President Donald Trump and the White House are facing a crisis of confidence over their handling of the coronavirus, with no obvious way to arrest the slide. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
DRIVING THE DAY
OF ALL THE QUESTIONS TUMBLING THROUGH THE MINDS of President DONALD TRUMPS political allies eight months before Election Day, none is more urgent than this: How can the 45th president stop this bleeding?
TRUMP and his White House are facing a crisis of confidence over their handling of the coronavirus, with no obvious way to arrest the slide. Case in point: Although scant new information was released Thursday, financial markets nosedived uncontrollably — part of the worst week in markets since the 2008 crash. AS OF JUST BEFORE 6 A.M., Dow Futures indicated that the market will slide another 1% — 278 points — this morning upon opening.
WHATS A COMMANDER in chief to do?
THERE IS PRECEDENT: IN TIMES OF CRISIS, PRESIDENTS tend to use the machinery of the federal government as a salve to calm nerves. Former President BARACK OBAMA committed several thousand troops to West Africa during the Ebola scare. He visited the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Yet TRUMP seems to delight in throwing sand in that same machinery. He stands by his decision to slash money for infectious disease research.
INSTEAD OF CEDING THE SPOTLIGHT to experts, he has taken it upon himself to talk about the virus outbreak, and cast doubt on the judgment of U.S. government scientists that there will be an outbreak of some magnitude in the United States. He contradicted members of his infectious disease team. On Thursday, he met with a pair of actors who were starring in a play about a couple of former FBI agents the president does not like.
CONGRESS has a role here and will certainly share in part of the blame should the virus spread, which is why Capitol Hill is racing to find a compromise for roughly $5 billion in spending to combat the burgeoning pandemic. Yet TRUMPS selection of VP MIKE PENCE as the overseer of the government effort has been met with head slaps among Democrats. Speaker NANCY PELOSI said she personally expressed her displeasure to PENCE, although she also noted shes looking forward to working with him.
TRUMPS ALLIES — both on Capitol Hill and in the administration — are looking for ways to pull the emergency brake to aid the president. One such ally suggested the government send test kits — like instant pregnancy exams — to Americans houses. This would help with detection, this person said. When asked if this was feasible, the ally said they had no idea. Of course, there are differences between coronavirus and Ebola. African nations were hospitable to U.S. help. The notoriously secretive China has been less forthright, officials said.
BIG WAPO STORY LENA SUN and YASMEEN ABUTALEB: U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, HHS whistleblower says: Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.
NYT, BIZ FRONT: Trump Administration Faces Economic Test as Coronavirus Shakes Markets,by Jim Tankersley, Alan Rappeport and Jenna Smialek: If the infection gains a big foothold in the United States, it could disrupt the economy, which has been expanding steadily with an unemployment rate that has hovered near a 50-year low for more than a year.
In an extreme scenario where the virus severely hits the United States, it could keep workers at home and grind production to a halt, hurting revenue streams and tanking even highly leveraged corporations as they fall behind on debt payments. In the least severe case, the current slowdown in China could cause a short-lived growth blip.
Economists at Goldman Sachs already expect to shave 0.8 percentage points off the United States gross domestic product in the first three months of 2020 because of slumping tourism from China and trade slowdowns. But they expect a quick rebound in the second quarter that will help to make up for the downturn.
— AP: Asia stocks tumble on virus fears after Wall Street plunge, by Joe McDonald: Asian stock markets plunged further Friday on spreading virus fears, deepening a global rout after Wall Street endured its biggest one-day drop in nine years. AP
WHY THE ADMINISTRATION MAY STRUGGLE WAPO, by Beth Reinhard, Emma Brown and Neena Satija: Former federal officials and public-health experts argue that an effective response to a epidemiological crisis demands sustained planning and investment. While the administrations response to coronavirus has been criticized in recent weeks as slow and disjointed, people in and outside the White House have warned for years that the nation is ill prepared for a dangerous pandemic.
