Feb 23, 2018

Report: Sheldon Adelson willing to fund Jerusalem embassy

Sheldon Adelson sits behind then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence at the first presidential debate in 2016. Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Billionaire casino magnate and prominent GOP donor Sheldon Adelson has offered to pay for some portion of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which could stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to an AP report. His offer comes as the State Department is reportedly researching the legal roadblocks surrounding funding the project via private donations.

Why it matters: The move would be highly irregular for an American diplomatic complex and raise significant questions surrounding conflicts of interest, especially given Adelson's extensive contributions in support of right-wing Israeli politics.

I don’t know how well that would work. Would we be beholden to putting their name on the building? I’ve never heard of that.
— Kathy Bethany, the former cost management director for the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, to the AP

Why the decision could be risky:

  • The legality: While the State Department can accept gifts from private citizens, even for real estate, it has to evaluate them on an individual basis to make sure that they “would not give the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
  • Adelson's other causes: He's a Republican megadonor, granting $5 million to President Trump's inaugural committee. He also finances a free daily newspaper in Israel — the largest in the country by circulation — that supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • The peace process: Beyond the implications of actually constructing and moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinians and other Arab actors in the region would likely double down on their distaste if the cash from the project came from Adelson or other Netanyahu-backing GOP donors.

What's next: Vice President Mike Pence promised last month that the embassy would be moved to Jerusalem by 2019, but that could happen even sooner with a quick retrofit of the current consular offices in Jerusalem — perhaps even by Israel's Independence Day in April — even though most U.S. diplomatic staff in Israel would remain in Tel Aviv until a more permanent and secure complex could be constructed.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.