Former Sen. Joseph Lieberman testifying during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 3, 2015. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Daily Kickoff: Lieberman no longer being considered for FBI Director | Huckabee disappointed with Trump’s Israel trip | Uber’s legal battle in Israel


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NO DIRECTOR JOE — “Trump administration hits reset in FBI director search” by Sara Murray and Eugene Scott: “The team tasked by the White House with finding a new director for the FBI is resetting its search, a senior administration official told CNN… At one point, former Sen. Joe Lieberman was considered a leading candidate, but Trump has since decided he wants to see a broader range of candidates for the job, the official said. Lieberman is partners at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump is expected to hire as part of a team on matters related to the inquiry into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The official said Kasowitz’s hiring hasn’t affected the FBI director search.” [CNN]

Worth noting — Lieberman campaigned for Hillary in Florida and told us at the time: “I think for people who have thought at some point about supporting Trump and have gone increasingly concerned in recent days about his focus on the election being rigged – which there’s no evidence of that, whatsoever – what he said last night, persuaded the persuadable that Hillary Clinton is their best choice.” [JewishInsider]

PRESIDENT-IN-LAW: “Sources Say Chris Christie Gave Jared Kushner Legal Advice About Trump” by Emily Jane Fox: “Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told people that Jared Kushner… asked him if Trump should hire a lawyer… An administration source said that the conversation about retaining counsel “simply did not happen.” Both sides confirmed that a phone call between them took place, as the two talk frequently… In private, according to one person who said Christie recounted his conversation with Kushner, Christie is said to have cautioned that the president “better lawyer up and keep his mouth shut,” this person told me. That Kushner would seek Christie’s legal advice on a matter pertaining to a family member raises eyebrows. Christie, after all, prosecuted a case against Kushner’s father, Charles, more than a decade ago.” [VanityFair]

ON THE HILL — Top Senate Democrat Dismissive of Rouhani Victory — by JI’s Aaron Magid: “I don’t believe their elections are free and fair. They certainly don’t have a democratic government,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Jewish Insider yesterday. “It doesn’t give me great hope whoever would have been elected. Their conduct before and after the Iran nuclear agreement shows anything but that they want to join the international community.” Speaking after a lunch celebrating American Jewish Heritage Month on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) offered a more optimistic view of the outcome in Tehran. “It seems to be a more moderate Iranian segment of leadership, but the hardliners still have significant strength so we can’t be complacent,” he explained.

Both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are expected to vote on Thursday to apply tougher sanctions against the Iranian government for its support of terrorism, ballistic missile programs and human rights violations. The votes were delayed until after the Iranian Presidential elections so not to appear as American intruding in Tehran’s domestic affairs. [JewishInsider]

JERUSALEM DAY: “Huckabee disappointed Trump didn’t mention embassy move during Israel visit” by Sally Persons: “I’m going to be honest, there were a couple of disappointments. It would have been a great time to announce that the U.S. Embassy is moving to Jerusalem, the true capital of Israel,” [Mike] Huckabee said on Fox News. “I think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, [and] it’s the right time to do it.” [WashTimes]

SIGHTING: Mike Huckabee performing with his guitar in Jerusalem [YouTube] h/t Yehuda Joel Friedman and Jeff Ballabon

TRUMP TRIP POSTGAME: “How Trump stayed out of trouble in the Middle East” by Annie Karni: “A decision was made early on… to pack his schedule so that he mostly stayed on message and, according to one aide, “didn’t have time to tweet.” But a key factor was the role played by Dina Powell, H.R. McMaster and Jared Kushner… [Powell] was one of a smaller cadre of top aides who stayed on with Trump on Air Force One en route to Israel… There, she accompanied Trump to bilateral meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas, as well as the president’s visit to the Western Wall… Trump’s aides on Monday night said they were pleased with the trip, but they were also eager to keep the focus on the president. At the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, one aide vented that Trump gets blamed when things go wrong, but his aides receive all of the credit when things actually go right.” [Politico] • Heather Hurlburt: Trump’s Messy, Mostly Successful Israel Visit[NYMag]

Ezra Klein: “Trump’s foreign trip is a reminder he’s much better suited to be a ceremonial head of state than President” [Twitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY — An unnamed senior administration official briefed the press on AF1 en route to Rome concluding that the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel was a “big success.” The overall objective on the trip, the official said, was to create a new direction for peace in the Middle East. “Where it’s gone for the last 15 years has not been a good direction and we have to figure out how we do change that direction so that we obviously can have less war and more opportunity people there to live a better life.”