— California undertakes extensive effort to trace contacts of woman with coronavirus,by WaPos Geoffrey Fowler, Lenny Bernstein and Laurie McGinley: California has launched a far-reaching effort to find anyone who might have come in contact with a new coronavirus patient infected despite having no known link to others with the illness, as federal officials tried Thursday to fix the faulty testing process that has hamstrung their ability to track how widely the disease is spreading.
U.S. officials raced to meet the daunting new challenge of a virus that could be spreading through a Northern California community, even as the covid-19 virus continued its relentless march around the globe. Stock markets continued to plunge, Japan initiated a weeks-long school closure and an Iranian lawmaker contracted the infection. From the Middle East to South Korea to parts of Europe, the number of deaths and infections continued to grow.
Good Friday morning.
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ANDREW DESIDERIO: Senate Intel chair privately warned that GOPs Biden probe could help Russia: The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has privately expressed concerns about his colleagues corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, further exposing divisions within the GOP over whether to continue pursuing an effort that led in part to President Donald Trumps impeachment.
In a Dec. 5 meeting, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, respectively — that their probe targeting Biden could aid Russian efforts to sow chaos and distrust in the U.S. political system, according to two congressional sources familiar with the meeting.
SCOOP RYAN LIZZA: Coming to a podcast near you: Hillary Clinton: The other radio personality who influenced the format and style of the new Hillary Clinton show was even more unusual: Howard Stern.
Clintons show will feature her in conversation with a brand-name guest, who might be drawn from world leaders and politicians, of course, but also celebrities, authors and perhaps famous chefs. Her team is experimenting with using a Stern-inspired ensemble plucked from the larger universe of Hillaryland to help loosen her up, keep the show conversational, and discuss the days news, perhaps at the top or bottom of the show. The search is on inside her organization for a Robin Quivers-like sidekick.
MARK LEIBOVICH in Charleston on PETE BUTTIGIEG on A17 of the NYT:The Political Junkie Runs for President: One could easily envision Mr. Buttigieg as a peripatetic presidential campaign operative, or election commentator; or imagine him organizing watch parties in college where like-minded revelers at Harvards Institute of Politics could gather to enjoy that weeks episode of West Wing. Or see him live-blogging the Indiana primary for Slate in 2016, and angling to become the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Thats because he has actually done all of these things.
Still, as you watch Mr. Buttigieg move through his campaign, there are certain settings in which he becomes seemingly indistinguishable from the talking heads and hangers-on who populate this insider bubble.
On the morning of the New Hampshire primary, for instance, he was working his way backstage following an appearance on MSNBCs Morning Joe. Hey, longtime follower, first time hand-shaker, Mr. Buttigieg said, extending his hand to David Wasserman, a campaign and elections guru at The Cook Political Report and semifamous inhabitant of this political-media ecosystem. A self-described nerd for maps, Mr. Wasserman represents just the kind of campaign super-junkie that only the most fanatical of politicos get aroused by.
— Surging Sanders shows few signs of making nice with fellow Democrats,by WaPos Sean Sullivan in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Michael Scherer: [I]n just the past few days, the senator from Vermont has angered Florida Democrats with praise for Fidel Castro. He has upset some Jewish leaders with sharp criticism of a pro-Israel group. And his campaign has preemptively spurned billionaire rival Mike Bloombergs offer to help fund his campaign in the general election.
These disputes with other Democrats, even as he cements a position atop the presidential primary field, are prompting nervousness and alarm among many of them over whether Sanders can set aside decades-old habits of combativeness and confrontation and bring the party together to take on a president they revile.
— A softer side of Bernie Sanders?by the Boston Globes Liz Goodwin:On the cusp of Super Tuesday contests next week that could put Sanders on a fast-moving path to the Democratic presidential nomination, he has begun toning down his rhetoric a bit, distancing himself from his own calls for revolution and serving up a more suburban-friendly twist to his sweeping policy platform while highlighting more of his biography.
