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ON SHELVES TODAY -- Vanity Fair journalist Emily Jane Fox's new book titled Born Trump: Inside America's First Family. A few notable highlights below...
HISTORIC CANDLE LIGHTING AT THE WHITE HOUSE -- On Inauguration weekend, Ivanka Trump arranged with White House staff to have candlesticks waiting for her in the Lincoln bedroom. “Usually she would have brought her own, as she typically did for a weekend away, but she figured the White House must have suitable candelabras lying around. She was correct. The immediate family of five formed a semicircle around the White House’s candlesticks, and Ivanka struck a match to light the wicks Ivanka covered her eyes and recited the blessing over the candles It was the first time Shabbat has been welcomed this way in the history of the residence.” [Page 2]
FRIDAY NIGHT BALLS -- "That evening, since it was Shabbat, the Secret Service had to work with the couple to develop a special security plan. Traditionally, those observing the Sabbath do not travel in cars... but that would have meant they would not be able to attend any of Friday's balls or the events on the following day -- which for a couple who wanted to be part of everything, was not an option. Walking was out of the question; their detail told them it was not safe, given the vitriol and the protests. So they asked special permission from their rabbi to break the rules of Shabbat, since it was a matter of safety, and what they argued was a once-in-a-lifetime familial opportunity." [Page 16]
THE KUSHNER AND CHRISTIE FEUD -- “The first conversation between Jared and [Chris] Christie about the transition role was not a walk in the park Christie was skeptical. Just how past it could a guy who carried the wallet his dad made him while he was in prison really be? Christie himself had not totally put it behind him, particularly months later, long after Jared had a hand in firing him from his role, and reports of Jared’s meetings with Russian officials and involvement in the firing of FBI Director James Comey caught the attention of investigations in the Robert Mueller probe. Good thing I saved his father’s prison number, Christie would joke with friends.”
CHAPTER 7 IS TITLED 'BASHERT' -- “It's Bashert." "They’re bashert." "Bashert." Their friends and colleagues and associates separately repeated the same Hebrew word when asked why Ivanka and Jared Kushner settle into one another. The world roughly translated into something being preordained, fated, inevitable, and in the case of a romantic match, a soul mate... They are blindly loyal to their families and hell-bent on expanding their empires.”
THE CONVERSION -- “Ivanka agreed to convert, though she claimed that she didn’t have that far to go: “I’m a New Yorker. I’m in real estate. I’m as close to Jewish with an ‘i-s-h’ naturally as anyone can start off.” [Page 223]
VIEW FROM THE YESHIVA LEAGUE -- “Some people in the Trump-Kushners’ community -- KJ members, Ramaz parents, people who went to the modern Orthodox yeshiva school that Jared attended in Paramus, New Jersey - thought it was a BFD to have one of their own become a BFD. On Saturday mornings throughout the campaign, as the rabbis spoke or cantors chanted, congregants would whisper that it was somewhat of a comfort to have him in the candidate’s ear Many agreed, however, that if they had their druthers, and it was up to them to choose a guy in their community who would be the one so close to and advising a U.S. presidential candidate, Jared would not have ranked high on their list.”
“In terms of his relationship with Jewish community leaders beyond his own New York, New Jersey bubble, many influential members corresponded with Kushner often, voicing their concerns and urging him to push certain policy positions... Jewish organizations could tell that Kushner was overwhelmed and overworked... so Jared frequently relied on feedback and input from these organizations, though it was clear he barely had time to do so. "He'd reply to emails with letters instead of words, always very short, almost like he was running around on a Blackberry with one hand tied," one Zionist organization leader recalled." [Page 53]
ADAM ENTOUS' LATEST -- How Trump and Three Other U.S. Presidents Protected Israel’s Worst-Kept Secret: Its Nuclear Arsenal: "When a delegation of senior Israeli officials visited the Trump White House on February 13, 2017, they wanted to discuss... a secret letter concerning a subject the Israelis had promised the Americans never to discuss publicly—Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal... Only a select group of senior American officials, in three previous Administrations, knew of the letters and how Israeli leaders interpreted them as effectively an American pledge not to press the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons so long as it continued to face existential threats in the region. (American officials say the letters weren’t that explicit and fell short of constituting a binding commitment.)"
