FBI Director James Comey on May 3. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: King David Hotel prepares for Trump | Rod Rosenstein’s office sign: “Don’t tell me what I want to hear” | Rep. Gallagher interview


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DRIVING THE DAY — “After Comey’s ouster, Democrats press for independent probe of Russia’s meddling in election” by Ed O’Keefe: “All Democratic senators have been asked by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to be in the Senate chamber when the legislative day formally begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The rare early-morning appearance by the entire Democratic caucus is a symbolic attempt to sit, watch and listen as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) makes his traditional morning speech… Schumer is expected to use his morning floor speech to call out Republicans for supporting Trump’s controversial move. Schumer also plans to convene a caucus meeting Wednesday morning so that Democrats can discuss a more formal response, aides said… Under one scenario, the boldest, most extreme step Democrats could take is to drag the Senate to a halt. They could refuse to allow consideration of any legislation or nominees awaiting confirmation votes until Trump agrees to appoint a special prosecutor.” [WashPost]

The one who formally recommended Comey’s removal: “Officials released a Tuesday memo from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, laying out the rationale behind Comey’s dismissal. “The FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice,’’ Rosenstein wrote. “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.’’” [WashPost; DailyBeast]  

From a 2011 Profile of Rosenstein: “In his downtown Baltimore office, Rosenstein keeps a pristine desk. On one recent visit, it held five papers organized in a neat cascade, and two coffee mugs, one with a DOJ insignia and another depicting Theodore Roosevelt. He has a few photographs of himself with his wife, Lisa Barsoomian, 43, a lawyer at the National Institutes of Health. There is also a photo of a young Rosenstein chipping away part of the Berlin Wall. On prominent display behind his desk is a sign: “Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Just tell me what I NEED TO KNOW.” [WashPost

BEHIND THE SCENES: “Before James Comey’s Dismissal, a Growing Frustration at White House” by Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Bender and Del Quentin Wilber: “Mr. Trump grew unhappy that the media spotlight kept shining on the director. He viewed Mr. Comey as eager to step in front of TV cameras and questioned whether his expanding media profile was warping his view of the Russia investigation, the officials said. One White House aide, speaking after Mr. Comey’s dismissal, described him as a show horse.” [WSJ; Politico]

Prof. Alan Dershowitz on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon: “Comey lost his credibility… He should have looked in the mirror and said to himself, ‘I am not trusted by Democrats, Republicans, by the American public’ and should have resigned.”

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher: “Like many Americans, I have serious concerns and unanswered questions about the timing of Director Comey’s dismissal.” [Twitter]

JI INTERVIEW — The Pro-Israel Arabic-Speaking Marine Veteran in Congress — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) discussed his military service and shared his views on the Iranian threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. After studying Arabic at Princeton University, the Green Bay native enlisted in the US military and served seven years on active duty including multiple tours in Iraq. Gallagher served as a counterintelligence officer under H.R. McMaster, currently the White House National Security Advisor, for a year. After leaving the military, Gallagher worked as the lead Republican staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee covering the Middle East.

On Trump’s push for Middle East peace: “It’s necessary to recognize that Iranian destabilization of the region, as well as ISIS, are far more important issues than Israeli-Palestinian peace. If Netanyahu and Abbas were on the White House lawn tomorrow with an agreement, we could live with — it might help — but the broader strategic picture in the Middle East would probably remain largely unchanged. Syria would still be a safe haven. ISIS would still have a caliphate. Iran would still be expanding its influence at the expense of Israel and threatening its existence. Understanding that and getting out of the trap that so many presidents fall into, which is to say that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the focal point which everything else turns, which of course it does not is how this administration needs to view it.”