— NYTS GLENN THRUSH on OBAMA: As Mr. Sanderss campaign gained steam a few weeks ago, Mr. Obama said he would enthusiastically support any of the candidates. But he added that the task of uniting the party around Mr. Sanders could be difficult, according to an associate who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.
— WARNING SIGNS FOR WARREN, via Stephanie Murray in Boston: Warren is at risk of losing her home state, the latest indignity in her long slide in the polls in her own backyard. As recently as October, the two-term senator held a 20-percentage point lead over Sanders, according to a WBUR poll. According to the latest public poll, she trails him by one point. Now, in the run-up to the March 3 primary, Sanders is going all in on his bid to pick off Massachusetts, culminating in a four-day music and canvassing festival in Worcester that begins Friday. POLITICO
— AND/BUT: Super PAC backing Warren makes $9 million Super Tuesday ad buy, by Alex Thompson
THE HERMETIC SEAL IS OFF! TOO LITTLE TOO LATE, OR RIGHT ON TIME? MIKE BLOOMBERG is in the midst of a media blitz. He spoke with NBCs KASIE HUNT in Houston and JUDY WOODRUFF for the PBS NewsHour. The NYTs JEREMY PETERS reported he will be on CBS 60 Minutes this week.
CHRIS CADELAGO in POLITICO MAGAZINE: The Wizards Behind Bloombergs Half-Billion Dollar Makeover
BEN JACOBS on Medium: Michael Bloombergs North Carolina Game Is Seriously Unlike Anything Else: The Super Tuesday state is the former New York mayors best shot at primary delegates and he knows it: North Carolina may be Bloombergs best state on Super Tuesday, and on paper, Bloombergs organization in North Carolina is formidable.
By Super Tuesday, the campaign will have 10 offices and a staff of more than 125 in the state. Bloomberg has already spent $14.4 million on advertising in North Carolina. Thats more than Bernie Sanders, his most well-financed competitor, has spent on the air in all 14 Super Tuesday states combined.
NOT GOING ANYWHERE — Joe Bidens campaign isnt dead yet, by Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo in Charleston, S.C.: Just as his White House bid appeared to be sputtering to an ugly end, there are signs of life for Joe Biden still. And perhaps more than that. A second-place finish in Nevada, a major endorsement in South Carolina, a strong debate Tuesday and a pair of polls showing him with a staggering lead here have given new hope to his campaign.
Money is flowing anew into his war chest, as well as to a super PAC supporting him. Armed with those data points, the campaign and super PAC are telling donors that Biden given his strength among African-American voters and momentum kicking in at the right time is quickly emerging as the alternative to frontrunner Bernie Sanders. POLITICO
CPAC ALEX ISENSTADT at National Harbor, Md.: GOP scramble is on to succeed Donald Trump in 2024: President Donald Trump is locked in a tough reelection battle, yet the Republicans looking to succeed him are already circling.
Theyre visiting early primary states, reaching out to major donors, and in one instance even running commercials in Iowa. But perhaps the most overt display of ambition is on display this week here at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a rite of passage for White House aspirants eager to audition before thousands of activists whose support can be critical down the line.
Those with the most prominent speaking roles a list that includes the likes of Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are regarded as likely 2024 contenders. At Wednesday evenings opening reception, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley was mobbed by fans, including a woman who wore a Nikki 2024 baseball cap. Haley took a picture with the woman and signed the hat. POLITICO
— Trumps answer to Bernies youth brigade: Don Jr.,by Tina Nguyen
— SPOTTED at Turning Point USAs CPAC afterparty at the Cadillac Ranch on Thursday night: Donald Trump Jr. and Kim Guilfoyle, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Charlie Kirk, Andrew Kolvet, Benny Johnson, Neil Munro, Charlie Spiering, Dana Loesch, Hogan Gidley, Will Ricciardella, Sergio Gor, Andy Surabian
Brooke Singman, Daniel Rodimer, Matt Colby,Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars, Gaston Mooney, James OKeefe (handing out #EpsteinCoverup hats), Carpe Donktum, Stephanie Hamill, Gina Loudon, Rogan OHandley (DC Draino) and a bald eagle. The drinks menu (including Epstein Did Not Tequila Himself)
SUNDAY SO FAR
- This Week: Joe Biden Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Panel: Matt Dowd, Chris Christie, Heidi Heitkamp and Yvette Simpson.
