DRIVING THE DAY

Every president is eventually called upon to help us collectively grieve.

JOE BIDEN may be the first president elected to do so.

His speech Thursday night had some important policy promises by May 1 every adult will be eligible for a vaccine and by July Fourth relative normalcy will return.

But it is worth taking a moment to dwell on this unique pastoral role of the presidency, if only because it has been absent for the last four years and because Biden is being widely praised for restoring it.

Whether its a natural disaster, a war, a terrorist attack, a mass shooting some devastating event that shocks Americans equally and temporarily suspends the usual divisions for better or worse we turn to the president not just to push and pull the levers of government in response, but also to console us.

The images of those moments are indelible: RONALD REAGAN speaking after the Challenger disaster, BILL CLINTON memorializing the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, GEORGE W. BUSH with a bullhorn on a pile of rubble and BARACK OBAMA wiping away tears describing the Sandy Hook massacre.

The image last night of Biden retrieving from his breast pocket his daily schedule on which is written the latest Covid-19 death toll 527,726 may one day be a part of that grim pantheon of moments.

If politics is about timing, then there can be nothing more morbidly fortuitous than a politician whose own life has been defined by unimaginable loss coming along precisely when a wave of death was crashing over an America searching for some empathy.

By now almost every American knows of someone who died from Covid or someone who died in a way that Covid made worse by isolating them from the person they lost. And though Biden signed a staggeringly ambitious piece of legislation Thursday, he used his evening remarks to speak more to that loss than to the policy details of the recovery plan.

The speech was infused with a set of ideas but not really ideology: unity, self-governance, the virtues of collective action in the face of a common threat and most of all moving on from loss:

“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us. But in the loss, we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect and gratitude. Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do.

In fact, it may be the most American thing we do. And thats what weve done. Weve seen frontline and essential workers risking their lives, sometimes losing them, to save and help others. Researchers and scientists racing for a vaccine. And so many of you, as Hemingway wrote, Being strong in all the broken places.

That’s not exactly the ERNEST HEMINGWAY line, which is from A Farewell to Arms and is a little more bleak than how he used it: The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.

But either way it is hard to imagine any other contemporary politician making the speech Biden did Thursday night both channeling our collective sorrow and reminding us that there is life after grief.

WATCH: Bidens speech in 180 seconds:

Read the NYTsDavid Sanger on Biden and this moment:The Lessons of One of the Worst Years in American Life

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SCOOP: TRUMP AND NRSC CHAIR BREAK BREAD AT MAR-A-LAGO After the back-and-forth last week between the former president and the GOPs campaign committees over using his name for fundraising, DONALD TRUMP dined at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday night with NRSC Chair RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.). They discussed candidate recruitment and getting Trumps support for certain incumbents in 2022, according to a source familiar.

Trump did not budge on his opposition to Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska), the source said. But Scott mainly wanted Trumps take on finding the best candidates for the midterms and how they can team up. After dinner, Trump and Scott made the rounds of the dining area to chat with resort members including Newsmax CEO CHRIS RUDDY, who was dining with actor JON VOIGHT.

SPOTTED:Mike and Karen Pence walking into Worldwide Speakers Group in Alexandria last week, where the former VP discussed joining the paid speaking circuit. The agency also reps his former chief of staff Marc Short as well as Newt Gingrich. Pence, who made his name in radio, recently announced he is narrating Fox Nations four-part limited series on Rush Limbaugh that dropped this week.

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BIDENS FRIDAY The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will meet virtually at 8:30 a.m. with their counterparts in the Quad: Indian PM NARENDRA MODI, Australian PM SCOTT MORRISON and Japanese PM YOSHIHIDE SUGA. Biden and Harris will receive the Presidents Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m. and lunch together at 12:30 p.m. At 2:30 p.m. theyll speak about the Covid relief bill from the Rose Garden, with members of Congress attending. The Bidens will leave the White House at 3:40 p.m. and arrive in Wilmington, Del., at 4:35 p.m.

Harris will also swear in CECILIA ROUSE as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers at noon.

The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 11:15 p.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at noon along with national security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN.

THE HOUSE will meet at 10:30 a.m. THE SENATE is not in session.