"When Trump’s aides moved into the White House, they didn’t find any copies of the previous letters left behind by their predecessors. The documents had been sent to the archives. The Israelis, however, had copies... So when Ambassador [Ron] Dermer came to the White House to talk to Michael Flynn about arranging for Trump to sign the letter, Trump’s aides were confused and, initially, said that they needed more time. U.S. officials said that the Israelis wanted to limit who could take part in discussions of the letter, citing the need for secrecy. The Americans pushed back. Afterward, senior White House officials huddled together and complained to each other that Dermer had acted as though he owned the White House..." [NewYorker]
DRIVING THE CONVO -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: "Sessions on Monday defended the Trump administration’s practice of separating parents and children who cross the border illegally from comparisons to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany... “Well, it’s a real exaggeration. Of course in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” Sessions said." [TheHill; HuffPost]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- CNN host Wolf Blitzer challenged former CIA Director Michael Hayden for comparing the Trump administration's practice of separating children from their families at the border to the Holocaust on CNN's Situation Room: “You understand the controversy that any comparison to the Holocaust, yes, the kids were brought on the trains, to Birkenau which was at Auschwitz. I speak with some authority on this. My grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz. My dad survived, but two of his brothers and two of his sisters were killed. They were separated. They weren’t separated to go to some other facility. They were separated to die. They were killed. When you make the comparison to Auschwitz, that’s a powerful image.”
Hayden: “I fully understand, and if I offended anyone they have my deepest and most sincere apologies. But what I was trying to describe was that these things that we take for granted shouldn't be taken for granted... I knew it would be controversial, but I felt a warning flare was necessary." [Video]
Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz writes... "The image of a child being taken out of the arms of its mother cannot help but generate an emotional reaction... Some opponents of the policy compare it to the Holocaust, equating detention centers with concentration and death camps. Though well-intentioned, this comparison is a form of Holocaust denial, because it makes it seem that the Jews suffered no fate worse than those currently suffered by the children being temporarily removed from their parents." [FoxNews]
Dershowitz made a direct appeal to Trump on Fox & Friends: ‘I Implore You to Stop’ Migrant Policy Now [Mediaite]
John Podhoretz tweets: "Stop already with the Nazi and Hitler analogies. Really. Stop. What's happening is its own kind of bad and you court discrediting the seriousness of your complaints about it by overstating things so tastelessly and wrongly."
INBOX -- Agudath Israel of America yesterday joined the over two dozen Jewish groups opposing the administration’s deportation policy: “Agudath Israel of America expresses its very deep concern and disappointment over the recently adopted policy of separating the members of families who have entered the United States illegally As Jews, we find this practice particularly loathsome. It is a punishment that neither parents nor children should ever have to endure.”
The Outrage Over Family Separation Is Exactly What Stephen Miller Wants -- by McKay Coppins: "A seasoned conservative troll, Miller told me during our interview that he has often found value in generating what he calls “constructive controversy—with the purpose of enlightenment.” This belief traces back to the snowflake-melting and lib-triggering of his youth. As a conservative teen growing up in Santa Monica, he wrote op-eds comparing his liberal classmates to terrorists and musing that Osama bin Laden would fit in at his high school. In college, he coordinated an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” These efforts were not calibrated for persuasion; they were designed to agitate. And now that he’s in the White House, he is deploying similar tactics."[TheAtlantic]
TODAY ON THE HILL -- House Democrats Are Unveiling a Bill to Keep Immigrant Families Together -- by Alana Abramson: “Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is introducing the Keep Families Together Act on Tuesday, the lower chamber’s companion to a bill Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced in the Senate Like the version in the Senate, the bill calls for prohibiting Department of Homeland Security Officials from separating children from their parents But it goes further than the Senate bill by explicitly calling for a delay in prosecution for immigrants seeking asylum.” [Time]
TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST -- Netanyahu and King Abdullah II meet to discuss regional peace -- by Ari Rabinovitch: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman on Monday to discuss ways to advance regional peace, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. The two leaders “discussed regional developments and advancing the peace process and bilateral relations,” the statement said.” [Reuters] “The last public meeting between the two heads of state took place in November 2014.” [Haaretz]
Jason Greenblatt tweets: "Happy to see King Abdullah and Prime Minister Netanyahu resuming meetings with regard to key issues. Very important to both countries and to the entire region."
Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt began their five-stop Middle East tour with a direct DC to Amman flight on a Boeing C-40C Clipper -- via Avi Scharf.