- State of the Union: VP Mike Pence Joe Biden. Panel: Rick Santorum, Van Jones, Amanda Carpenter and Rebecca Katz.
- Meet the Press: Joe Biden. Panel: Robert Gibbs, Eddie Glaude Jr., Peggy Noonan and Kristen Welker.
- Face the Nation: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Anthony Salvanto Ed OKeefe. Panel: Karen Tumulty, Michael Crowley, Jamal Simmons and Ramesh Ponnuru.
- Fox News Sunday: Joe Biden. Panel: Katie Pavlich, Donna Brazile, Kristen Soltis Anderson and Mo Elleithee. Power Player: Phyllis Wilson.
- Inside Politics: Mike Shear, Nia-Malika Henderson and Jackie Kucinich.
TRUMPS FRIDAY — The president will leave the White House at 4:10 p.m. en route to North Charleston, S.C. He will arrive at the North Charleston Coliseum at 6:15 p.m. and will speak at a political rally at 7 p.m. He will depart the coliseum at 8:35 p.m. and travel back to Washington. He will return to the White House at 10:30 p.m.
NEW ISSUE OF THE AGENDA: With the battle over standards and competition for the future of 5G wireless technology heating up, the latest installment of POLITICO’s The Agenda series offers a deep look at the policy and technical battles shaping this generation of communications. Special for this issue is an international survey on what consumers and tech professionals hope for and worry about with 5G. The poll found that more than half the surveyed population, averaged globally, expressed concerns that 5G could make more personal data vulnerable to hacking. The data also suggested a global rift over how much consumers trust corporations to safeguard their personal data. READ THE FULL ISSUE AND SURVEY RESULTS.
PHOTO DU JOUR: Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, Feb. 28. | Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo
K STREET FILES — Longtime Republican lobbyist Dirk Van Dongen to retire,by Theo Meyer
HIDDEN PLAYER WAPOS PAUL KANE on LAURA DOVE: An unsung aide equal parts air traffic controller and caddie exits the Senate
AP/ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey raises death toll to 33 troops in Syrian airstrike: Turkey on Friday raised the death toll from a Syrian government airstrike on its forces in northwestern Syria the previous night to 33 Turkish troops, the highest number of Turkish soldiers killed in a single day since Ankara first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2016.
The deaths, which came in an attack late Thursday, were a serious escalation in the direct conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces that has been waged since early February. The earlier reported death toll was 29 troops.
The attack also sharply raises the risk of direct military confrontation between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia. Ambassadors from NATO countries were holding emergency talks on Friday at the request of Turkey, a member of the alliance. The Turkish stock market fell 10% in the wake of the airstrike, while the Turkish lira slid against the dollar.
FT: Benjamin Netanyahu battles for votes ahead of third poll in a year, by Mehul Srivastava in Tel Aviv: A veteran campaigner, Israels four-time premier is pulling out all the stops to ensure his political survival. In the past week alone, he has promised to legalise marijuana, build vast settlements in the occupied West Bank that would destroy any hope of a contiguous Palestinian state and suggested that an intimate video of his main rival, Benny Gantz, might have been obtained by Iranian hackers.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh sentenced to 3 years for Healthy Holly childrens book fraud scheme, by the Baltimore Suns Luke Broadwater, Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector: U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow described Pughs crimes as astounding and said she took advantage of a career spent doing good works to mislead organizations who purchased her Healthy Holly books.