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PLAYBOOK READS

PHOTO OF THE DAY: President Joe Biden leaves the East Room of the White House after speaking about the Covid-19 pandemic during a primetime address on Thursday, March 11. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

POLITICS ROUNDUP

CUOMO IN FREE FALL

AN IMPEACHMENT INVESTIGATION BEGINS New York lawmakers launch Cuomo impeachment investigation,by Anna Gronewold and Shannon Young: Speaker Carl Heastie, addressing Democratic Assembly colleagues in the roughly five-hour meeting, laid out the potential paths forward to removing the increasingly embattled governor from office, according to four lawmakers in attendance. Two described the meeting as tense.

Heastie said the chambers investigation would run concurrent and would not interfere with an independent probe Attorney General Tish James has launched into Cuomo, who has faced growing calls for his resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment, inappropriate workplace behavior and a cover-up of Covid-19 nursing home deaths. Cuomos administration also referred the latest accusation to the Albany Police Department.

Latest Accusation Against Cuomo Is Referred to Albany Police,NYT: Albany Police Department officials said on Thursday that they had received a report from a state official about an alleged incident at the Executive Mansion involving Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a female aide that may have risen to the level of a crime. This does not mean that the department has opened a criminal investigation, but it has offered its services to the alleged victim.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Aides Called Former Staffers to Discredit Accuser,WSJ: Some recipients of the calls said that the outreach felt like attempts to intimidate them.

2022 WATCH The Lefts Answer to Trump Is 6 Foot 8 and Wears Shorts in February,The Atlantic: Now that [John] Fettermans the front-runner in a [Pennsylvania] Senate race thats sure to be one of the biggest of 2022, skeptics and rivals are looking for his vulnerabilities. The obvious angle of attack, one that some of his foes have landed on already: What if Fettermans not the real deal? What if hes just a trust-fund kid playing dress-up? Now, though, Fetterman is tired of being reduced to the appealing oddball from Braddock.

Hes been simultaneously tagged as a radical left-winger by state Republicans and a worrisome sellout by some progressives. And hes fine with preaching heresies that most Democrats running in primaries would back away from. The Green New Deal, he said, is ridiculous for including a proposal that the country should move entirely to renewable fuels over just five years, given Americas energy needs and, as Texas demonstrated after last months storm, a power-grid infrastructure that already isnt keeping up.

THE WHITE HOUSE

PICKING JUDGES Biden Is Vetting BIPOC Judicial Nominees After Trump Filled The Courts With Mostly White Men,BuzzFeed: As early as next week, the White House is expected to announce US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as Bidens nominee for the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, sources say, either for newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garlands seat or for a second vacancy that opened up shortly after Biden took office. Jackson is a former federal public defender in Washington, DC, and served on the US Sentencing Commission before becoming a judge; she would be the third Black woman to serve on that court.

For the federal district court in Washington, DC, the White House is vetting DC-based attorney Abid Qureshi, BuzzFeed News has learned. Qureshi, a partner at the law firm Latham & Watkins, would be the first Muslim federal judge nominated by a president; there are a handful of Muslim Americans serving as federal magistrate judges, who are appointed by the court where they serve. Qureshi was nominated for the same DC court in 2016 by former president Barack Obama, but the Senate never acted on that and Trump did not renominate him.

TONY TALES Fauci takes on a new role: Bidens Covid whisperer,by Sarah Owermohle, Erin Banco and Adam Cancryn: The straight-talking infectious disease expert has developed an increasingly close relationship with the president, who now leans on Fauci more than any other health official to guide his pandemic response Through dinners and White House conversations, the pair has built on a connection that began early in the Obama administration

Faucis ascension from his longtime post leading the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has left newer health officials such as [CDC Director Rochelle] Walensky playing catch up. While she and other senior health experts are included in conversations with the president about the state of the pandemic, Fauci often takes the lead.

CONGRESS

IMMIGRATION FILES Fears of a border crisis fuel tension in Congress,by Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona and Laura Barrón-López: For the GOP, the border problems tee up a blame game with an eye toward the 2022 midterms. Republicans are stoking fear among their base of super-spreader caravans of migrants a playbook similar to the one they tried and failed with in 2018, when Trumps political team sought to paint asylum seekers as violent criminals and Democrats seized the House majority.