White House readout of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt’s meeting with the King of Jordan: "Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt returned to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and met today with King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein. Building on previous conversations, they discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Jordan, regional issues, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and the Trump Administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians."
Abbas Rejects Trump's Plan for Gaza: An Attempt to Divide Palestinians -- by Jack Khoury and Amir Tibon: “The statement issued by Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, accused the U.S. administration of working with Israel to separate Gaza from the West Bank under the guise of “humanitarian aid or rehabilitation,” with the goal of destroying the Palestinian battle to establish a Palestinian state.” [Haaretz]
ON THE GROUND -- Gazans challenge Israel’s high-tech defenses with flaming kites -- by Ruth Eglash: “Murad, a 27-year-old Gazan, said the idea of using kites came “after seeing children playing with them Young people cannot find work here, and now their work is making kites to burn land inside Israel.” [WashPost]
-- “The fires have done an estimated $2 million in damage On Monday, CNN witnessed charred fields, blackened trees and remnants of kites in Kissufim, on the Israeli side of the fence with Gaza. Firefighters there said they are battling between 20 to 30 blazes a day.” [CNN]
Israel behind airstrike in Syria, US official says -- by Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Oren Liebermann: “An airstrike close to the Iraq-Syria border Sunday was carried out by Israel, and not by the US or the coalition fighting ISIS, a US official tells CNN The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the strike, per its normal policy Sunday's strike was very different from those normally attributed to Israel. Generally, strikes by Israel occur in the western region of Syria and the target -- pro-regime forces -- differs from what would be Israel's usual mark, namely Iranian military positions.” [CNN] Syria strike blamed on Israel kills 22 Iraqi fighters[YahooNews]
Israel's three-way deal on Iran in Syria and Russia in the G-7 -- by Ben Caspit: “Israel continues to tighten the rope on Syria, and at this stage, it looks like Israel won’t let go. It is taking advantage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head being wrapped up in the FIFA World Cup, with Russia playing host, and therefore wanting peace and quiet, which is what Israel and Trump’s administration are closely coordinating In the background are persistent reports about a scheme involving Washington, Moscow and Israel. Accordingly, Trump demanded that the Europeans readmit Russia to the G-7 forum of highly industrialized nations, because the Russians had agreed in general to Israel’s request to distance Iran from its borders.” [Al-Monitor]
Jacob Nagel, a former National Security Advisor for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, writes... "Iran, Syria, and Israel’s Red Line: It is highly unlikely that the rumors are true that Israel and Russia (with Syria and even maybe U.S. assistance) agreed on a deal to move Iranian forces farther from Israel’s northern border in return for Israeli acceptance of Assad’s Syrian forces returning to the border. Israel’s firm and non-negotiable request is that Iranian forces will be entirely out of Syria, and for good."[RealClearDefense]
Dov Zakheim writes “Trump's Perilous Path: Trump’s unstinting support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and policies... represents another potential flashpoint for more trouble in the Middle East. The president’s clear signal that his administration is not interested in entertaining Palestinian grievances may have few consequences in the short term, despite the ongoing weekly Gaza protests. Over time, however, it could prompt another far bloodier uprising by increasingly frustrated and desperate Palestinians that could force the Gulf Arabs to back away from their covert cooperation with Israel against a common Iranian threat.” [NationalInterest]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Qatar pushes back against Trump fundraiser's hacking allegations -- by Jenna McLaughlin: "In two new court filings in the Central District of California, attorneys for Qatar and its lobbyist Nicolas Muzin argue that [Eliot] Broidy is on a "fishing expedition" for information about sensitive government business to embarrass Qatar. The attorneys argue that Broidy hasn't demonstrated sufficient evidence that Qatar orchestrated the hack and say that Qatar and its registered agents may not be subject to the California court's jurisdiction... Attorneys for Muzin and his company Stonington Strategies... said on Monday in a second filing that Broidy is engaging in a "public relations stunt" with the aim of damaging Muzin's reputation. Muzin's attorneys also expressed frustration that his private phone records were leaked to the media." [CNN]
2018 WATCH -- Jeffrey and Marlyn Katzenberg hosted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last night at the Wolfgang Puck's restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills. More than $4.5 million was raised for House Majority PAC, according to Politico Playbook. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled in $3.1 million at a pair of fundraising events with Ivanka Trump. [Playbook]
