DRIVING THE DAY — The Senate is expected to vote this morning whether to advance the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, followed by a possible confirmation vote on Saturday. Three Republican Senators — Jeff Flake (AZ), Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — remain undecided. [CSPAN]
HEARD THIS MORNING — Dan Senor, who worked with Kavanaugh in the Bush 43 White House, on CBS This Morning: "Since Trump has been elected, I have never seen more unity among Republicans and conservatives than right now. There is a segment of the Republican electorate that is either anti-Trump or ambivalent about Trump, and those folks, particularly in suburban districts in certain states, there's always been this sense of lack of enthusiasm among Republicans... For the first time in the last ten days, I think the Kavanaugh dynamic has transformed that and has brought all Republicans — regardless of what they think of the President — home."
"Did [Kavanaugh] get a little hot (at the hearing)? Yes... He's acknowledged that he got a little hot. Other Supreme Court justices have been in temper at times. I think you have to look at the totality of his career... In 2016, you had Ruth Bader Ginsburg giving an interview to the NY Times, openly campaigning against Donald Trump and saying she was going to move to New Zealand if he were elected. You know, Supreme Court justices are human, and sometimes they say things that are inappropriate or political or are intemperate. I just think that given all that was going on, the swirl, what Brett Kavanaugh did was not disqualifying. That's why I think he will get confirmed." [Video]
Norm Eisen emails us: "All three of the key GOP senatorial votes — Collins, Murkowski and Flake — indicated tentative satisfaction after reviewing the FBI report. So while one never knows until the vote is cast, that suggests he may get confirmed. I hope I’m wrong because he is unfit for the Supreme Court. That is because of his alleged sexual misconduct, his demonstrated pattern of dishonesty about that, and his swing towards partisanship both in his testimony and in his appearances on partisan outlets. The FBI investigation was also grossly deficient in my view as an ethics expert. If he does go on the Court, he’s going to be required to very broadly recuse himself, but his lack of honesty so far does not inspire confidence that he will do so. That will be a running battle that will delegitimize him and the Supreme Court."
Zuckerberg Faces Anger Over Facebook Executive’s Kavanaugh Support — by Deepa Seetharaman: "Employees raised the question directly to Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg during his weekly question-and-answer session last Friday... Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also weighed in on the controversy on Friday in an internal discussion thread that has so far drawn hundreds of comments, many of which were critical... The debate began shortly after an image of Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s head of global policy, surfaced in the middle of Judge Kavanaugh’s lengthy hearing last Thursday."
"Mr. Zuckerberg said last Friday he wouldn’t have made the same decision but the appearance didn’t violate Facebook policies... The controversy hasn’t died down internally. Senior Facebook executives, including Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg, are planning to hold a town hall meeting Friday to address employee concerns about Mr. Kaplan’s decision... Mr. Kaplan, who is based in Washington, D.C., will participate as well." [WSJ]
Trump mocks Al Franken for resigning quickly amid sexual harassment allegations —by Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez: "President Trump mocked former senator Al Franken Thursday night for resigning from Congress so quickly after he was accused of sexual harassment and groping women... “Boy, did he fold up like a wet rag, huh? Man. Man. He was gone so fast... It was like, oh, he did something. ‘Oh, oh, oh, I resign. I quit, I quit.’ Wow. He was gone and he was replaced by somebody that nobody ever heard of. Her name is Tina Smith,” Trump told the Minnesota crowd to cheers." [WashPost]
Keith Ellison says he is considering stepping down from the DNC — by Colin McCullough: "Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is considering an exit from his position as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee... Speaking to Minneapolis radio station WCCO, Ellison says he needs to focus on his current race to become Minnesota's attorney general... The Minnesota lawmaker did not say whether his decision would be influenced by the abuse allegations -- which Ellison has denied." [CNN]
"Warren, Gillibrand Speak at Rally Hosted by Anti-Israel Activists" — by Cameron Cawthorne: "Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) spoke Thursday outside the Supreme Court at a rally hosted by... anti-Israel activists Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory." [FreeBeacon; Video]
LONG READ ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Unlikely Path to the Supreme Court — by Jill Lepore: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a distinguished Justice, has become a pop-culture feminist icon, a comic-book superhero... Such lavish biographical attention to a living Supreme Court Justice is unusual, and, new... Unlike candidates for political office, most sitting Justices have preferred to remain, if not anonymous, largely unknown. The position is unelected, the appointment is for life, and the Justices are not supposed to place themselves in the public eye, for fear of making themselves beholden to public opinion: arguably, the less attention to their personal lives the better."