But immigration is a much thornier challenge for Democrats now that Biden is in the White House. This time Republicans can aim barbs at a president whose embrace of comprehensive immigration reform legislation appears to be at least partly the cause of the migration surge, as asylum seekers look for refuge from a friendlier U.S. government.

GETTING GOP ON THE RECORD Schumer puts gun control on Senate agenda,Roll Call: Senate Democrats on Thursday announced plans for a floor vote on legislation to expand background checks for private gun sales, which would force Republicans to choose between their partys traditional gun rights positions and a policy that is broadly popular with the public.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters there will be hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee and at least a procedural vote on a bill the House passed Thursday on a 227-203 bipartisan vote.

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AMERICA AND THE WORLD

WHOA NEW TRUMP DETAIL, via WAPOS DAVID IGNATIUS latest column on Afghanistan:President Donald Trump was so eager to pull the plug in Afghanistan that in mid-November, shortly after the election, he impulsively signed an order to withdraw U.S. forces by years end. Pentagon officials tell me the unpublicized order was quickly reversed, after strenuous protests from Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other military leaders.

JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH

COMING TOGETHER Congressional Aides Unite to Push for Change at the Capitol After the Riot, NYT: Ms. Mathieu had brought together 10 different staff associations together representing more than 1,000 congressional staff members, mostly people of color to push for a safer environment, better work conditions and more access to counseling and other services after the riot. They are also calling for changes to the Capitol Police force, which they argue let them down on Jan. 6, and a say in the makeup of an independent, 9/11-style commission proposed to investigate the attack.

The organizations had a long list of requests. They want leaders to reduce wait times for mental health resources and approve emergency funding for lawmakers to support the mental and physical health of their staffs, including with more paid time off and counseling. They want the oversight board of the Capitol Police to include a member of the congressional staff. And they want the 9/11-style commission to look into the disparate treatment that Black Lives Matter protesters received from law enforcement compared with the relatively restrained tactics used against the pro-Trump mob.

OR FALLING APART: Jan. 6 aftershocks worsen as Cold War in the House escalates,by Kyle Cheney: Democrats continue to seethe over their GOP colleagues who countenanced Trumps efforts to discredit the election, and blame them for contributing to the atmosphere that inspired the mob. Republicans have largely sidestepped that debate, but as Democrats have begun ramping up tactics to marginalize the 138 House Republicans who voted to reject some of the 2020 results, some are beginning to bristle more vocally. And at Thursdays hearing, the dam broke.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) accused Democrats of an outrageous abuse of power, of sparking a political war and attempting to criminalize GOP dissent. When it was his turn, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) scoffed at the waterfall of counterfeit outrage and indignation, Raskin went on to characterize the modern Republican Party as a religious cult warped in service of Trump, whom he called a snowflake for trying to cancel the 2020 election, all while his GOP allies screamed about cancel culture.

CHRIS MILLER SPEAKS Even Trumps Defense Secretary During the Capitol Riot Blames Him for Inciting It,Vice: Speaking exclusively to VICE on Showtime, Miller said, Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the presidents speech? I think its pretty much definitive that wouldnt have happened.

Miller said he wasnt sure whether Trump was aware that his speech might have such extreme consequences, but he was certain the attack wouldnt have happened without them. Listening to the remarks that morning, he said he found some of the comments concerning and that they set off alarm bells.

ACTION PENDING DOJ seeks to build large conspiracy case against Oath Keepers for Jan. 6 riot, WaPo

MEDIAWATCH

WATCH: Meghan and Harry, Bidens executive order and W.H. dog drama | Weekly News Analysis: Biden had a big week. On the anniversary of Bloody Sunday he announced an executive order to expand voting rights, and on Thursday evening he addressed the nation on Covid relief and next steps for vaccinations. TARA and EUGENE look back at the weeks top news videos, including Piers Morgans exit from Good Morning Britain and the drama surrounding Bidens two dogs. They also discuss their love of Princess Diana and how Eugene can evolve his style this spring.

DOD TAKES ON TUCKER Military leaders thrash Tucker Carlson after comments about female troops,by Quint Forgey: Senior military officials are condemning Fox News host Tucker Carlson for saying this week that President Joe Biden is making a mockery of the armed forces through efforts to recruit and keep women in the service.

