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28 DAYS OF FEBRUARY -- "‘Jared has faded’: Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished" by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: "They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once. But an unlikely cascade of events — set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid — crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner."
"Once the prince of Trump’s Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation’s deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe... One senior White House official described Kushner as looking “really beaten down” this past week, though the official said he remains “a smooth operator” even if the outside world no longer sees him as “the main artery to the president.” [WashPost]
HEADLINE DEPT: "The White House chief calligrapher has a higher clearance than Jared Kushner" [CNN]
PALACE INTRIGUE -- "Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll" by Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman: "The dysfunction was on vivid display on Thursday in the president’s introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The previous day, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, warned the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he might resign if the president went ahead with the plan... Trump’s children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father’s success and as antagonistic to their continued presence..."
"Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements... and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded... In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with... Aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out." [NYTimes]
“Destroying Jared Kushner: a five-part play” by Jim VandeHei: “Rupert Murdoch, the master of Fox and the Wall Street Journal, has advised Kushner for years. They are allies, friends, mentor and mentee. There was nothing friendly about the lead editorial in Murdoch's paper politely suggesting the “knives are out” and it’s time for Jared to skip town One thing Jared and Trump have in common: they read Maggie Haberman and the New York Times. Nothing says family love and I’ve-got-your-back like this: “Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner”” [Axios]
"Is Jared Kushner’s Leap To Power A Jewish Success Story — Or A Tragedy?" by Peter Beinart: "Kushner exposes the gap between the way many American Jews still see ourselves—as scrappy, embattled outsiders—and the reality of our cultural and class position in America in 2018. We have reached the point in our history when even an absurdly unqualified, wildly ignorant, Jew can be among the most powerful people in the United States. That’s an achievement, and a tragedy, at the same time." [Forward]
"Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings" by Jesse Drucker, Kate Kelly and Ben Protess: "Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner... Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies... An Apollo spokesman, Charles V. Zehren, said Mr. Harris was not involved in the decision to loan money to Kushner Companies. He said the loan “went through the firm’s standard approval process." [NYTimes] Jared Kushner’s Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Before Blockade [TheIntercept]
"FBI counterintel investigating Ivanka Trump business deal" by Sara Murray, Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell: "The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver... The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump... Because Ivanka Trump and Kushner are married, concerns that arise during one partner's security clearance investigation could stall or block both of them from receiving a full clearance." [CNN]
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT -- at Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer's Megillah Reading on Purim Night: Per a tipster, Rabbi Sender Geisinsky of Chabad Bethesda read the Megillah. Notable attendees included Facebook's Joel Kaplan, RJC's Matt Brooks, VA Sec. David Shulkin, White House advisor Jason Greenblatt, Elliott Abrams, Aaron David Miller, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Tom Rose, Jason Isaacson, Ann Lewis & Myron Sponder, William & Heidi Daroff, Mark & Julie Levin, Richard & Phyllis Heideman, Boris Epshteyn, FDD's Cliff May, Mark Dubowitz, Jeanie Milbauer, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Jeremy Diamond.
HEARD AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Approximately 50 Jewish staffers listened to the reading of the Megillah in the Secretary of War Suite at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The reading was arranged by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), who also organized readings on Capitol Hill, at the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC HQ. [Video]
AIPAC POLICY CONFERENCE PREVIEW -- Thousands of pro-Israel activists are expected to make their way to DC to attend AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference, officially kicking off on Sunday morning at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Speakers at the general plenary sessions include: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Tuesday morning), Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador Nikki Haley, Ambassador David Friedman, Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tom Cotton (R-AR); House majority and minority leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), whips Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, Labor Chair Avi Gabbay, and outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
According to an AIPAC official, the conference will focus on three major legislative agenda items. The first is is to have congressional involvement and buy-in to the MOU (memorandum of understanding) by passing a five-year authorization, and taking in consideration the growing threat of Iran and their expansion to Syria for additional security assistance. The second item will be imposing additional sanctions on the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, (IRGC) and on entities and businesses that they own and have an investment in. The third item will the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that also addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council's database on companies that have investments in Israel and the West Bank.
The AIPAC official on the Taylor Force Act legislation: "The legislation is a priority for us and we continue to work for its passage – it will certainly be discussed with our delegates during the conference."
On AIPAC's bipartisan approach: "We would arguably say that this is the greatest bipartisan gathering in American public life... The bipartisanship transcends, it goes from administration to administration. Bipartisanship is part of our DNA because that's the way you get things done in Washington. AIPAC is looking for the long term, all the time. It's unique at a time of polarization. That's why we believe it's very fundamental to have the long-term commitment that Israel is not turned into a partisan issue, and that's going to be reflected on the stage, and at every reception. We are an oasis of bipartisanship in a sea of polarization right now."
