The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence taps health official to aid coronavirus response

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report — from CPAC 2020 — Pence addresses CPAC | Crowd boos at mention of Romney's name | Sights and sounds from the conference | Latest on coronavirus | Stocks drop as Dow enters correction | CDC declined to test patient for days | Pence taps health official to coordinate response | Vulnerable House Dems worry about Sanders | How Trump is testing the DOJ, intel community



Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceGrenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts Trump considering attending rocket launch in Florida Flynn's name was never 'masked' on key intelligence document: report MORE is bringing in an expert:

Trump to Pence: ‘This guy. THIS GUY!’


Via The Hill's Brett Samuels, Vice President Pence appointed Debbie Birx, a longtime health official who has largely focused on combatting and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, to serve as the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

Why this is important: "The staffing move is likely intended to appease calls from many lawmakers for the Trump administration to appoint a 'czar'  to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus."

What to know about Birx: "Birx currently serves as the ambassador-at-large for the State Department coordinating the U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. An Obama-era appointee, she has held that role since 2014. She has in the past served as a physician in the U.S. Army and as director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. She spent nearly a decade as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Global HIV/AIDS." 


Background: The coronavirus task force: 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' MORE announced that Vice President Pence will lead the administration's response to the coronavirus.


Why Trump's decision will put pressure on Pence:

Via The Hill's Reid Wilson, President Trump passed the coronavirus buck to Vice President Pence. The results will make or break their relationship, and Trump is setting the bar for success VERY (and maybe unrealistically) high.

How this could play out:


NEWS -- a California coronavirus patient wasn't tested for days:

Via The Hill's Peter Sullivan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not initially test a California patient who had symptoms of the coronavirus because of narrow criteria.

Why this is important: It delayed the identification of a possibly pivotal case.

Did that patient have the coronavirus?: Yes. He was tested on Sunday and the results came back as positive yesterday.



"The Dow Jones Industrial Average sunk nearly 500 points, roughly 1.8 percent, at the start of Thursday trading, formally entering a correction. Stocks and stock indexes are considered to be in a correction after falling 10 percent from their most recent peak. The Nasdaq composite fell 2.6 percent Thursday morning, while the S&P 500 index sunk 2.1 points and nearly hit a correction."



The CDC told lawmakers and reporters that the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. is inevitable.


But President Trump doesn't agree: "I don't think it's inevitable," Trump said Wednesday evening. "It could be at a very small level."


REACTION FROM SEN. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden Julián Castro to become senior advisor for Voto Latino It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (I-VT.): 

Sanders criticized the president's appointment of Vice President Pence, whom Sanders accused of wanting to "pray away" the HIV epidemic.

Sanders tweeted: "Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far:

-Cut winter heating assistance for the poor

-Have VP Pence, who wanted to 'pray away' HIV epidemic, oversee the response

-Let ex-pharma lobbyist Alex Azar refuse to guarantee affordable vaccines to all



It's Thursday. Filing from National Harbor, Md., where Vice President Pence is speaking to thousands of conservative activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference, I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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The land of the free and home of red-colored wardrobes:

Thousands of conservatives are gathering at National Harbor, Md., this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. 

The schedule of speakers:

Livestream of the conference:



With all the discussion of coronavirus, I wondered if people would be wearing face masks: CPAC brings thousands of people from around the country to National Harbor, Md., in pretty close quarters. So far, I haven't seen wearing a mask though.

One disappointing detail for me this year: This is my fifth year coming to CPAC and every year, I’ve seen tons of people sporting elephant-themed GOP wardrobes. I even had elephant puns  ready for this year — I was ready! — and I have not seen one person wearing an elephant-related outfit! :(  Anyway, here's a throwback photo of past CPAC outfits: 

People always dress up: Here are photos of a few attendees:

What a steal: Here's a photo of the $20 (!) Caesar salad at the hotel's concession stand. Photo of the salad:

A Trump statue made of literal nails:

One of the biggest 'boos' so far: Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk mentioned Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Pelosi, Democrats press case for mail-in voting amid Trump attacks MORE (R-Utah) during his remarks and the crowd booed. "Correct," Kirk said to the boos. "Every time his name is mentioned, you should react that way."

^ Keep in mind: Romney was formally disinvited from attending CPAC because of his vote for additional witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.

Even Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGrenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts Democrats call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog GOP lawmakers say they don't want to put Steve King back on committees MORE didn't get booed as much: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was mentioned this morning. A few people booed, but it was nowhere near as loud as the mention of Romney. 

The media filing center at CPAC is always unique: I always hear clapping, cheers and see 'Make America Great Again' swag in the media section of CPAC. I even heard one credentialed member of the media yell, "Lock her up!" during a panel. That's not the case at most political events.

This theme is everywhere here:

One of the largest booths this year: It featured hunting. (Via Mediaite's Zachary Petrizzo) Photos of the booth:

A JFK Jr. lookalike: "Many QAnon believers think this man, Vincent Fusca, is JFK Jr in disguise. Now he's here at CPAC! Fusca says he's approached 'all over the place' by people who believe he's JFK Jr." Photo:



Loyalty over experience:

Via The Hill's Olivia Beavers, "President Trump is challenging two institutions with crucial roles to play in the next election with a controversial appointment to the intelligence community and tweets directed at the Justice Department."

The controversial appointment: "Trump's appointment of Richard Grenell last week to serve as acting director of national intelligence (DNI) came under fierce criticism from Democrats and other observers. Grenell has been serving as U.S. ambassador to Germany and regularly offers vociferous defenses of Trump and attacks of his critics in the media. But he has little intelligence experience."

And before that: "The move followed Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrSenate Democrats call on Trump administration to let Planned Parenthood centers keep PPP loans Senate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans FBI director Wray orders internal review of Flynn case MORE's intervention to the sentencing recommendation by the Department of Justice against Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneSunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Brzezinski says she arranged call with Twitter CEO to discuss banning Trump Trump taps new prosecutor for DOJ office at center of Flynn, Stone controversies MORE, a longtime friend of Trump, one day after the president called the seven- to nine-year recommendation 'a horrible and very unfair situation.' "

Why this is important:



Bernie? Bernie Sanders, you say? Never heard of the guy:

Via The Hill's Mike Lillis and Scott Wong, vulnerable House Democrats are trying to distance themselves from the self-described democratic socialist and front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasActivists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence taps health official to aid coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill: "People are very worried that if Bernie becomes the nominee that it'll be a disaster for them in their own districts." Vargas called the angst "pretty intense."



Roger Stone, posing for photos:



The House and Senate are in. President Trump and Vice President Pence are in Washington, D.C.

1:45 p.m. EST: One roll call vote in the Senate. The Senate's full schedule today:

2 – 3 p.m. EST: First and last votes in the House. The House's full schedule:

2:30 p.m. EST: President Trump receives an intelligence briefing.



11:50 a.m. EST: Vice President Pence spoke at CPAC. Livestream:

6 p.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead MORE participate in an African American History Month reception in the East Room of the White House. Livestream:



Today is National Chili DayNational Toast Day, National Strawberry Day AND National Kahlua Day!


And to mix up your Thursday afternoon, here's an opossum eating a peach: