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POLITICO Playbook PM: That 2008 feeling

THE DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE — which the TRUMP administration regularly holds out as an instantaneous barometer for its performance and the nation’s mood — had dropped more than 300 points just after 1 p.m., as the United States begins to grapple with how it will prepare for the possibility of the coronavirus spreading widely on domestic soil. The market rebounded after steeper losses earlier today. The latest numbers, via WSJ

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has posited that maybe the Dow’s fall was due to discontent with the Democratic presidential debate, held Tuesday night in Charleston, S.C. — never mind that it also fell during the day on Monday and Tuesday. The S&P 500, meanwhile, is headed for its worst week since October 2008.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL said this morning from the Senate floor that there “seems to be little question that COVID-19 will eventually cause some degree of disruption here” — a half-step further than the president was willing to go last night. But McConnell added that “bipartisan discussions” on a spending package to help combat the virus are already “underway.”

AND, SHORTLY AFTER 11 a.m., PELOSI said that she congressional leaders are “close” to an agreement on coronavirus funding. She said whatever legislation Congress passes will need to include a provision that TRUMP can not transfer money for other priorities. (PELOSI noted that she spoke to VP Mike Pence, and told him she has reservations about him taking the lead in the response to the virus.)

BRIEFLY NOTED: PELOSI on the HOUSE DEMOCRATS’ AGENDA and BERNIE SANDERS’ AGENDA: “It is not unusual for a party platform or the candidates for president to have their own agenda that they would put forth. And it’s not unusual for the House of Representatives to have its agenda, as well. We have to win in certain particular areas. We’re not about a popular vote in the country or in particular states, in terms of your electoral college. We are in district by district. And that’s how we won last time we demonstrated that we know how to win.” Full news conference

— REMEMBER WHEN PAUL RYAN was asked about DONALD TRUMP’S agenda, and he said his House Republicans were running on the “Better Way” agenda — the implication being that they weren’t running on TRUMP’S agenda.

VIRUS LATEST … QUINT FORGEY: “Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced a global health official as the ‘White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator,’ effectively installing a czar-like figure under him to guide the administration’s response to the outbreak.

“Ambassador Debbie Birx, who will report to Pence, serves as the U.S. government’s leader for combating HIV/AIDS globally, according to the White House. She will also join the White House’s coronavirus task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.” POLITICO

— NYT’S MICHAEL SHEAR and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to clear all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.” NYT

— PENCE AT CPAC: “While the risk to the American public remains low, as the president said yesterday, we’re ready. We’re ready for anything. … As the president also said, it’s important to remember we are all in this together. This is not the time for partisanship.”

— “Most Coronavirus Cases Are Mild. That’s Good and Bad News,” by NYT’s Vivian Wang in Hong Kong: “[G]overnment officials and medical experts, in their warnings about the epidemic, have also sounded a note of reassurance: Though the virus can be deadly, the vast majority of those infected so far have only mild symptoms and make full recoveries.

“It is an important factor to understand, medical experts said, both to avoid an unnecessary global panic and to get a clear picture of the likelihood of transmission. … Of the 44,672 coronavirus cases that were confirmed in China by Feb. 11, more than 36,000 — or 81 percent — were mild, according to a study published recently by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.” NYT

ECONOMIC IMPACT — “U.S. economy grew at 2.1% rate in Q4 but virus threat looms,” by AP’s Martin Crutsinger: “The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.1% in the final quarter of last year, but damage from the spreading coronavirus is likely depressing growth in the current quarter and for 2020 as a whole.

“The Commerce Department said Thursday that the overall pace of growth in the October-December quarter was unchanged from its initial estimate a month ago, though the components were slightly altered. A slowdown in business restocking was less severe than first believed. But a cutback in business investment in new equipment was more of a drag on growth than initially estimated.” AP

2:15 THIS AFTERNOON … “Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) will make a major political announcement at the 2020 Conservative Political Action Conference.”

NEW: HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY will give $6.3 million to the NRCC, state parties and individual members today.