"Ginsburg often waxes nostalgic about her confirmation hearings, as she did this September, when, regretting the partisan furor over Brett Kavanaugh—even before Christine Blasey Ford came forward—she said, “The way it was was right; the way it is is wrong.” The second of those statements is undeniably and painfully true, but the first flattens the past. What [Joe] Biden was getting at, in 1993, was what the President himself had said, dismissing the idea of nominating Ginsburg when it was first suggested to him. “The women,” [Bill] Clinton said, “are against her.” [NewYorker]
ROAD TO THE MIDTERMS — Jacky Rosen Wants to Flip Nevada for Democrats. But First, Kavanaugh — by Sydney Ember: "Ms. Rosen, a 61-year-old former synagogue president, is now among the Democrats nationwide facing new energy from Republican voters who are defending Judge Kavanaugh and his patron, President Trump. It’s a political moment that requires deft skills on the campaign trail — but Ms. Rosen is still a newcomer to politics, neither cagey nor glossy nor particularly electrifying. In a campaign season filled with rising Democratic stars like Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, she is not a phenomenon."
"Yet it is Jacky Rosen, whose most notable previous political experience was perhaps keeping the peace among spirited congregants at Congregation Ner Tamid, who must choose a strategy in these final weeks on [Sen. Dean] Heller, Judge Kavanaugh and so much else. Her allies, at least, are confident that she has the savvy and instincts to help deliver the Senate for the Democrats in November. “If you can be president of a synagogue,” said Shelley Berkley, a former Nevada congresswoman, “you can be president of the United States very easily.”
"Part of Ms. Rosen’s challenge, including over Judge Kavanaugh, is that she prefers peacemaking. She is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus... Though she called some of the Trump administration’s policies “reckless,” she also said she agreed with the president on some things, including his decision to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem." [NYTimes]
Former Vice President Joe Biden stumped yesterday for four Democratic House candidates in Orange County. In his remarks, "Biden berated Trump for his equivocation last year when neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Va., chanting “the same exact anti-Semitic bile heard in the streets of Nuremberg in the ’30s.” He went on to conflate their ideology with Trump administration policies." [LATimes]
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro joined Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) yesterday on the campaign trail in Boca Raton, Florida. [Pic]
Shapiro emails us... "I had the privilege of working for Bill Nelson as his Legislative Director in his first term as a US Senator (2001-2007). During those years, I worked closely with Sen. Nelson and with the Jewish communities of Florida on issues related to Israel and the Middle East: support for security assistance to Israel in the Defense Authorization bill; strengthening sanctions against Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and Syria; promoting efforts to achieve a two-state solution; and repeated visits to Israel."
"As Sen. Nelson runs for reelection, it was my pleasure to go campaign for him in the South Florida Jewish communities, and talk about not just his support for Israel, but his strong record on other issues that reflect the values of the Jewish community, like protecting the environment; equality for all Americans regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation; women's rights to control their own bodies; getting military weapons of our streets and out of our schools; and ensuring the less fortunate have access to affordable health care. He is a great Senator for Florida, and I'm confident Floridians will choose him for another term."
Rep. Josh Gottheimer discusses 'soul searching' period during shiva for his late mother, Gwenn Kuskin Feldman, in an interview with the New Jersey Jewish Link: “Personally I’ve got a lot on my mind right now. I’m grateful for the outpouring of support to me. I think there is a reason why there’s a period of time to take stock of how blessed we are... We can overcome almost everything in this country. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching during this time.” [NJJewishLink]
House candidate Elissa Slotkin (D) replies to Trump tweet in support of her challenger, Rep. Mike Bishop (MI-08): "Mr. President, my name is Elissa Slotkin. I served 3 tours in Iraq w/ CIA, served both GOP+Dem admins and believe in putting my country before anything else. In Congress, I'll be accountable to Michigan voters — not Leader Pelosi, not corporate special interests, or anyone else."
Ron DeSantis Reboots in Close Florida Governor’s Race, After Early Stumble — by Stephanie Saul, Patricia Mazzei and Jonathan Martin: "In an apparent effort to sway the state’s Jewish voters, Mr. DeSantis has emphasized his pro-Israeli positions, including his support for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. Simultaneously, mysterious text messages were sent last week that appeared to target of South Florida residents with Jewish last names, referring to comments made in college by Mr. Gillum’s running mate, Chris King, that were perceived as anti-Semitic. Mr. Gillum called the text messages an act of desperation and said his “record on Israel is fully intact.”