Gallagher’s foreign policy mentors: “My first professor on the Middle East at Princeton was a guy named Mike Doran and he provided a gateway into the region and remains a close friend and mentor and we talk all the time. He was incredible. He wrote me my first recommendation to the Marine Corps. H.R. McMaster, I worked for him for a year. He’s the reason I stayed in the military.” Read the full interview here[JewishInsider]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “The Knives Are Out for Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster” by Kate Brannen: “It’s true that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for McMaster and Trump, but, in many ways, that friction was built into the job from the start. “[McMaster] will always be on the outside looking in from so many circles,” the senior intelligence official said. “He isn’t family. He’s not a Bannon guy, and he’s still surrounded by Flynnstones.” … The NSC is not walled off from the internal power politics of the Trump White House, and staffers reading the tea leaves see they still need to curry favor with people like Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, if they’re to have their voices heard and survive in what one source described as the White House’s “Game of Thrones for morons.”” [FP]

IRAN DEAL: “The World Didn’t Agree to a Nuclear-Armed Iran, Even in 10 Years” by Max Singer: “President Trump does not have to solve the Iranian nuclear-weapon threat during his first term. The deadline for building the coalition with the strength and determination to stop Iran will come after 2020. But he would be wise to use the term to develop the American and international understanding and policies that can create the will and power to stop Iran.” [WSJ]

TRUMP’S ISRAEL TRIP — partial itinerary: The President’s first stop after a welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport will be a “family visit” to the Western Wall followed by lunch at the King David Hotel. Trump will then attend a reception at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence. In the evening, Trump and Netanyahu will have a working dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence. On Tuesday, Trump is expected to deliver a policy speech at the Masada desert fortress, followed by a visit to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Dan Shapiro: “Upside to Trump’ speech at Masada: iconic images, strong message on Israeli security. Downside: Herod comparisons that write themselves.” [Twitter]

— “Questions remain about his visit to Yad Vashem. Ahead of the visit, the Israeli side emphasized the importance of such a visit, despite the fact that Trump is not obligated to do so… The Americans did not sound enthusiastic about the possibility of the president visiting Yad Vashem. At first, they announced that they would be able to allocate about half an hour for such a visit. On the Israeli side, they made it clear that there was no such possibility, as a visit to Yad Vashem would take at least an hour and fifteen minutes. But the Americans insisted. In Israel, they were very disappointed with the answer and still hope that they will convince the Americans to retract it.”[Ynet]

“No red carpet at the King David for Trump” by Greer Fay Cashman: “Confirmation that Trump would be staying at the King David was not received till late last Friday afternoon…  The Americans have made no special requests with regard to how the suite should be set up or what special foods should be served… The Americans have ordered more than a thousand rooms in total which has necessitated closing two other hotels in the Dan chain; the nearby Dan Boutique Jerusalem and the even closer Dan Panorama… Some of the Americans will be staying in other Jerusalem hotels but Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, will be staying at the King David along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster… Among the guests who had to be moved out of the hotel were… Mike Huckabee who had scheduled a large dinner party.” [JPost]

“The curious case of Donald Trump’s 1989 (non-)visit to Israel” by Raphael Ahren: “Oded Eran, a veteran diplomat who worked in the [Israeli] embassy, said he had never heard of Trump coming to Israel. And their boss at the time, then-foreign minister Moshe Arens, also told The Times of Israel that he does not remember ever having been involved in or hearing of plans to host Trump in Israel. The fact that, last year, three decades later, Trump the aspiring politician did not mention having been to Israel during any of his election campaign speeches further seems to suggest that the visit never took place… Neither the Associated Press nor the Israeli Government Press Office photo archives carry any images of Trump in Israel.” [ToI]

“Trump Administration Will Not Move Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem: Report” by Avaneesh Pandey: “Israeli news outlets Arutz Sheva and the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that the prime minister’s office had not received any notice from the United States about a decision to not move its embassy to Jerusalem. The reports quoted a statement from the prime minister’s office which said: “Israel’s stance is that all the embassies belong in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem, and the U.S. Embassy should be one of the first to move.” Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli news website NRG reported, citing unnamed sources, that the U.S. government had decided to not move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and that the Israeli government had been informed of the decision.” [IBTimes]

Charles Bronfman—author of a new memoir, Distilled—on Trump and Bibi — by Mark Oppenheimer: Do you like Bibi Netanyahu? He’s not my favorite. Never has been. Look, I believe in proactively pursuing the two-state solution because I feel deep in my heart and my guts that failing the two-state solution there is no future for Israel… And yet, Netanyahu has been, is, and will no doubt continue to be a real believer in Birthright! … What do you think of Mr. Trump? Strange person. We don’t know because every day it’s a different Trump. There are things coming out of that White House, and you don’t know what to believe… I obviously wish him well. I really don’t know him. I have never done business with him. I played a round of golf with him. He was a damn good golfer.” [Tablet]