Asked about what the next steps are to relaunch the peace process, the official said, “The first step there is to bring relationships (between the Arab world and Israel) that are warm and strong privately and bring them more public and also set forth a common set of principles that everyone wants to abide by” in order “to create a lot of momentum and optimism around the prospect for peace.” The official added, “You can’t just walk in on Day One and sign a deal that no one has gotten done in 35 years… We’re very optimistic that we have the ability to do some very transformative things that will really surprise a lot of people.”

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: There is a growing understanding in the Knesset corridors that if President Trump is indeed determined to launch a peace process, it will entail some internal political shuffle. Jason Greenblatt is expected to return to the region on Thursday. Plus, before departing, Jared Kushner met for a side meeting with opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, and told him that “This President always surprises” and assured him that the administration does not intend to leave a vacuum after the visit and will continue the momentum.

The soft side of Melania Trump: The media’s spotlight has been following Melania Trump’s hands for a few days now, including a video angle that appeared to show her rejecting her husband’s hand. But in Israel, Melania’s hands might have produced the most touching and human moment of the whole visit. While arriving at the President’s residence on Monday, Nechama Rivlin welcomed Melania out of the limousine, and when the two first ladies walked down the red carpet – they were holding hands. Rivlin, who suffers from a chronic lung disease, has to walk with an oxygen tank, and when she met Melania, she whispered in her ear that she would try to keep up with the pace “but it could be slower.” According to officials in the President’s office, Melania replied: “We will walk with you at any pace you choose,” and embraced her hand strongly. The photo of the two ladies holding hands went viral in Israel, and Mrs. Rivlin wrote a special Facebook post elaborating on their encounter. “In the hustle and bustle of this important and historic visit, I also got to know the First Lady Melania. A charming woman inside and out, sensitive and special,” she wrote of Melania Trump, adding that she gave her a gift, a children’s book titled “Hug” by David Grossman in 3 languages – Hebrew, Arabic and English. “It was great to sit with her and with the wonderful Ivanka who joined us, and to discuss bringing together strangers who might be less afraid of getting closer if they only were interested in each other.”

Everyone was so ecstatic about the warm hug that Trump gave Israel, that nobody was really talking about the mega-billion dollar arms deal the US signed with Saudi Arabia. According to the White House readout of the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, the President assured Netanyahu that the US will maintain Israels qualitative military edge, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said today that “we have our ways to deal with it.” Speaking on Army Radio this morning, Liberman reacted to the deal for the first time, stating he does “not live in peace with the whole Mideast arms race. Regional deals have reached $215 billion, which is a significant sum, so I do not live well with the arms race and the huge Saudi acquisition.” In the same interview, Liberman all but confirmed that Trump leaked intelligence that came from Israel, saying that the Defense Ministry “drew conclusions” from the incident. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

TRUMP’S SALES PITCH: “Trump’s Saudi Arabia Trip Figures Into Plan for Palestinian Deal” by Ben Hubbard and Ian Fisher: “With the gusto of a salesman pushing a limited-time offer, [Trump] cast the Saudi monarch in a leading role and invoked his name to push Mr. Netanyahu toward progress with the Palestinians. It was a case study in wheeler-dealer diplomacy, aimed at unlocking progress in a conflict that has bedeviled decades of peace efforts.” [NYTimes

“Trump’s Israel Love Offensive Might Carry a Hefty Price Tag” by Barak Ravid: “The hugs and kisses that Trump scattered everywhere in his Jerusalem speech did not distract him from the message he’d been hammering home… Trump wants a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and thinks that achieving such a deal will be difficult but not impossible… Trump believes that both Netanyahu and Abbas are ripe for making history. As of now, Trump has no plan, but he’s determined to try and determined to succeed, and fast.” [Haaertz]

Dore Gold, former MFA Director General and current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, emails us… “There are two elements in the ties between the US and Israel that President Trump addressed. First, America is connected to the historical narrative of the Jewish people. He spoke about the links of the Jews to the Holy Land dating back thousands of years. The Jews did not come back to their land as a response to the Holocaust alone. Against a background of centuries of oppression, which he detailed, he assured his Israeli audience that America will stand at Israel’s side. Second, he focused on Iran’s genocidal threats and offered his own personal guarantee of Israel’s security, including that Iran would never obtain nuclear weapons. What was remarkable about his speeches in the Middle East was that his guarantees to the Saudis and his guarantees to Israel did not contradict each other. He understood that the region had fundamentally changed and he was moving American diplomacy forward in recognition of that fact.”