"This weekend, Mr. Gillum will campaign with two prominent Jewish politicians, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, at a South Florida retirement community." [NYTimes]
— "DeSantis vowed his first visit after being elected would be to Israel. There, he would research efforts to combat red tide." [WUSFNews]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH ― White House briefs senators on Middle East peace push — by Barak Ravid: "Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt... [yesterday] briefed a bipartisan group of senators on the administration's Middle East peace efforts... This is the first such briefing to senators, and is part of the pre-launch phase of the White House peace plan... The briefing didn't include details, a source with knowledge tells me, only an overview on where things stand." [Axios]
-- Senators at the meeting included Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Bob Corker, Senator James Lankford, Sen. Jim Risch, Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Chris Coons, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
Ambassador David Friedman in an interview with Arutz 7: "What I've said before and will continue to say is that there is no specific concession that we have asked or will ask from Israel because the embassy moved. It's just that, having done it, having moved the embassy, we're expecting Israel will trust us, recognize that we have their best interests at heart, and engage in negotiations in good faith. It's not more complicated than that."
Friedman on settlement construction: "The president has indicated that, to the greatest extent possible, maintain the option in Area C for land to be made available, but don't stop settlement construction either. Where that gets harmonized is [in our] discussions. We talk it through. They don't need our permission, but I think the government of Israel would like to be on the same page as the United States, and so we have these discussions."
In an interview with Trinity Broadcasting Network, Friedman on closing PLO Mission in DC: "We really had no choice because it was mandated by Congress that the PLO Mission is only permitted to be open under circumstances that are prescribed by statute. One of which is that the Palestinians are not seeking to prosecute Israelis at the International Criminal Court. And last year at the UN General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas got up... and said we’re trying to prosecute Israelis at the International Criminal Court. Under the circumstances, how could you possibly keep the Mission open? It makes a mockery of the laws of the United States." [Video]
State Department: No ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ on US passports — by Jackson Richman: “The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.” [JNS]
MERKEL IN ISRAEL — In Jerusalem, Merkel says Palestinians must accept Israel as Jewish state —by Raphael Ahren: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday underlined her recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, indicating that she supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s view that the Palestinians, too, should accept this definition in an eventual peace agreement. At a joint press conference in Jerusalem, Merkel said she plans to call Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and ask him several questions about the peace process... She endorsed the two-state solution, but also acknowledged that there are “many other” possible ways to solve the conflict." [ToI]
— "In remarks made at sideline events during her visit, the German chancellor drew attention to the lack of women in top-level business and academic positions. At a meeting with young business representatives, Merkel welcomed the all-male participants while adding that she "wouldn't be disappointed if next time there were more women among the many hopeful future leaders." "That's not criticism of those sitting here now," she added with a smile, "just encouragement for those yet to come." [DW; Video]
FOGGY BOTTOM — The Iran Action Group Puts Muscle Behind Trump’s Iran Bluster — by Nick Wadhams and Javier Blas: "Members of the Iran Action Group have visited more than 30 countries so far, meeting with senior officials and company representatives... So far they’ve been persuasive. A so-called Divestment Tracker kept by the group lists 80 or so companies, ranging from Total and Munich Re Group to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Mazda Motor, that have backed out of the Iranian market over the past several months."
