Little Trump fires everywhere: The president fuels potential problems for his successor


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump is still hoping to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, running a battery of failed lawsuits and intensive pressure campaigns on electoral officials. Absent the unlikely that he overturns the election, Trump is setting what one official called “fires”: plunging the United States into controversies that it will be hard for Biden to exit and seeding the government with personnel who will be hard to displace.

Among the latter is Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, an aide to the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Lightstone has been named to lead the Abraham Fund, the investment fund launched in the wake of the normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

One of the fund’s first projects under Lightstone will be to modernize the Israeli checkpoints that dot the West Bank, and Democrats in Congress told me they fear that Trump is trying to insinuate into the bureaucracy an ideology sympathetic to the settler movement.

Call the appointments Trump Dumps. Another example is the white nationalist-adjacent Darren Beattie, named this week to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

“The commission identifies and works to secure the preservation of historical sites in Europe, such as cemeteries, monuments and Holocaust killing sites, that are associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens,” my colleague Ben Sales writes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is doing his part, rushing to entrench a number of policies that Biden rejects and may be hard to overturn. My colleague Gabe Friedman lists what Pompeo pulled off in a single day: He became the first secretary of state to visit a settlement in the West Bank, and then the Golan Heights. Pompeo also said the State Department formally regarded the movement to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel as anti-Semitic.

Read my full article on Lightstone here, and what else Trump could be planning here.

And just a quick note that this is the last week you’ll see the Tell looking like this. Starting next week, you’ll get a roundup of all of JTA’s politics coverage, with a short note from me, at the same time and in the same place — your inbox. Thanks for reading!


Georgia on everybody’s mind: With the stakes so high in the two runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5 — control of the Senate is in the balance — the candidates on each side have teamed up to share resources.

That’s reflected in the campaign for the Jewish vote and Jewish donors. The Republican Jewish Coalition is hosting a Zoom conference on Dec. 2 for the two Republican nominees, incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and running weekly canvassing sessions for the senators. 

Matt Brooks, the RJC director, told me he has tapped the four-person team he had in Florida to help keep that state in the GOP column on Nov. 3. 

“We have deployed our Florida field team to GA,” he said in an email, “activated our national volunteer base to start phone banks into GA and have raised over $200,000 via our PAC portal in a few hours after dropping the email appeal. These races are a top priority for RJC.”

The Jewish Democratic Council of America, meantime, has set up a dedicated web page for the two Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff, the Jewish documentarian who is challenging Perdue, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is opposing Loeffler. The page features Warnock’s defense of his record on Israel, which has come under fire as his past critiques of Israeli policy have emerged. Ossoff has come to Warnock’s defense, telling the Forward that Loeffler’s attacks on Warnock “make me sick.” 

Loeffler and Perdue have their own issues — with associations with anti-Semitic themes — that  Ossoff brings up in his campaigning: Loeffler has aligned herself with the QAnon promoter Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won her House race in Georgia, and an ad by the Perdue campaign that elongated Ossoff’s nose.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America is also running a 30-second ad for both Democrats. Its focus is mostly Joe Biden, a bid to get out the voters who cast their ballot for the Democrat who flipped the state on Nov. 3. Also notable: When the ad gets around to a photograph of Ossoff and Warnock, they are walking in lockstep and immersed in conversation. It’s a subtle invocation of the 1960s Black-Jewish alliance that Jewish Atlantans I’ve spoken to still hanker for.

Once more with the Supremes: Christian churches twice took their challenges to pandemic-related closures to the Supreme Court — and failed both times in 5-4 votes. That was before Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and was replaced by a conservative justice, Amy Coney Barrett. Now Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish group, is bringing the challenge to the court. My colleague Shira Hanau reports.

Poll vaulting: We try to reconcile the divergent Jewish exit polls, and depending on which one you read showed either a continuation of tradition or significant gains for Trump.

Come on over to my house (of worship): Madison Cawthorn, a newly minted North Carolina Republican congressman, told Jewish Insider that he has tried to convert Jews. My colleague Gabe Friedman noticed, and so did Twitter.


Ritchie Torres in New York City, March 21, 2016. (Noam Galai/Getty Images)

At Bloomberg Opinion, Eli Lake interviews New York Congressman-elect Ritchie Torres and discovers that you can be  “a gay Afro-Latino Democrat from the Bronx” and still be pro-Israel.


We reported this week that the White House is staging an in-person Hanukkah party despite COVID warnings. Beth Wilensky, a law professor at the University of Michigan, didn’t think it was a good idea.


Share your thoughts on The Tell, or suggest a topic for us. Connect with Ron Kampeas on Twitter at @kampeas or email him at

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