived. Settlers didn’t expect to see yesterday’s dramatic scenes of policemen and soldiers struggling with residents and protesters, from a government led by Netanyahu, Bennett, and Liberman. "We lost the battle over Amona," Bennett admitted in the Knesset plenum today before adding, "but we are winning the battle over the land. Amona will be saving thousand of families," Bennett said, pledging to pass the land appropriation bill through its final readings next week. Netanyahu and Liberman, for their part, announced 3,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements late last night, in addition to another batch of 2,500 houses announced just last week.
BB TV? -- Meanwhile, this past Sunday, Netanyahu launched a daily Facebook Live show to present his version of the days events. On Sunday, he aired simultaneously during the main Israeli news broadcasts, leading the headlines with celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations with China and India, followed by his impressions from his meeting with Rudy Giuliani, and detailing some of the topics which were on the government's agenda earlier that morning. The following day, he dedicated the broadcast to blasting the latest reports about an Iranian ballistic missile test. And yesterday, he went on early to break the news that he had solved a looming strike that had been paralyzing Jerusalem this week after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat launched a municipal strike, demanding that the Finance Ministry transfer more budget to the capital.
TOP OF THE HILL -- House passes bipartisan bill strengthening US-Israeli cybersecurity cooperation -- by Aaron Magid: The House of Representatives passed Resolution 612 on Tuesday afternoon, enhancing US-Israeli cybersecurity collaboration. The bipartisan bill -- introduced by Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) -- “establishes a grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to promote cooperative research and development between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity.” The legislators credited a joint Congressional trip to Israel last May for motivating the measure. AIPAC enthusiastically praised the bill’s passage.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Goldman Sachs pulls back from financing Vegas stadium proposal as agreement was contingent on Adelson's involvement [NevadaIndependent] Charles Kushner nabs three units at 212 Fifth Avenue for over $12M [RealDeal] One of the most senior women in finance is going to work for George Soros [BusinessInsider] Sheryl Sandberg Rips Trump Again: “This Is Not How It Should Be” [VanityFair] Jared Kushner sells stake in 666 Fifth Avenue [RealDeal]
SPOTLIGHT: "Central Banker Behind Israel Intervention Plan Turns Against It" by David Wainer: "The man who helped design the Bank of Israel’s foreign-currency intervention program with then-Governor Stanley Fischer is now turning against it. Barry Topf, former director of market operations, says the purchases that initially helped Israel weather the global financial crisis may now be hurting the economy by distorting prices. It’s time for the central bank, which has tripled its reserves in less than a decade, to scale back the program significantly, he said." [Bloomberg]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "How a Photo of Jewish and Muslim Kids Protesting President Trump Went Viral" by Olivier Laurent: "The little girl is wearing a hijab and the little boy a kippah. Both are sitting on their father's shoulders, smiling to each other and holding signs in protest of President Donald Trump's immigration order. The photo, shot by Nuccio DiNuzzo, a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune, and published on Monday night, has since gone viral, with people praising the universality of its message." [Time; People]
"Strangers in the Land of the Free" by David Wolpe: "Half of the members of my congregation in Los Angeles are Iranian Jews, most of whom fled from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978, during and after the fall of the Shah. The revolution took their businesses, their independence, and, in more than one case, the lives of those whom they loved. This is a remarkable community, passionate and driven, which almost instantly achieved success in America both in business and in a range of professional fields."
"Iranian Jews are a refugee community. The older members speak Farsi, the younger are navigating two civilizations. The extent of their wealth and success and talent makes it seem that they have both feet planted in the gilded soil of Beverly Hills—Iranian Jews were instrumental in the founding of giant enterprises from Qualcomm to Tinder. But underneath is the unease of people who in an instant lost everything—their homes, their past, their businesses, their sense of security. And so they know, as Jews have always known in their bones, that as one man put it to me—"we could always swim and we were looking for a pool." Images of the children stranded in boats from Syria are not reminiscent of their grandparents, but of their earlier selves." [TheAtlantic]
TRANSITION: The Israeli American Council (IAC) is expanding its DC imprint with the hiring of Abigail Cable as Director of Policy and Government Affairs. Cable, 28, spent the past 6 years representing AIPAC on Capitol Hill as Assistant Director of Policy and Government Affairs. Under Cable's leadership, the young but well-funded IAC plans to make its voice heard on Capitol Hill on issues it deems important to the Israeli-American community.
SPORTS BLINK: Falcons Owner Arthur Blank Jabs Robert Kraft With Donald Trump Joke -- "At Monday night’s Super Bowl media night, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank reminded fans of Kraft’s relationship with a subtle jab at the Patriots owner. After Kraft was asked who’s the most famous person in his cell phone, Blank intervened and answered “Trump” on behalf of Kraft." [NESN] Spotted: Kraft enjoying a meal at the new Mitzner Marriott Marquis in Houston [BostonGlobe]
BIRTHDAYS: Lakewood, NJ-born, president and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, previously president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, Stan Kasten turns 65... Chair of Perkins Coie's Political Law practice who was general counsel to Hillary for America and advises the DNC, DSCC, DCCC and the DGA, Marc E. Elias turns 48... Actor, best known for playing Marshal Jim Crown in the TV series "Cimarron Strip" and as the romantic lead in the 1965 film "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines," Stuart Whitman turns 89... Partner in LA-based law firm, Fredman Liebermann Pearl, and President of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Howard S. Fredman turns 73... Midtown Manhattan physician, affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital, specializing in Nephrology and Internal Medicine, Mark H. Gardenswartz, MD turns 67... Composer and conductor, music director of the Chappaqua Orchestra since 2002, author in 1994 of "The Jewish 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of All Time," Michael Jeffrey Shapiro turns 66... Born in Derbent, a predominantly Muslim city in Southern Russia, now living in Albany, NY, artist whose oil on canvas paintings have many Jewish themes, Israel Tsvaygenbaum turns 56... Actor, comedian, director, writer and producer, Pauly Shore turns 49... Experimental jazz guitarist, bassist, oud player and composer, Yoshie Fruchter turns 35...
Comedienne, writer, actress and illustrator, best known for co-creating and co-starring in the Comedy Central series "Broad City," Abbi Jacobson turns 33... One of Israel's top soccer players of all time, successful on both Israeli and European teams, now manager of Israel's national Under 19 team, Eli Ohana turns 53... Television and movie actress and model, Julia Garner turns 23... Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for AIPAC, Tara Brown... 25-year veteran of the Israeli foreign service including a three-year stint as DCOM at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, now a scholar-in-residence at American University in Washington, Dan Arbell... Senior director of business development for Politico Pro, Andrew Friedman... Chief of Staff at NYC's Barone Management, developers, owners and managers of hotels and retail, Ari Raskas... Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Becky Sobelman-Stern... Senior Field Representative for Richard Bloom, member of the California Assembly, Stephanie Beth Cohen... David Shaw... Maurice Lazar... David Leshaw...
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