"The Iran Action Group’s cast of characters includes a former explosives ordinance expert, Jason Shell; David Tessler... Michelle Giuda, who was once Newt Gingrich’s spokeswoman... and a former New York ad man, Len Khodorkovsky, whose family fled the Soviet Union when he was a child and who now coordinates Pompeo’s anti-Iran messaging campaign. Their leader is Brian Hook... While his current mandate isn’t as expansive, he’s been given valuable real estate, moving into an office along the State Department corridor known as Mahogany Row. Working a few doors down from Pompeo, he’s essentially taken control of the department’s policy toward Iran." [Bloomberg]
White House targets Iran with new counterterrorism strategy — by Rebecca Morin: "[National security adviser John] Bolton, who called the new strategy the “first robust and fully articulated strategy on counterterrorism since 2011,” said that Iran has been “the world’s central banker of international terrorism since 1979.” ... The new counterterrorism strategy... also details the administration’s approach to dealing with the Islamic State. President Donald Trump in a statement on the strategy said that under his leadership, ISIS has been “decimated” in Syria and Iraq. “This is not the Obama administration would be my message to Iran and anybody else,” Bolton said." [Politico]
** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Sheldon Adelson buys Sammy Ofer's Tel Aviv apartment [Globes] Israel Chemicals in Talks to Buy Haifa Chemicals for More Than $1 Billion [WSJ] JFrog lands $165M investment as valuation jumps over $1 billion [TechCrunch] Michael Rubin's ShopRunner plans to acquire Alan Tisch's e-commerce startup Spring [Recode] Salesforce Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Joe Teplow's Rebel [Rebel]
STARTUP NATION — Overstock’s investment arm funded blockchain for wine — by John Biggs: "Of all the things to add to the blockchain, wine makes a lot of sense. Given the need for provenance for every grape and barrel, it’s clear that the ancient industry could use a way to track ingredients from farm to glass. VinX, an Israeli company founded by Jacob Ner-David, is ready to give it a try." [TechCrunch]
Israel Is Building an ETF Market Basically Overnight — by Ivan Levingston and Carolina Wilson: "Can you create a market for ETFs overnight? Israel’s giving it a shot. Market changes taking effect Thursday will begin to convert the Mideast country’s $30 billion of exchanged-traded notes into the more globally popular exchanged-traded funds... They will convert all ETNs to ETFs, and the market should also expect a burst of new products to be issued during the first quarter of 2019 as the transition is completed, said Steven Schoenfeld, founder and chief investment officer of BlueStar Indexes." [Bloomberg]
Billionaire George Soros Moves Foundation From Budapest to Berlin: "Eighty employees and their families made the move from the Hungarian capital to take up work in Berlin, the director of offices of the Open Society Foundations, Goran Buldioski told dpa. The foundation will eventually employ 150 people, Buldioski said in emailed comments to dpa on Thursday." [Haaretz]
HOLLYWOOD — The Hollywood Empire Strikes Back Against Netflix ― by Lucas Shaw: "Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. is nearing an exclusive movie and TV deal with comedy producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg—outmaneuvering Netflix and Amazon. Rogen and Goldberg, producers of the movies Neighbors and Sausage Party, were wooed by Amazon and Netflix but wanted a studio that would give their movies a big push in theaters. Previously with Sony, they’re now talking to Lions Gate and executives there who initially helped them get their business off the ground." [Bloomberg]
Jason Blum, Avi Nesher to Be Honored at Israel Film Festival — by Gregg Kilday: "Producer Jason Blum and Israeli director/screenwriter Avi Nesher will be honored and Nesher’s The Other Story will screen during the 32nd Israel Film Festival’s opening night gala on Nov. 6 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, it was announced Wednesday by the fest’s founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein and honorary chairman Arnon Milchan." [HollywoodReporter]
PROFILE — Israeli named as chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic: "Israeli Omer Meir Wellber has been made chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic orchestra. Hailed by the BBC as “one of the most sought after young conductors of his generation”, he will debut in his new role at the BBC Proms in London in September next year. Wellber, 36, has previous experience with the BBC Philharmonic, having led the orchestra for the first time in March this year." [JewishNews]
CAMPUS BEAT — Anti-Semitic graffiti found on North Carolina college campus: "Officials are trying to determine who painted anti-Semitic symbols, including a swastika and a reference to the Holocaust, in a pedestrian tunnel at a university in North Carolina. Appalachian State University associate vice chancellor Megan Hayes told the Winston-Salem Journal the graffiti was found last Sunday.. Hayes says that within an hour of it being found, students had painted over it." [AP]
In commemoration of Elie Wiesel, Jewish leaders gather in his hometown — by Samuel Thrope: "Local leaders and Jewish dignitaries from around the world gathered Thursday in Sighet, the birthplace of Jewish luminary Elie Wiesel, to protest rising antisemitism and commend town officials for acting swiftly after an antisemitic incident there shocked the world. In August, vandals defaced Wiesel's childhood home, now a museum... Organized by Limmud FSU co-founder Chaim Chesler and the Deputy Chair of March of the Living Aaron Tamir, the event expressed support for the local Sighet community's campaign against antisemitism and commemorated the late Wiesel's 90th birthday." [JPost]
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT — Former Obama White House staffers gathered Wednesday night at the home of Hildy Kuryk and Jarrod Bernstein in Brooklyn to celebrate a new book, West Wingers, co-authored by Gautam Raghavan, Heather Foster, Stephanie Valencia and Desha Dyer. Also present were Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens), Mara Gay, Jacob Bernstein, Celeste Katz, among other veterans of the Obama and Michael Bloomberg Administrations. [Pic]
DESSERT ― Mineo family celebrates 60 years in pizza business — by Joanne Klimovich: "Many questioned [Giovanni] Mineo’s decision to open a pizza shop in a Jewish neighborhood [in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]. But he not only survived but thrived, often closing on Jewish holidays. Many rabbis would stop in to thank Mineo for being such a good and courteous neighbor, his sons say." [TribLive]
Call Your Mother “Jew-Ish Deli” Opens in DC Next Week: "After some serious serious anticipation the folks at Timber Pizza are opening Call Your Mother in the former Alfie’s space next week! In a few weeks they’ll also be launching a super club in the evenings." [Popville]
WINE OF THE WEEK — 2016 Hajdu Montepulciano — by Yitz Applbaum: Certain wines transport me mentally to exotic places. I have long been an Italophile and recently experienced the feeling that I was deep in the mountains of Tuscany despite the fact that I sitting in a friend’s Sukkah in California. The perceived transport to Italy arose from drinking a bottle of 2016 Hajdu Montepulciano.