HEARD YESTERDAY – Senator Marco Rubio at the ADL conference in Washington, DC: “In a disturbing echo of Germany’s anti-Jewish boycotts of the 1930s, we also see today’s boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement (BDS), which engages in economic warfare against the Jewish state… These days, as you are probably well aware, it’s difficult to find much that everyone can agree upon in this city. But, the one issue that you will find a united voice on Capitol Hill is on the need to eliminate discriminatory behavior against Israel at international organizations. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and I recently led a bipartisan effort to the UN Secretary General that was signed by all 100 members of the US senate urging him to counter the anti-Israel bias at the UN.”

JI PLUG — ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt during a panel ‘Decoding the News: Navigating Conspiracies, Infotainment & Evidence Free News’: “I am going to make a plug for Jewish Insider, by the way.” Fellow panelist Jeffrey Herbst, CEO of the Newseum: “And I get the Jewish Insider push also.”

“The Princeling in the West Wing” by Jill Abramson: “The oligarchy emerging on Pennsylvania Avenue today is something not seen before. The president, Ivanka Trump and her husband are the three most powerful figures in the White House, and they still profit from companies with billions at stake in global real estate deals… Part of why Donald Trump won is that voters had extreme fatigue about the Clinton family’s ethical problems. His promise to end big-money corruption in Washington was taken seriously by his base. He could put his electoral future at risk by reneging on it.” [NYTimes] • Who is Nicole Kushner Meyer? [TheRealDeal]

“Anthony Scaramucci Thinks The Media is Too “Nosy” For its Own Good” by Bess Levin: “Scaramucci… blamed the hot water Kushner’s family recently landed in on the press being “nosy.” … Every day, Scaramucci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, journalists “wake up . . . take a dozen eggs out, and say, ‘O.K., who are we going to throw these eggs at today?’ ” Over the weekend, he explained, they decided to throw the eggs at “the Kushner family.”” [VanityFair

“New Veterans Affairs Chief: A Hands-On, Risk-Taking ‘Standout’” by Dave Phillips and Nicholas Fandos: “Dr. [David] Shulkin, by his own admission, is an unlikely choice to overhaul veterans services under President Trump. The son of an Army psychiatrist, he is not a veteran — a first for the head of the agency. And when Dr. Shulkin led the medical side of the department in the Obama administration, Mr. Trump regularly criticized the agency — and by association Dr. Shulkin — as corrupt and incompetent… He was recommended by Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, who knows Dr. Shulkin personally, according to a White House official familiar with the process.” [NYTimes]

** Good Wednesday 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: Ziel Feldman’s HFZ Capital Group closes on $1.25B construction loan for Chelsea megaproject [TRD• The Nakash family and New York investment firm Gindi Capital bought the Smith & Wollensky building in Las Vegas for $59.5 million [ReviewJournal] • Dealmaker Weinberg Cracks Ranks of Best Paid Executives for 2016 [Bloomberg] • Hank Greenberg loses appeal over AIG’s 2008 bailout [NYPost• Israeli defense firm opens new national HQ in Howard County [BizJournals] • Billionaire Carl Icahn Loses $179 Million on Hertz Double Down [Bloomberg]

“Democratic Senators call for probe into Icahn’s biofuel credit dealings” by Timothy Gardner, Chris Prentice and Jarrett Renshaw: ““We are writing to request that your agencies investigate whether Carl Icahn violated insider trading laws, anti-market manipulation laws, or any other relevant laws based on his recent actions in the market for renewable fuel credits,” the senators said in a letter to the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency… Icahn became an unpaid adviser to Trump on regulation shortly after November’s presidential election.”[Reuters

