Robert Mueller could have some big announcements later this week. An indicted member of Congress still hopes to win re-election. And it might finally be time for Infrastructure Week. All that and more in this week’s Inside Politics forecast.
1. Can an indicted congressman win?
GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. is one of two members of Congress running for re-election under indictment. But he’s still favored to win in a district that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. CNN rates the race as Likely Republican.
“It’s one of the most conservative districts in California,” CNN’s Maeve Reston said, citing Hunter’s early support of Trump in 2016.
“It’s a real true test of the loyalty of Trump voters, whether they will stand behind him in this district that Trump won by 15 points.”
2. Trump’s post-election spin
If a blue wave does indeed sweep Republicans out of power in the House, don’t expect Trump to admit defeat.
“There’s a tradition that presidents have a press conference the day after a midterm election to give their take on it,” said New York Times reporter Michael Shear. “In 2006, President Bush, after a very bad election for Republicans, said he had gotten a ‘thumping.’ And in 2010, President Obama said he had been ‘shellacked’ by the results.”
It’s hard to imagine Trump saying anything like that, Shear said. “So if he loses badly, what word does he use?”
3. Trump campaigns in 2018 with eye on 2020
Trump is ending the campaign with a cross-country blitz, holding 10 rallies in five days. One goal: to help Republicans in close Senate races. But he also has his eye on 2020, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reports.
One way to tell? Look at the campaign posters. “There have been very few signs for Senate candidates,” Zeleny said. “I was in Montana, and no Matt Rosendale signs — all Trump signs. That’s by design. It’s ‘The Trump Show.’ ”
And Trump advisers expect the show to go on, Zeleny said. “This fall made him realize how much he loves rallies and how much he missed them. It’s going to go on directly into 2020 without much stop at all.”
4. No joke: Infrastructure Week in 2019?
So, if Democrats win control of one or both chambers of Congress, would they collaborate on any issues with Trump?
“It might actually finally be Infrastructure Week,” Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim said. “Senior White House officials are actually making overtures to key Democrats ahead of the midterms, to try to talk about an infrastructure deal.”
Kim said a top Trump aide recently visited a top House Democrat with a message. “President Trump wants to do something real and he acknowledges that it’s going to require real money. And if Democrats do take back the House, they’re going to need some legislative accomplishments.”
5. Mueller’s next move
And from CNN chief national correspondent John King:
Roger Stone is telling anyone who will listen that Robert Mueller has it wrong. Stone is saying he did not coordinate with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign or try to pressure a friend into lying to the special counsel.
The Trump ally and veteran GOP dirty trickster made that case in a CNN interview the other day. He repeated it in what one friend described as “nervous energy” calls to friends and associates in recent days.
Stone believes the special counsel’s office will seek an indictment. CNN reporting details emails and other evidence that question whether Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks — and perhaps the Trump campaign — about Democratic emails hacked and released late in the 2016 campaign.
The new reporting on Stone raises a bigger issue that has some of the President’s friends and allies worried.
Mueller has been quiet for weeks. Justice Department guidelines urge prosecutors to be cautious in the 60 days or so before an election, so not to be seen as trying to influence voters. But with the election Tuesday, Trump-related investigations could climb back into the news. That includes the work of the special counsel and separate federal investigations in New York.
The worry on Team Trump is negative headlines coming at a time that is already pressure-packed. Democrats could capture the House. A wave of administration personnel turnover is about to unfold. And there are year-end pressures as Congress returns with big post-election spending issues and the President heads overseas.
Just the name “Mueller” makes the President angry, a Trump insider said in a weekend exchange. If the election goes poorly for the White House, this source suggested the President will be on edge, anyway. And if the investigations then roar back into the news, “I’m worried about a volcano.”