— MCCARTHY is hosting a meeting for lawmakers this afternoon where he’ll personally hand out checks for re-elects — a total of $830,000. … He is giving $3.38 million to the NRCC — he has contributed $23.5 million to the committee this cycle … And he is sending $2.1 million to state Republican parties.

… AND SCALISE: TEXT from NRCC Chair TOM EMMER to Republican members yesterday afternoon: “THANK YOU STEVE SCALISE! He has raised over $25 million for our Republican cause. Now, he announced he is DOUBLING HIS ASSESSMENT and contributing another $2 million to the NRCC this month to ensure we elect a new Republican majority. This commitment will be key to helping us defeat the socialist Democrats in November!”

Good Thursday afternoon.

DAN GOLDMAN OUT — “Top House Intelligence investigator departing Capitol Hill,” by CNN’s Vivian Salama and Manu Raju

AMAZING STORY … THE BERNIE BUFFER … NYT’S LISA LERER and REID EPSTEIN: “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders”: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, hear constant warnings from allies about congressional losses in November if the party nominates Bernie Sanders for president. Democratic House members share their Sanders fears on text-messaging chains. Bill Clinton, in calls with old friends, vents about the party getting wiped out in the general election.

“And officials in the national and states parties are increasingly anxious about splintered primaries on Super Tuesday and beyond, where the liberal Mr. Sanders edges out moderate candidates who collectively win more votes. Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders this week show that they are not just worried about Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance.

“Since Mr. Sanders’s victory in Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday, The Times has interviewed 93 party officials — all of them superdelegates, who could have a say on the nominee at the convention — and found overwhelming opposition to handing the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived with the most delegates but fell short of a majority. …

“In recent weeks, Democrats have placed a steady stream of calls to Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who opted against running for president nearly a year ago, suggesting that he can emerge as a white knight nominee at a brokered convention — in part on the theory that he may carry his home state in a general election. … Others are urging former President Barack Obama to get involved to broker a truce — either among the four moderate candidates or between the Sanders and establishment wings, according to three people familiar with those conversations.” NYT

CLICKER … DAVID WASSERMAN for NYT/UPSHOT: “To Beat Trump, Democrats May Need to Break Out of the ‘Whole Foods’ Bubble”

IMMIGRATION FILES — “Why a Top Trump Aide Said ‘We Are Desperate’ for More Immigrants,” by NYT’s Jeanna Smialek and Zolan Kanno-Youngs: “At a private event last week, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, stated a reality that economists treat as conventional wisdom but that the Trump administration routinely ignores: The United States needs immigration to fuel future economic growth.

“‘We are desperate, desperate for more people,’ Mr. Mulvaney told a crowd in England, according to an audio recording provided to The New York Times. ‘We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth.’ He said the country needed ‘more immigrants’ but wanted them in a ‘legal’ fashion.” NYT

2 DAYS TO SOUTH CAROLINA — MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY has JOE BIDEN with a commanding lead in its latest poll out today, with 36% of likely primary voters going for the former VP, while SANDERS and TOM STEYER battle for second place at 16% and 15%. The rest of the candidates are in the single digits. The poll

— “Pete Buttigieg is not popular with black voters in South Carolina. Miss Black America is trying to change that,” by WaPo’s Jada Yuan in Charleston: “This was a packed 68 hours for the pageant queen, including a speech at a Mexican restaurant, two galas, three canvassing launches, a church service and roundtables with black female voters. … It may seem incongruous, this 30-year-old urbanite glamazon, with her hair in waist-length twists, supporting the white mayor of a small city in Indiana, but the folks here take the reigning Miss Black America seriously. …

“[Ryann] Richardson isn’t the only African American to endorse Buttigieg. … But none can command the attention of a packed ballroom just by walking into it quite like Richardson, who is 6-foot-2 in heels and spent 10 years as a black woman in the white-male-dominated tech world, founding Uber’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and running her own start-ups, after having attended college on scholarships she won in pageants.” WaPo