“On Goldman alums in government, Blankfein says he worries about how it might look” by Evelyn Cheng: “I’m “a little apprehensive about it because for fear of how it might look,” Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, said on CNBC… Still, Blankfein is proud that President Donald Trump chose so many former Goldman bankers for his administration… “My blink reaction is a sense of pride that again another person who wasn’t necessarily friendly to our institution in his campaign recognized the talent of these people,” Blankfein said.” [CNBC]

“Inside The Employment Agreement Of Secretive Hedge Fund Renaissance Technologies” by Nathan Vardi: “A research scientist and senior level employee who worked out of his Pennsylvania home, [David] Magerman’s base salary at Renaissance was $251,212. Magerman claims his algorithms made billions of dollars for Renaissance and the bulk of his compensation came from the bonus he was paid semiannually, two installments based on the firm’s performance made on June 30 and December 31… His noncompetition agreement prevented Magerman from working for one year after leaving Renaissance for any firm engaged in the business of mathematically-based trading of futures and securities. Magerman also agreed that upon being terminated he would immediately hand over all of Renaissance’s confidential information in his possession, including models and algorithms.” [Forbes

Michael Bloomberg talks to Katie Couric about the challenge of saving the world — KC: What was one of the first causes you remember getting involved in? MB: “Johns Hopkins. I had gotten interested in Hopkins and public health. And then when I became chairman of the board I really became interested in it. My love of Hopkins is that, number one, they gave me an education, obviously. Number two, I’ve always respected what they do for the community and what they do for the world. Hopkins has a defense laboratory, one of the biggest in the country. We have an obligation as Americans to help defend this country, and a lot of universities would walk away from that kind of stuff, but Hopkins never did.” KC: They must be pretty jazzed that they accepted a young Mike Bloomberg. Best decision they ever made! MB: “They’re going to set up three statues: one to Johns Hopkins, one to me, but the biggest to the admissions officer who took me.” [Town&Country

PROFILE: “This Jewish attorney general is leading the Trump resistance” by Ron Kampeas: “My work for justice is very much grounded in what I see as the Jewish tradition’s commitment to justice,” [New York AG Eric Schneiderman] told JTA recently in his lower Manhattan office. Schneiderman switched handily into Hebrew and used the two biblical terms for justice, saying that “’mishpat’ and ‘tzedek’ are spoken of in the books of Moses.” … Schneiderman, who attends services at B’nai Jeshurun, an independent Manhattan synagogue, works closely with the city’s Jewish establishment. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, said Schneiderman was always thoroughly prepared before taking on an adversary. “He looks at the Torah, the weekly portion, and he also looks at the haftarah,” the reading from the books of prophets, Potasnik said, using a metaphor for studiousness.” [JTA

KAFE KNESSET — Mabat’s unexpected finale — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: James Comey was not the only one who received a surprise dismissal notice on Tuesday. Last night, less than an hour before the Israel Broadcast Authority’s nightly TV news program Mabat was set to go on the air, its workers found out that the broadcast was going to be the finale for the show that has been on the air since 1968. In a Knesset meeting working on the public broadcast reform – final vote is tonight – David Hahn, who is responsible for dismantling the IBA, announced it would stop regular TV and radio broadcasts and most of its workers would be going home immediately.

The IBA workers thought they would have until Monday, when the Israel Broadcast Corporation is supposed to take the IBA’s place, so they were stunned. Veteran anchor Geula Even-Sa’ar was hosting the news magazine before Mabat when the news came in and broke down in tears; the program had to switch to a pre-recorded segment. During Mabat, almost every reporter had something to say, and the broadcast ended with the journalists and crew singing “Hatikvah.” The general consensus was that the way the IBA was shut down, at the last minute with no warning, was cruel. So much so, that the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a clarification that Netanyahu had nothing to do with the “undignified and disrespectful” way that it was done, only found out about it from the media, and that the PM did not have the authority to change it. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]• Israeli government shutters state news show with just an hour’s notice [WashPost]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Holocaust Survivors in Poland Find Restitution Claims ‘Like a Carousel’” by Nina Siegal:“Poland is the only European Union nation that has not established formal procedures to resolve claims made by people whose property was seized during the Holocaust, according to a new report by the European Shoah Legacy Institute, based in Prague.” [NYTimes]