I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense, the judge said. This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly, I think, are extremely, extremely serious. Baltimore Sun
HAPPENING TOMORROW: the expected signing of the Trump administrations peace deal with the Taliban. AP: The Taliban and representatives from Kabul, including the government, are to sit together within 10 to 15 days of Saturdays signing. Theyll try to negotiate the framework of a post-war Afghanistan. Issues on the table include a more permanent cease-fire and the rights of women and minorities.
ELIMINATE UNCERTAINTY: Government relations and policy professionals now operate in unpredictable legislative and regulatory cycles. Is technology their answer to remove uncertainty? Can it replace hours of manual processes? Read POLITICO Pro’s 3 tips to manage uncertainty.
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected]
SPOTTED: Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) flying from DCA to Denver on Thursday afternoon. Bennet and Gardner were in the same row, with one seat in between them.
SPOTTED at a blockchain Black History Month reception in Rayburn on Thursday: Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands), Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Kristin Smith, Yebbie Watkins, Tariq Meyers, Raj Mukherjee, Lyndon Boozer, Lon Goldstein, Gerry Harrington, Lewis Myers, Devron Brown, Erica Miles, Cleve Mesidor and Todd Wooten.
TRANSITIONS — PAUL TELLER is leaving the White Houses Office of Legislative affairs to join Pences office, where his title is likely to be deputy assistant to the president and director of strategic initiatives for the VP. TELLER worked with PENCE on Capitol Hill when Teller was the executive director of the RSC and Pence ran the conservative caucus. More from the Examiner
— Hanna Salem, director of press advance for the White House, is leaving to return to her consulting firm Salem Strategies. She is one of the few original Trump staffers, having first worked as a consultant for the Trump campaign in February 2016. Heather Foster is joining Lyft as senior director of public engagement and strategic partnerships. She was most recently VP of preK-12 education at Widmeyer Finn Partners.
WEEKEND WEDDING — Molly Stevens, director for scheduling for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Joe Venegas, senior CRM specialist at Heritage Foundation, got married Saturday at St. Josephs. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Joy Swain, VP of corporate research at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and John Baker, program office manager for contractor responsibility and conflict resolution for the Air Forces Office of the General Counsel, welcomed Ashwin John Baker on Feb. 18. PicAnother pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Andrea Riccio, VP at S-3 Public Affairs. What shes been reading: Following the British royal family is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Megxit has taken me down a full-fledged rabbit-hole, and I recently finished The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown to dive deeper into the Windsor gossip of the 90s. Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: NYTs Paul Krugman Ira Forman is 68 … WaPos Sarah Ellison and Miki King … Steven Chu is 72 … Kristen Slaughter Brown NYTs Lisa Lerer (h/t Rachel Adler) Laura Durso … Porter DeLaney … John Nagl … POLITICOs Charlie Mahtesian and Danielle Sorcher Jay Morgan … USA Todays Kelsey Bloom … RNCs Christiana Purves … Ken Blackwell is 72 … Christine Simpson E&E News Pamela King … Christine Domenech … Jessie Singleton Lazarus … Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent … Brendan Kelly is 37 … Sandhya Taneja … Craig Anderson, legislative director for Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), is 29 (h/t Mitchell Rivard)
Heather Fluit, communications director for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) Adam Sieff Mark Lippert, VP at Boeing International Will May, VP of business development at Firehouse Strategies (h/t NBN) Erica Goldman of Purple Strategies Cara Hewitt of Bloomberg Government … Deidre DeJear Ned Ryun Drew Ryun Lamar Echols Judy Schneider Heather Sabharwal … Samantha Kruse … Kent Gray Emily Krueger … Enid Doggett … Tom Hussain is 53 … James Sullivan … Claire Francis … Bruce Potter … Leslie Aun … Katye Riselli Matt Abbott Meghan Kielty Darlene Ayers-Johnson … Michelle Brown … Emily Sporn … Rhea Lieber
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