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Political Notebook

Doug Emhoff urges all to fight antisemitism

Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke during a roundtable discussion with Jewish leaders about the rise in antisemitism and efforts to fight hate in the United States.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president, said he would use his historic position to speak out against rising antisemitism in the US and urged Americans to join him.

“As long as I have this microphone, I’m going to speak out against hate, bigotry, lies. I’m going speak out against those who praise fascist murderers and idealize extremists. I’m going to speak out against Holocaust deniers and then call those out who won’t do it,” Emhoff said Wednesday at the start of a roundtable discussion with White House officials and leaders of 13 major Jewish organizations.

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“I will not remain silent,” he said.

While Emhoff did not mention anyone by name in his remarks, the long-planned event took on added significance after former president Donald Trump last month hosted Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, along with the rapper Kanye West, who now goes by Ye and has made a series of antisemitic comments.

Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, said the roundtable was the beginning of a conversation to encourage Americans to forcibly condemn what he called “an epidemic of hate facing our country” that has generated a national outcry and alarmed the Jewish community.

“It hurts. It hurts me to see what we’re going through right now. Antisemitism is dangerous. We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile words,” he said.

“There’s only one side. Everyone, all of us, must be against this, must be against antisemitism. We know when people refuse to condemn this vile speech or these vile acts, refuse to condemn them, it only serves to incite violence.”

Ye praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis during a recent interview with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Basketball star Kyrie Irving posted a link to an antisemitic video on his Twitter account and only apologized after a suspension. Hate speech on Twitter has surged in the weeks after Elon Musk acquired the site and promised to restore banned accounts, according to The New York Times.

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Emhoff spoke out last Friday, saying he was “in pain” over the antisemitic episodes and had a “responsibility” to condemn them, given his position.

On Wednesday, he also invoked his personal story as the descendant of Jews who arrived in the United States after fleeing persecution and his decision to become a lawyer to fight inequality.

The Jewish organizations at the meeting represented the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements, Emhoff’s office said. Also joining in the roundtable were top White House advisers Susan Rice and Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Deborah Lipstadt, the US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

Lipstadt said the rise in domestic antisemitism had complicated her efforts to encourage nations to stand with the US against discrimination.

“I can’t go to these countries and say, ‘You have a problem,’” Lipstadt said. “Now we have to say, ‘We have a serious problem.’”

Bloomberg News

2 GOP senators seek distance from Trump

Two Senate Republicans distanced themselves from Donald Trump a day after Herschel Walker, the GOP candidate handpicked by the former president, lost his runoff election to Democratic Senator Raphael G. Warnock in Georgia.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said the outcome of the Senate race proved that Republicans need to broaden their base of support beyond Trump loyalists if they want to win races.

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“I think he’s less relevant all the time,” Cornyn said Wednesday on Trump’s influence on the party post-midterms. “Even if you capture all the Trump voters, you may be able to win a primary, but you’re not necessarily going to win a general election. And in this business, you have to win an election before you actually govern.”

“It’s not like coming in second and getting a trophy like you did in junior high school,” Cornyn added. “You can’t win unless you get more votes than your opponent.”

Walker became the latest Republican who lost a midterm election after being backed by Trump, in part for supporting the baseless claim that the 2020 presidential was stolen from the former president.

“I think his obsession with the 2020 election became an albatross and a real liability for people who were running, especially in swing states,” Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said Wednesday.

Washington Post

Suburban voters were key in Warnock win

Democrats padded their Senate majority on Tuesday night thanks in part to a rebuke of the Republican candidate in Georgia’s suburbs.

Turnout was somewhat lower in Tuesday’s runoff than in the November general election, by about 400,000 voters, but Democratic Senator Raphael G. Warnock more than doubled his lead over Republican Herschel Walker. The Democrat led by about 95,000 votes as of Wednesday, besting his 37,000-vote margin in the general election.

Both candidates fought to get voters back to the polls just a month after the Nov. 8 general election. Runoff elections, triggered when no candidate receives more than 50 percent, regularly have lower turnout. About 3.5 million voters showed up for the runoff versus 3.9 million in November’s general election.

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Walker was seemingly unable to turn out the voters he needed to offset Warnock’s advantages in urban and suburban areas. While Warnock won suburban areas by 190,000 votes in November, he led them by 223,000 in the December runoff.

Walker, plagued by several scandals during his campaign, had already shown weakness in these areas: The ex-football star had already underperformed Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican, significantly in the vote-rich Atlanta suburbs in November.

That turnout drop, especially in Atlanta’s exurban counties in North Georgia, hurt Walker. Forsyth County provided 66,000 votes in Walker’s November outing but only 58,000 in December. In adjacent Cherokee County, Walker dropped from 81,000 to 72,000. Although Walker still won both counties, both shifted closer toward Warnock this time.

That same trend held true in the rural areas that Walker dominated: In the runoff, he won rural areas by 319,00 votes, compared to his 358,000 lead there in November.

In a continued trend from November, counties south of Atlanta delivered clear shifts toward Warnock. Diversifying Henry County, for instance, has moved toward Democrats faster than any other in Georgia, flipping from a Republican stronghold to a Democratic one in only a few years, The Post’s Theodoric Meyer reported on Monday. A 10 percent drop in overall turnout resulted in 3,400 fewer votes for Warnock, but 4,400 fewer for Walker.

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Washington Post

Congressional panels seek information on Kushner’s property deal

WASHINGTON — Democrats on a pair of congressional committees have launched an aggressive new effort to obtain information about whether Jared Kushner’s actions on US policy in the Persian Gulf region as a senior White House adviser were influenced by the bailout of a property owned by his family business.

Citing previously undisclosed e-mails and other documents related to former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, the committees on Monday night sent letters to the State and Defense departments requesting material that they say could shed new light on whether “Kushner’s financial conflict of interest may have led him to improperly influence US tax, trade, and national security policies for his own financial gain.”

The letters, obtained by The Washington Post, focus on efforts by Kushner and his father, Charles Kushner, to bail out a troubled 41-story Fifth Avenue office building in New York City. The Kushner company in 2018 made a deal with a Canadian company, Brookfield Asset Management, which invested $1.2 billion for a 99-year lease. As a result, the Kushner family company avoided defaulting on a loan that was due the following year.

Democrats have long raised questions about the deal because the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, had a stake in one of Brookfield’s investment arms.

Brookfield said when it was negotiating its deal in 2018 that “no Qatar-linked entity has any involvement in or even knowledge of this potential transaction.” But Democrats have continued probing whether any Qatari money went into the project.

Now, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, in their roles as chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and House Oversight Committee, have broadened that inquiry, co-authoring letters to the State and Defense departments. They wrote that they are seeking an array of documents addressing their concerns that Jared Kushner’s role in Middle East policy could have played a role in the bailout.

Neither Jared Kushner, who now runs a private-equity company, nor Charles Kushner, who serves as chairman of the Kushner real estate company, responded to requests for comment.

Washington Post