Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the days ahead in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.
1. Still with her?
Hillary Clinton may not be ready to give up on her Oval Office dreams, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reports.
“Clinton is telling people that she’s not closing the doors to the idea of running in 2020,” Zeleny said. “I’m told by three people that as recently as this week, she was telling people that look, given all this news from the indictments, particularly the Roger Stone indictment, she talked to several people, saying ‘look, I’m not closing the doors to this.’”
Still, Zeleny said, “it does not mean that there’s a campaign-in-waiting, or a plan in the works.” And one close Clinton friend told Zeleny “it would surprise me greatly if she actually did it.”
“Most losing presidential candidates never totally close the doors to running for president” again, Zeleny said. “But I think we have to at least leave our mind open to the possibility that she is still talking about it. She wants to take on Trump. Could she win a Democratic primary to do it? I don’t know the answer to that.”
2. Taking on big tech
Big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have never been more powerful – and are likely to face growing scrutiny this year both on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail.
New York Times reporter Astead Herndon said some candidates are more passionate about the issue than others.
“I came back from South Carolina and posed the same question to Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren and Sen. [Kamala] Harris, about whether they would break up tech giants and what they think they need to do to possibly rein them in,” Herndon said. “Warren lights up, talks about antitrust law, talks about the possibility of breaking them up, and says that’s something that she thinks needs to happen.”
As for Harris?
“She is a senator from California, has worked with these companies for a while, she demurred and said, ‘I’ll get back to you later,’” Herndon said. “I think it’s an interesting way to know at the beginning of those two campaigns, they are both focusing on different things. Sen. Warren is way more comfortable in talking about issues like that.”
3. Dems’ Russia probe plans
Now that the government is open, House Democrats are moving forward with plans to investigate the Trump campaign, the Trump administration, and the Trump Organization.
“Fresh off their shutdown victory, House Democrats just a couple hours later were already pivoting,” Politico’s Rachael Bade said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a statement almost immediately after the shutdown ended about Stone’s indictment, saying “lying to Congress and witness tampering constitute grave crimes,” and asking “what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally, or financially?”
“Pelosi has been very careful in the language she uses when it comes to Russia,” Bade said. “Since the election, she’s talked a lot about bipartisan bills. That has totally evaporated and is being replaced by a more aggressive tone.”
4. Mueller tea leaves
Meanwhile, close Mueller-watchers are asking what the Roger Stone indictment signals about the special counsel’s next moves. CNN’s Sara Murray says it could be a sign of the probe nearing its end.
“I think people are looking at this indictment, especially if they’re members of the resistance, and saying, this is the beginning of indictments that are just going to be raining down, that next up is Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner,” Murray said.
“I would urge a lot of caution in that view. This is actually the first time we’ve seen the special counsel’s office bring a case jointly with another U.S. Attorney’s office, and I think that could be another indication among the many other signs we’ve seen from Mueller’s office that they may actually be winding things down,” Murray said.
5. Starbucks spoiler?
And from CNN’s chief national correspondent John King:
The first voting is more than a year away, but this is an anxious weekend for some Democrats who are eager to limit President Donald Trump to one term.
The former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is featured on “60 Minutes” this Sunday, as he promotes a new book and ponders a 2020 presidential campaign as an independent. In portions of the interview released in advance, Schultz says Trump is, in his view, not qualified to hold the nation’s highest office and then says both major political parties are failing to properly address the country’s challenges.
Take a peek on social media and you will see what Democrats think of Schultz running as an independent, lamenting that a progressive third-party candidacy could siphon votes from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents – and help Trump win re-election. Schultz is also hearing that complaint directly from Democratic friends, CNN is told.
One of the Democrats already in the 2020 race, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, said this on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday: “I have that concern that if he did run essentially it would provide Donald Trump with his best hope of being re-elected.”
Some Democrats hope Schultz is stirring talk of a presidential run to generate book sales. Another hope is that will ultimately be dissuaded by the costs of securing ballot access, or the long odds that a third-party candidate could win.
There is no doubt he is taking a serious look, consulting veterans of both Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns about the nuts and bolts of a White House run. The conversations were described to CNN as “detailed and serious,” by one source briefed on them. This source, and a second who has had direct contact with Schultz, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversations.