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

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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 Pence'QAnon shaman' is 'wounded' Trump hasn't helped him Biden can build on Pope Francis's visit to Iraq The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill 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. http://bit.ly/3ae5O1x

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 TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE announced that Vice President Pence will lead the administration's response to the coronavirus. http://bit.ly/2wUVUDH


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: http://bit.ly/2PJQKB1


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. http://bit.ly/2T4ZhR6

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." http://bit.ly/2wcdUJ0



The CDC told lawmakers and reporters that the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. is inevitable. http://bit.ly/2wUVUDH


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 SandersABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor GOP pulling out all the stops to delay COVID-19 package MORE (I-VT.): 

Sanders criticized the president's appointment of Vice President Pence, whom Sanders accused of wanting to "pray away" the HIV epidemic. http://bit.ly/2wSECXI

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

Disgusting." http://bit.ly/3abbMjI


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 cmartel@thehill.com -- 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: http://bit.ly/3c2yoVh

Livestream of the conference: http://bit.ly/2uCDeHW



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: http://bit.ly/2luO8Z1 

People always dress up: Here are photos of a few attendees: http://bit.ly/3aeOxFr

What a steal: Here's a photo of the $20 (!) Caesar salad at the hotel's concession stand. Photo of the salad: http://bit.ly/2TnxD0e

A Trump statue made of literal nails: http://bit.ly/2wVguDX

One of the biggest 'boos' so far: Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk mentioned Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits Republicans, please save your party 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." http://bit.ly/2TnDbb5

^ Keep in mind: Romney was formally disinvited from attending CPAC because of his vote for additional witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. http://bit.ly/2Vr3Kil

Even Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence 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: http://bit.ly/32zkhlL

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: http://bit.ly/2uACweh



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." http://bit.ly/2Pws12V

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 BarrBill BarrPolitics in the Department of Justice can be a good thing Majority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case MORE's intervention to the sentencing recommendation by the Department of Justice against Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Third approved vaccine distributed to Americans DOJ investigating whether Alex Jones, Roger Stone played role in Jan. 6 riots: WaPo Nearly a quarter of Trump's Facebook posts in 2020 included misinformation: analysis 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: http://bit.ly/2Pws12V



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.) http://bit.ly/3ce3kC0

Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president 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: http://bit.ly/2T4jwhL

2 – 3 p.m. EST: First and last votes in the House. The House's full schedule: http://bit.ly/2uzUL3n

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



11:50 a.m. EST: Vice President Pence spoke at CPAC. Livestream: http://bit.ly/2uCDeHW

6 p.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - FBI director testifies on Jan. 6 Capitol attack Overnight Health Care: Senate to vote on .9 trillion relief bill this week | J&J vaccine rollout begins | CDC warns against lifting restrictions Trump has been vaccinated for coronavirus MORE participate in an African American History Month reception in the East Room of the White House. Livestream: http://bit.ly/3a94HzX



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: http://bit.ly/2VruLSJ