This wine is the creation of Jonathan Hajdu, a super talented and edgy winemaker, who has long been dazzling us with interesting varietals and blends. The Carnerus Montepulciano which I drank in that Sukkah, tasted of the earth under a Tuscan foot. It then felt as though a tumbleweed bramble scraped my mid-palate. The finish was a gunpowder ignited explosion of tobacco, dried figs and blueberries. This wine needs to be paired with salami stolen from a refrigerator and other oily meats. This wine drinks well now and will continue to do so for the next 5 years. [HajduWines]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Senior US Senator from Maryland since 2007, Ben Cardin turns 75... South African-born lyricist whose works include the English-language musical adaptation of Les Misérables, Herbert Kretzmer turns 93... Investor and board member of many companies, he was the owner of the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1993, Eli Jacobs turns 81... Psychiatrist in Cameron, North Carolina, affiliated with WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Morton Meltzer, M.D. turns 79... Author, lecturer and journalist, Jonathan Dobrer turns 74... President of the Genesis Prize Foundation since 2017, he was previously a Jewish Federation CEO in Atlanta (2000-2011) and Washington, DC (2011-2017), Steven Rakitt turns 63... Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Andrew Cushnir turns 55... Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Michael Jacobs turns 49... Canary Islands native, she is the president of NYU’s Sephardic Club, Gladys Bendahan... Robert Winer... Theodore Steiner...
SATURDAY: Ousted Chairman and CEO of CBS, a great-nephew of David Ben-Gurion, Leslie Moonves turns 69... Awarded a Ph.D. at UCSD in space science, consultant to NASA and author of many science fiction novels, David Brin turns 68... President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas (2008-2015) and then executive director of the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, Elliot B. Karp turns 63... Former senior editor at Newsweek for 28 years, correspondent on the networks of NBC and author of two best-sellers on President Obama, Jonathan Alter turns 61... Spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Tamid in the Las Vegas suburbs since 1988, Rabbi Sanford Akselrad turns 61... Former member of the New Jersey General Assembly (1996-2002), Joel Weingarten turns 59... Chess Grandmaster since age 14, Ben Finegold turns 49... Managing Director of the UJA-Federation of NY's Commission on the Jewish People, Hindy Poupko Galena... Israel Democracy Institute's Deena Pulitzer... Reno, Nevada native, now Houston area director at AIPAC, Madeline S. Burak turns 26... Michael Hershfield... Evan Bernstein... Rosanne Selfon...
SUNDAY: President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin turns 66... Assistant secretary for civil rights at the US Department of Education since June 2018, he was previously president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, Kenneth L. Marcus turns 52... Chair of the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women and Genesis Prize senior advisor, Jill Smith... Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, NJ, he was president of the NY Board of Rabbis (2012-2014) and is now president of the NJ Board of Rabbis, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner turns 45... Political fundraiser and strategist, Arie Lipnick turns 37... Deputy director for professional development at AIPAC's leadership institute, Natalie Lascar Lefkowitz turns 35... Leadership development director at AIPAC, Adam Teitelbaum turns 31... Executive at MPG Promotions, Daniel Mael... An original Politico staffer, now a senior editor for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Magazine, Barbara E. Martinez... Conference of Presidents' Sam Schear... Allan Nelkin...
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