“In Trump’s private moments, it’s small talk and compliments” by Josef Federman and Aya Batrawy: “President Donald Trump spent part of his two-day visit to Israel with open microphones nearby, giving the world a small glimpse into his private banter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between official appearances. They chatted about paint on the walls, their wives and where to stand during a ceremony. And they exchanged compliments – lots of compliments.” [AP]

“Mahmoud Abbas, Donald Trump, and the Politics of Peace” by Bernard Avishai: “The recent meetings with Trump have given Abbas a boost. During his visit to the White House, earlier this month, he reportedly proposed restarting negotiations with Israel where he and Olmert left off, in 2008. Those negotiations covered most major issues—security, borders, Jerusalem, and refugees—and both leaders considered the remaining gaps bridgeable. He is also turning up the heat on Hamas in Gaza, in an effort to force a genuine reunification—an action that may backfire, as Gazans are suffering in the process.”[NewYorker]

FAKE NEWS — Qatar says state news website hacked, fake article published: “Qatar says hackers broke into the website of its state-run news agency… The fake article claimed the small, gas-rich nation had ordered its ambassadors from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates withdrawn over “tension” with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The fake article also quoted Qatar emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani calling Iran an “Islamic power” and saying Qatar’s relations with Israel were “good.”” [AP]

** 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: Icahn Guides Trump’s Policy and Scores $60 Million[Bloomberg] • US Marshals to auction Aby Rosen’s longtime UES home: Sale to settle judgement against his landlord, the African nation of Niger [RealDeal] • Microsoft reportedly acquires Israeli cybersecurity startup Hexadite for $100 million [VB]

SPOTLIGHT — Uber Finds Itself Facing a Legal Battle in Yet Another Country:“Uber faces a legal challenge in Israel, adding to the list of places where it is under scrutiny, after the country alleged unauthorized drivers were illegally paid using its network for a new carpooling app the company is piloting. Israel’s Transportation Ministry said on Wednesday an undercover investigation had found Uber recruited private drivers to operate the network without the necessary licenses, and that Uber took 25% of the cost of each ride. Uber, which said it was operating within Israeli rules, is running a pilot of UberNight in Tel Aviv where it says passengers only pay to help cover the expense of the ride.” [Fortune]

Startup nation or left-behind nation? Israel’s economy is a study in contrasts: “For a country with many highly educated people, Israel scores poorly in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of the science, maths and reading skills of 15-year-olds from across the world run by the OECD… Israel also scores poorly on the OECD’s measures of restrictiveness in product markets and services… The cost of living is about 20% higher than in Spain and 30% higher than in South Korea. Kosher certification makes food more expensive, and the panoply of quotas, tariffs, regulatory barriers and guaranteed agricultural prices has piled on extra costs. Strikingly, a country that has produced globally popular taxi and navigation apps does not allow Uber to offer its cheap car-for-hire services because of resistance from the taxi lobby.” [Economist]

“Shavuot Could Prevent Orthodox Jews From Attending ICSC 2018” by Guelda Voien: “The important Jewish holiday of Shavuot will fall during next year’s ICSC RECon and may prevent observant Jewish real estate professionals from attending the convention, brokers told Commercial Observer. Because Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the issue hasn’t arisen in eight years or so, said Ira Zlotowitz, the president and chief executive officer of Eastern Union Funding who observes orthodox Judaism… A spokesperson for ICSC said the organization is aware of the problem and is “working on a solution,” but as of now the schedule remains unchanged.” [Observer]

TOP TALKER: “Hannity backs off story about murdered DNC staffer” by David Bauder: “Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity said Tuesday he’s backing off his speculation about the 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich after talking with Rich’s family, which had appealed to the media to stop… Hannity said Tuesday that he had corresponded with Rich’s brother and that “out of respect for the family’s wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.” … Hannity sent mixed signals about whether he was actually through with the Rich story, both on his show and in a later tweet. “To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth,” he said.” [AP] • “We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder” [WashPost]