The comments from Carlson provoked such criticism among military leaders that top Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby took time at the start of his press briefing on Thursday to briefly address some recent comments made by the host of a popular cable show.

On his Thursday show, Carlson held his stance, adding that the point of the military was not to make people feel valued and included. That phrase stuck out, not because we have some hateful bias against pregnant women flying military jets, he said, referring to the maternity flight suits. We are pro-pregnancy, as we often say. We are also open-minded. Maybe pregnant women make the best pilots.

Fox News wants you to wear a mask. The networks top stars want to ridicule them, WaPo: Contributor Tomi Lahren has referred to facial coverings as face diapers. Even news anchor Martha MacCallum has questioned their effectiveness.

NBC: NBC News Carol Lee announces pregnancy, reveals babys heart condition: NBC White House Correspondent Carol Lee and her husband, Lt. Col. Ryan Harmon, are expecting their first child together, a boy. Lee, 43, is currently six months pregnant and due in June.

But when Lee hit the 16-week mark, a blood test picked up an abnormality that required an ultrasound. Shortly after, Lees unborn baby was diagnosed with a rare but serious congenital heart defect called transposition of the great arteries, or TGA. Lee and Harmons son will undergo open heart surgery at roughly 3 days old, and then spend several weeks in the hospital.

FRIDAY LISTEN RACHAEL is the guest host of this weeks episode of Nerdcast, which features POLITICO transportation reporter Sam Mintz to talk about infrastructure, bipartisanship and what might happen with Bidens next big priority. Listen and subscribe

TV TONIGHT PBS Washington Week, guest-moderated by Susan Davis: Yasmeen Abutaleb, Eamon Javers, Toluse Olorunnipa and Susan Page.

SUNDAY SO FAR

  • This Week: Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Panel: Chris Christie, Amanda Renteria, Will Hurd and Donna Shalala.
  • Face the Nation: ArkansasGov. Asa Hutchinson New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin Scott Gottlieb Anthony Salvanto.
  • Fox News Sunday: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) Anthony Fauci. Panel: Karl Rove, Jonathan Swan and Donna Brazile. Power Player: Alec Cabacungan.
  • Full Court Press: Anthony Fauci.
  • Inside Politics: Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) Catherine Lucey Eugene Daniels Austan Goolsbee.
  • Meet the Press: Panel: Lanhee Chen, John Heilemann, Hallie Jackson and María Teresa Kumar.
  • The Sunday Show: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

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PLAYBOOKERS

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK Saharra Griffin is now special assistant to the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. She most recently was senior research associate at Priorities USA, and is a CAP alum.

STAFFING UP The White House announced it will nominate Melanie Egorin for assistant HHS secretary for legislation.

TRANSITIONS Molly Cole will be foreign policy adviser to Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). She previously was a senior legislative assistant for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). Todd Stein is joining the Congressional-Executive Commission on China as deputy staff director, working for co-chair Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). He most recently was senior policy adviser to Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and is a State Department alum.

Saima Hedrick has been named executive director of the Society for Research in Child Development. She previously was executive director of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. Emily Campbell is now an equity partner at Dover Strategy Group. She most recently was at SKDKnickerbocker and is an EMILYs List alum.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) Jake Tapper (52) Reps. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) Remi Yamamoto WSJs Emily Stephenson NSCs Kedenard RaymondJalen Drummond, Leidos media relations manager Colleen Carlos, who starts today as chief of staff to Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) (73) Andrew Young (89) Lloyd Dobyns (85) Alex VargoRiley Barnes (34) Scott Comer Ashley LudlowSteven StenbergEric Shawn, Fox News anchor/senior correspondent Andres PenfoldAdam SullivanBrian Weiss, VP of media affairs at USTelecom Eric Burns, founder/partner at Bullfight Strategies Marshall Kosloff FTs Peter SpiegelTara (Jeffries) PayneJulia NistaMatt Bravo, principal at S-3 Group Justin Stuckey Jeremy Pelzer (39) James Ball David Sheon, president and CEO of Whitecoat Strategies Marcy Stech, director of comms at Emerson Collective Preston Maddock Carl Hiaasen (68)

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