MEANWHILE … WAPO’S TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA and ASHLEY PARKER: “Trump courts minority men with mix of policy and personal appeals”: “The effort has been on display in the Trump campaign’s Super Bowl ad highlighting criminal justice reform, throughout Trump’s State of the Union address that featured a Tuskegee Airman and two black men benefiting from Opportunity Zones and in the president’s almost daily references to historically low minority unemployment rates. …

“On Wednesday, the president’s campaign team hosted reporters at its Arlington, Va., offices to announce plans for more than a dozen ‘Black Voices for Trump’ community centers across the country, in cities ranging from Atlanta to Detroit to Jacksonville, Fla. … Some Democrats are concerned that the president’s charm offensive may be wooing black and Latino men to his camp — or at the very least blunting the kind of voter enthusiasm that helped propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012.” WaPo

WAR REPORT — “Terrorism Threat in West Africa Soars as U.S. Weighs Troop Cuts,” by NYT’s Eric Schmitt in Nouakchott, Mauritania: “The Trump administration is split over how to combat terrorists, support allies and thwart global competitors in West Africa. And the mixed messages out of Washington are confusing allies in Europe, who are deeply committed to security in Africa, as well as to military partners on the continent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just wrapped up a major trip to Africa, including a stop in Senegal, pledging more security support and warning against growing Chinese influence.

“But back in Washington, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing deep U.S. troop cuts on the continent, closing a new $110 million drone base and ending aid to French forces battling militants who are surging in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The muddled administration policy comes at a time when skyrocketing waves of terrorism and violence have seized Africa’s Sahel region, a vast sub-Saharan scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan, and is threatening to spread.” NYT

ON PELOSI’S LEFT — “Nancy Pelosi Isn’t Going Anywhere, But The Race To Replace Her Has Already Begun,” by BuzzFeed’s Addy Baird: “Pelosi, who represents one of the most heavily Democratic districts in the country, has never had to face a fellow Democrat in the general election, even with California’s jungle primary system, which pits the top two candidates regardless of party against each other on the November ballot. For years, the powerful House leader has cast aside any Democrat who dared to primary her and then easily trounced Republicans in the generals. …

“This time around, a handful of progressive challengers are launching similarly Sisyphean races against Pelosi in a primary slated for next week. … In some ways, they’re running an entirely different race — one that’s still two years away. There have been rumors … that the speaker, now 79, will retire in 2022, opening up the seat for the first time in more than 30 years. If a Democrat can accomplish in next Tuesday’s primary what [Ryan] Khojasteh had hoped to in 2018, it would not only give them an opportunity to push Pelosi on progressive issues through the general election, but it could also give that candidate a major leg up when the speaker retires.” BuzzFeed

VALLEY TALK — “Scoop: Facebook hire aims to infuse ethics into product design,” by Axios’ Ina Fried: “Facebook has hired the World Economic Forum’s former head of technology policy, Zvika Krieger, as its new director of responsible innovation, Axios has learned. … In the wake of its many scandals and amid growing regulatory scrutiny, Facebook is looking to make sure it addresses ethical issues earlier in the design and engineering processes.” Axios

HEADS UP … WSJ: “Email Scammers Are Savvier, and More Successful, Than Ever”: “Estimated losses have soared in the past five years from scams known as business-email compromises, in which swindlers con victims into directing money into accounts controlled by criminals. In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received 23,775 complaints of business-email and email-account compromises, up from 20,373 the prior year, according to data the bureau published earlier this month. Annual estimated losses increased as well, to more than $1.7 billion in 2019 from $1.2 billion in 2018, according to the data.” WSJ

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Bird, Lime, Bolt, And Razor Scooters To Leave D.C. After Unsuccessful Appeals,” by DCist’s Margaret Barthel: “The District’s Department of Transportation has made a final decision on which four scooter companies will operate in the city come April 1: Jump, Lyft, Skip and Spin.”

TRANSITION — PJ Hoffman is now manager of public policy at Amazon. He previously was director of regulatory affairs at the Electronic Transactions Association.

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