“The Shame of Defaming Seth Rich” by John Podhoretz: “I’m no fan of former DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz but even the suggestion she might have been a party to murder is so far out of bounds there aren’t even good similes or metaphors to capture how far out of bounds it is.” [CommentaryMag]

TOP-OP: “How the Ebb-and-Flow of American Politics Affects American Jewish Attitudes toward Israel” by Jordan Chandler Hirsch: “Israel’s achievements generated American goodwill. When asked in the 1970s whether a so-called Jewish lobby was taking over Congress, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the Democratic Senator from Washington, responded that Americans of all kinds, far from being in the thrall of lobbyists, “respect competence. They like that we are on the side which seems to know what it’s doing.” … American Jews, for their part, largely adhered to the same views… And this seamless support would persist, at least on the surface, throughout the Reagan presidency and until the collapse of the Soviet empire—after which the tectonic plates undergirding the U.S.-Israel alliance and, correspondingly, the American Jewish relationship with Israel began to shift.” [Mosiac]

“What Progressives Miss About Arms Sales” by Andrew Exum: “Donald Trump obviously has no moral qualms about selling weapons to our partners and allies abroad. And so while Democrats leave points on the board with working-class voters by not talking about how much Democrats do to support U.S. industry, Republicans swoop in to take credit with assembly line workers for even those things that Obama approved and set in motion.” [TheAtlantic]

Adam Grant tweets: “Instead of telling boys to “be a man,” we should encourage them to “be a mensch.” [Twitter]

DESSERT — Ethan Daniel Davidson’s latest track: “A beautiful, crawling soundscape is what you will find in avant-garde Americana artist Ethan Daniel Davidson‘s new track “I Might’ve Been Wrong”. The Detroit, Michigan-based musician consistently and successfully rounds out his sound with a talented full band, including Jordan Schug, Gretchen Gonzales, Warren Defever, Kara Meister, Julie Benjamin, and Steve Nister, and we’re expecting a great deal from the lot with the release of his upcoming album in mid-June. Until then, we’ve got the exclusive premiere of “I Might’ve Been Wrong” to tantalize your eardrums.” [ImposeMag]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor at Brooklyn College and painter whose realist art works appear in many museums, Philip Pearlstein turns 93… Co-founder of the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a premier firm known for complex transactions and litigation, he is discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” Herbert Wachtell turns 85… Film director and daughter-in-law of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Joan Micklin Silver turns 82… Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, his Hebrew name is Shabsi Zissel, he is one of the most influential singer-songwriters of his generation, Bob Dylan turns 76… Member of Congress since 2007 [D-TN-9], his district includes almost three-fourths of Memphis, he is Tennessee’s first Jewish congressman, Stephen Ira “Steve” Cohen turns 68… Former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs (2000-2003), author of articles in magazines such as Newsweek and Foreign Affairs, author of more than a dozen books, Jorge Castañeda Gutman turns 64… First-ever Jewish member of the parliament in Finland, first elected in 1979, in 2011 he was elected as the acting speaker of the Finnish parliament, Ben Zyskowicz turns 63… Constitutional historian, lecturer and writer, Richard B. Bernstein turns 61…

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer, one of his novels is “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” Michael Chabon turns 54… US Ambassador to Singapore (2010-2013), member of the the Georgia State Senate (2003-2010), now a partner in the global law firm Reed Smith, David Adelman turns 53… Ukrainian businessman, patron of the Jewish community in Ukraine, collector of modern and contemporary art and politician, Hennadiy Korban turns 47… Actor, who starred in the HBO original series “How to Make It in America,” Bryan Greenberg turns 39… Chief of Staff at The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, previously Deputy Chief Of Staff at the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, Benjamin E. Milakofsky turns 33… Director of Development at Schwarzman Scholars, previously VP for Development at ProPublica and SVP for Development at the Center for American Progress, Debby Goldberg… President of Rosemont Seneca Advisors and board chair of DC-based non-profit 826DC, helping teachers and students with creative and expository writing skills, Eric D. Schwerin (h/t Playbook)… Senior Development Director in AIPAC’s Northeast Region, Nora Berger (h/t son Aylon)…

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