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Are Jared and Ivanka taking the gloves off?

By Ron Kampeas

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend at Buckingham Palace in London, June 3, 2019. (Credit: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

(JTA) – Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the New York socialites who were supposed to soften the blunt edges of the Trump administration, appear to be taking the gloves off. 

After nearly two years of relative silence on the swirling controversies in the White House, President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, both of whom hold senior advisory positions in the West Wing, seem to be bracing for a fight.

Last month, in a rare media interview, Kushner took an even rarer swipe at one of the president’s opponents, saying he had been busy “cleaning up the messes” Vice President Joe Biden left behind in the Middle East. And Ivanka recently featured a tweet describing her father as surrounded by “enemies and spies.”

Kushner was responding to a comment Biden had made questioning Kushner’s suitability to negotiate peace in the Middle East. “What credentials does he bring to that?” Biden asked. Kushner shot back, saying Biden was responsible for a punitive law that had crippled the criminal justice system, chaos in the Middle East and trade deals that had shortchanged the United States.

Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump has taken a rare swipe of her own. Last week, on the day the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed an impeachment inquiry of the president, Trump quoted Thomas Jefferson: 

“‘Surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them.’ -Thomas Jefferson’s reflections on Washington, D.C. in a letter to his daughter Martha. Some things never change, dad!”

A source close to the Kushners told JTA that the couple does not seek out confrontation, noting that Kushner’s remark was in response to a question. But the tough tone the couple occasionally takes in public simply reflects the central role they play behind the scenes, watching President Trump’s back, the source said.

The buzz after Donald Trump’s 2016 election was that the couple, both former Democrats who traveled easily in New York City’s liberal circles, would put the brakes on the president’s hardline tendencies. It took about a year for folks to realize that was wishful thinking.

Still, the couple (or people close to them) continued to leak their disapproval of Trump’s rollback of immigrant and LGBTQ rights to the media and attempted to maintain credibility with Americans on both sides of the political divide.

So what happened?

One theory is: nothing.

Kushner rarely speaks to the press, a silence that has reinforced the notion that he is the president’s foil. But there has always been evidence that, like his father-in-law, he plays hardball. Kushner has sought retribution against the people who put his father in prison for fraud. He once expressed admiration for a New Jersey official who shut down the George Washington Bridge as political retribution, saying the move was “kind of badass.” And he said Palestinians deserved the massive cuts in aid that Trump initiated because they criticized his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Ivanka Trump cultivates an image as a tireless promoter of women, but she chided Cosmopolitan magazine in 2016 for asking her tough questions about her father’s policies related to child care and maternity leave.

The couple appear to be taking the recent criticism personally, and not without reason. The French government this summer released video of a coterie of world leaders side-eyeing Ivanka when she tried to contribute to their conversation. Biden was attacking Kushner not merely for his Middle East policies, but for being a failed dilettante.

What’s notable about the most recent reactions is what they reveal about how the couple perceive themselves. The Trump campaign’s initial response to the Biden jibe was to note that Kushner is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. In other words, helping Israel is a personal mission for Kushner.

And that Jefferson quote Ivanka Trump tweeted? It was in reply to a letter from Jefferson’s daughter rebuking the third president for his long absences.

With televised impeachment hearings looming, and as the Democratic presidential nominees aim more squarely at Trump, things are likely to heat up further. Already, some in the Washington, D.C., Jewish community say Kushner and Ivanka are ducking public engagement.

But the source close to the couple said that’s not the case. Because of the crushing schedule they keep they can no longer make every Jewish event. The source also noted that the couple was behind setting up the first sukkah on White House grounds during the recent holiday.


Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg expected to run for president

If Michael Bloomberg does enter the presidential race, it will upend an already crowded Democratic field. (Credit: Getty Images; JTA)

(JNS) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to run for president after announcing earlier this year that he would not run for the Democratic nomination. The New York Times first reported the development on Thursday, Nov. 7, as the billionaire is expected to file paperwork by the Friday deadline to run on the ballot in Alabama in 2020.

Bloomberg has expressed concern about the Democratic Party’s leftward slant, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), two frontrunners in the primary.

His record as mayor, from 2002-13, included support for stop-and-frisk policing and his championing of charter schools, both antithetical to the current Democratic Party.

On Israel, Bloomberg said he had “deep reservations” about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration withdrew from in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it, along with enacting new financial penalties against the regime.

In July 2014, when the Obama administration temporarily halted U.S. airlines from flying to Israel amid Hamas launching from rockets into the Jewish state, Bloomberg took an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv “to express solidarity with the Israeli people and show the world that Israel’s airports remain open and safe,” he wrote then.

Bloomberg is also a major philanthropist in the Jewish and pro-Israel community.

He led an effort to create a technology campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City as a joint effort between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. He personally contributed $100 million to the project.

Were he to enter, Bloomberg would be the 18th Democrat in the race to defeat Republican incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump who, like Bloomberg, is from New York.


Ilhan Omar emphasizes Bernie Sanders’ Jewishness in endorsement rally

(JTA) – Rep. Ilhan Omar appeared at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in her home state of Minnesota, offering a strong endorsement that noted his Jewishness.

An estimated 10,000 supporters attended the Sunday night, Nov. 3 event for the Vermont senator at the University of Minnesota.

Omar, also a Democrat, endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and is an outspoken critic of its government. The freshman lawmaker has been criticized for using antisemitic tropes in some of her criticism. Sanders also has been critical of Israel during his campaign and said he would “absolutely” consider cutting U.S. aid to Israel to pressure the its government to change its policy, specifically on settlements.

Omar in her endorsement at the rally emphasized Sanders’ Jewish faith.

“I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide,” the Muslim congresswoman said. “The acknowledgment of pain and suffering is personal for both of us. The fight for human rights is undeniable. And when we recognize injustices of the past and present, whether it is genocide against Jewish people, Armenians or Rwandans or Bosnians or Native Americans or more.”

Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia, last week voted “present” on a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, saying all genocides should be condemned.

“People say that Ilhan and I make an odd political couple. But in fact, there is really nothing odd about it at all,” Sanders told the rally. “Ilhan and I share a common link as the descendants of families who fled violence and poverty, and who came to this country as immigrants. But that is not just my story or Ilhan’s story – that is the story of America.”

Sanders is one of the few Democratic candidates who has worked to reach out to Muslim Americans.

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