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Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When CIA Director Mike Pompeo won Senate confirmation as Secretary of State yesterday by 57-to-42, with seven votes to spare (and with seven votes from Democrats, five of them up for reelection), the much-needed victory for President Trump was the product of a campaign-style blitz involving as many as 30 aides.

Top operatives take Axios readers behind the curtain: During Pompeo's visits with senators, he acknowledged the department had atrophied under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and said he'll move to fill top positions and restore the department's relevance at home and abroad.

  • As CIA director, Pompeo has unique visibility into clandestine operations around the world, and so was able to play to senators' expertise/curiosity by having detailed conversations about hot spots that interest them.
  • During Pompeo's confirmation hearing, a war room at the State Department — acting on President Trump's insistence during his campaign that many people absorb cable news on mute — phoned contacts at CNN and MSNBC to dispute the wording of the Chyron headlines summarizing the action.
  • To put pressure on red-state Democrats, the comms team notified home-state reporters so cameras could be outside a Senate office when Pompeo made a courtesy call. But to avoid making other Democrats feel jammed, those meetings were allowed to happen under the radar.
  • A team mirroring the Trump Tower campaign operation in 2016 worked to kill unfavorable stories, including fishing in old House campaign expenses, and inaccurate opposition research about Pompeo stake in a company.
  • Trump tweets at key moments helped showcase the vote as a big deal.
  • Outside backers, working with the RNC, ran digital and TV ads in support of confirmation.

Pompeo is in Brussels this morning at a NATO summit: He headed to Andrews Air Force Base yesterday as soon as he was sworn in by Justice Sam Alito, a fellow Italian-American.

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Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

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COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.