"Speaker Paul Ryan endorses Bryan Steil in race for his seat" by Mary Spicuzza: "House Speaker Paul Ryan has endorsed his former staffer, Bryan Steil, in the race for his congressional seat. Steil faces a Republican primary that includes controversial candidate Paul Nehlen and Nick Polce, an Army veteran from Lake Geneva. In February, Nehlen was booted from Twitter after he tweeted an image that replaced the image of Meghan Markle, then the biracial fiancée of Prince Harry, with a dark-skinned prehistoric Briton known as "Cheddar Man." That was a month after he drew heavy criticism for posting phone numbers, email addresses and names of his critics, claiming most of them were Jewish." [JournalSentinel]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Veteran journalist Norman Pearlstine named executive editor of the Los Angeles Times [LATimes] Kushners May Have to Give Up Ownership of Indebted NYC Office Tower [Bloomberg] Ari Emanuel to Keynote VenuesNow Conference [HollywoodReporter]
Intel has paths around Trump's China tariffs, analysts say -- by Stephen Nellis: "Intel Corp, the world's biggest chipmaker by revenue and a prominent U.S. manufacturer, could avoid the most severe effects of a new list of Chinese tariffs proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump by shifting its production among its facilities, analysts said Monday... Intel produces raw chips at six so-called wafer fabs, with three in the United States, one in Ireland, one in Israel and one in China." [Reuters]
China Smells Opportunity in the Middle East’s Crisis -- by Daniel Kliman and Abigail Grace: "In Israel, China has invested in ports and railways, and it has become a growing player in the Israeli high-tech sector. At a time when the United States and its allies in Europe, Australia, and Japan increasingly regard Chinese investment as a threat to their long-term innovation edge, Israel, without taking appropriate precautions, could become a backdoor for China to obtain the technology it needs to realize its ambitions to dominate the critical industries of the 21st century." [ForeignPolicy]
George and Alex Soros write “In the Balkans, a Chance to Stabilize Europe: The vast majority of the Balkan region’s population wants close links with the West, particularly European Union membership. That is true even in relatively pro-Russia Belgrade A bold regional initiative to create a Balkan economic union modeled on the laws of the European Union could take advantage of the people’s pro-Western ambitions Even an informal union would deliver tangible benefits to the estimated 18 million inhabitants of the region as well as Europe and the United States, and would ease the member states’ integration into the European Union.” [NYTimes]
Cyclists retrace Jewish child refugees’ journey to Britain -- by Miriam Karout: “Almost 80 years after the first “Kindertransport” evacuations of Jewish children to safety in Britain, 42 people set off Sunday on a memorial bike ride that will retrace their journey from Berlin to London Organized by the British-based World Jewish Relief group, the ride retraces the route of the trains. It’s expected to take the riders six days to get to London’s Liverpool Street station. Among the saved children was Paul Alexander. The only participant in the ride who was on a Kindertransport — “children’s transport” — he was joined by his 34-year-old son, Nadav, and 14-year-old grandson, Daniel. “This ride is for me a victory ride. It’s one of celebrating a good life,” he said.” [AP]
BIRTHDAYS: Former US Ambassador to the Netherlands (1978-1981) in the Carter administration, Geri M. Joseph turns 95... Binnie Stein turns 79... Attorney, deputy mayor of NYC (1982-1985), EVP of Cushman & Wakefield (2004-2010), commissioner of NY / NJ Port Authority since 2013, Kenneth Lipper turns 77... DC-based attorney and author, Allan Gersonturns 73... Senior Rabbi of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rabbi Bennett F. Miller turns 70... Medical and community liaison for Solevo Wellness in Western Pennsylvania, Harry E. Wenkertturns 62... President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson turns 61... Inna N. Zalevsky turns 61... Overland Park, KS resident Kathi Shaivitz Rosenberg turns 59...
Director of communications for New York State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz since 2012, Adrienne M. Knoll turns 58... Member of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress (1991-1996) and EVP of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (2001-2008), Valery Engel, Ph.D. turns 57... Co--founder of Centerview Partners, Blair Wayne Effronturns 56... Singer-songwriter Paula Abdul turns 56... Member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party since 2015, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin turns 48... Executive director of Hillels in Philadelphia (including Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Arcadia), Tslil Shtulsaft turns 35... Founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app created in 2014, David Austin Yarus turns 32... Founder and executive director of Kahal: Your Jewish Home Abroad, which helps Jewish students studying abroad, Alex Jakubowski turns 26... Jessica Brown...