House Speaker Paul Ryan is the only congressional leader who will not speak at this year’s AIPAC gathering. Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed to Jewish Insider that the Republican leader will not have a speaking role and noted that the House Speaker keynoted the prior two years in a row.
AARON DAVID MILLER PREVIEWS BIBI'S U.S. VISIT: "How Netanyahu Will Use Trump to Save His Hide: Bibi will likely invite Trump to the embassy opening, and the President might even accept. (Barack Obama went to Cuba, remember?)... In Trump, Netanyahu is likely to find an unusually kindred spirit. Under pressure from assertive police investigators; pressed by an attorney general weighing the possibility of indictments, and hounded by the media, Trump is going to give Netanyahu a port in the storm. As for the substance of the visit—what to do about Iran, Syria and the fate of Trump’s mysterious peace plan—all of that can wait... Bibi’s Indispensability Show is all that counts—and if there is anything that binds these two leaders, it is that they both know how to put on one hell of a performance." [Politico]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- Police probe Netanyahu in corruption case ahead of D.C. visit: "Israeli police were questioning Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife as part of an investigation into a corruption case involving the country's telecom giant on Friday, casting a shadow on the prime minister's upcoming visit to Washington." [CBSNews; Haaretz] Netanyahu's Case 4000 takes center stage [Al-Monitor]
TRUMP TRAIN (STATION)? -- Daily Beast political editor Sam Stein asked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Morning Joe earlier today: There was a news report late last year that the train station near the Western Wall was going to be named after Donald Trump. Is that actually happening? Barkat: "It's too early, but we would like to recognize President Trump, and commend him and thank him for what he has done, for the fact that he's moving the embassy and the recognition, the deep recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people." Stein: So you'll name the train station after him? Barkat: "We will seriously consider this; it's a process, but we'll seriously consider it.” [Video]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert on the Trump peace plan: "We have not released our plan. When it is ready to be released, the White House will go ahead and put that out. And some are trying to not only prejudge it but to try to draw conclusions about what is in that plan." Q: Is the Secretary of State involved in this process? Nauert: "Yes, the Secretary of State has been involved in meetings and conversations about this entire process."
ON THE HILL -- "Taylor Force's family, West Point classmates plead with senators: Stop 'Pay for Slay'" - by Eric Shawn: "Although Taylor's family and friends met with eight Senators from both sides of aisle, some were not ready to go on the record about the meetings and how they will vote... After a long exhausting day walking from office to office, the group remained hopeful. "Every bit of energy we've dedicated, it's totally worth it," said Stuart [Force]. Robbi Force said that the presence of the whole group, with Taylor’s West Point pals, made "a big difference." Now they will wait for the pending Senate action." [FoxNews]
Sen. Chuck Schumer in a statement after meeting with the Forces: "I am a strong supporter of the Taylor Force Act... As I told the Force family, I will do everything in my power to make sure Congress enacts this bill.”
REPORT -- "Israel concerned by lack of U.S. action to counter Iran in Syria" by Barak Ravid: "Israeli internal security minister Gilad Erdan... used his speech at the gathering of the conference of presidents... to convey a message to the Trump administration on the issue. "Friends let me be direct. There is a need for greater American involvement in making sure that Iran doesn’t turn Syria into a puppet state... If the US chooses not to be a major player in shaping the future of Syria then others will — and trust me it won't be the democratically elected representatives of the Syrian people."" [Axios]
TOP TALKER: "Malcolm Hoenlein stepping aside as Conference of Presidents chief" by Ron Kampeas: "Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is stepping aside after more than three decades. An email from the current conference chairman, Stephen Greenberg, said Hoenlein... was timing the move to coincide with the search for a new chairman... He will remain with the conference in an as yet undetermined capacity... In an interview, Hoenlein said the process could take a year." [JTA]
"Greenberg sent a second internal memo on Wednesday insisting that Hoenlein was “not stepping down,” and that the transition process would take “one to two years.”" [Forward]
B'nai B'rith CEO and Executive Vice President Dan Mariaschin tells us... “Malcolm’s imprint on the Jewish community here and abroad is immense. He’s written the definitive book on how public diplomacy and pro-Israel advocacy intersect, and in the process, has won the respect and admiration of a succession of U.S. administrations and international political figures for over three decades. Malcolm’s special feeling for the Jewish people has made him both an effective and passionate spokesman. He will continue to be a powerful, and needed voice, going forward.”
AJC's CEO David Harris said in an emailed statement: “Malcolm Hoenlein's dedication, talent, Rolodex, and energy are legendary, even as he’s had one of the more difficult jobs in balancing the often wide-ranging interests and views in the Conference of Presidents. Fortunately, he’s not entirely leaving the CoP, so his political and diplomatic skills will continue to benefit our collective efforts.”
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