“ACLU files lawsuit against corrections, demanding kosher meals for Jewish inmates” by Ruth Brown: “The lawsuit, filed by four Jewish prisoners, asks the judge for what’s called a preliminary injunction, which would require IDOC to provide kosher meals immediately… The ACLU reported that during Passover last month, two of the plaintiffs ate only fruit and matzo because IDOC allegedly did not provide meals that were kosher for Passover… The class action lawsuit claims that IDOC has violated the prisoners’ constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and to equal protection, claiming that IDOC provides meals that meet the dietary requirements of all but the Jewish religion.”[IdahoStatesman

SPORTS BLINK: “Park School goalie Sam Cordish continues lacrosse family tradition” by Glenn Graham: “His grandfather, David Cordish, the CEO of Cordish Cos., played three years for Hopkins and was a key member of the 1959 national championship team. Sam had a great-uncle, Joel, who played goalie for the Blue Jays… When [Sam] Cordish steps on the field next spring at Penn, he committed there in October, he’ll not only be the second Cordish to play for the Quakers, but the second Cordish named Sam to play goalie there. While his brothers chose to play close to home at Hopkins, the original Samuel Cordish, who goes by his middle name, Mike, was an All-Ivy goalie at Penn in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Now residing in Israel, where he teaches religion, Mike Cordish is proud his great-nephew has chosen to follow in his footsteps.” [BaltimoreSun]

DESSERT — Blue Moon Brewing Company has obtained an OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher certification for all of its beers in 1995 and has placed the OU Kosher logo on its packaging ever since, the company announced yesterday. Its newest brewery in the River North (RiNo) neighborhood in Denver – which was officially opened in July 2016 – has now been certified as OU Kosher, a move that the company says will benefit more than 10.5 million people in the U.S. “We have worked with Blue Moon for more than 20 years and are pleased that they continue to partner with us as they expand their beer offerings to the kosher community,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher.

“Crown Heights Now Artisanal Kosher Haven” by Chaim Levin and Hannah Dreyfus: “Crown Heights has become a bastion of kosher culinary delights,” said Gabriel Boxer, founder of thekosherguru.com, a popular kosher dining website. And, while quality kosher restaurants are in no short supply in other Orthodox neighborhoods, what Crown Heights is offering is qualitatively different, he said. “It’s a chill vibe,” Boxer said, unlike the “high-end, elegant places in Manhattan. You never had that before. People used to come [to Crown Heights] for religious reasons — now they’re trekking [there] for culinary reasons.” [JewishWeek]

BIRTHDAYS: Shopping center developer and former US Ambassador to both Australia (1989-1993) and Italy (2001-2005), Melvin Floyd “Mel” Sembler turns 87… Billionaire real estate developer (majority owner of The Related Companies), and principal owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen M. Ross turns 77… Rabbi of a Connecticut congregation, media entrepreneur and educator, creator of RTN (a Russian language TV channel) and Shalom TV (a Jewish channel), Mark S. Golub turns 72… Leading Democratic pollster and political strategist who has advised the campaigns of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and many other candidates both within and outside the US, Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg turns 72… British film, theatre and television actress, on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine, she has become a harsh critic of the British Labour Party’s anti-Israel members, Maureen Lipman turns 71… Israeli businessman and philanthropist, his family founded and owned Israel Discount Bank, Leon Recanati turns 69… Ed Brill turns 67…

Anchor for SportsCenter and other programs on ESPN since 1979, Chris “Boomer” Bermanturns 62 (condolences to Chris on the tragic passing of his wife Kathy) … Former NBA player, whose career spanned 18 seasons on 7 teams, Danny Schayes turns 58… Brazilian businessman, serial entrepreneur and partner with Donald Trump in Trump Realty Brazil, Ricardo Samuel Goldstein turns 51… Associate Rabbi of Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Brian Strauss turns 45… Israeli rock musician, singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and guitarist, Aviv Geffen turns 44… Actress who has appeared in 12 films and starred in three television series, Halston Sage(born Halston Jean Schrage) turns 24… CEO of Medical Reimbursement Data Management in Yanceyville, NC, Robert Jameson… Mollie Harrison

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