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Singapore summit will offer clues to Bolton-Pompeo power dynamics

Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a g...

Posted: Jun 11, 2018 8:57 AM
Updated: Jun 11, 2018 8:57 AM

Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.

1. Inside Trump's foreign policy team

The big question at the Singapore summit this week is whether President Trump and Kim Jong Un will hit it off -- and maybe even reach some sort of deal.

But the results also may provide an answer to another question: What sort of juice does national security adviser John Bolton have with the president these days?

Bloomberg's Margaret Talev says she's watching the dynamics within Trump's foreign policy team.

"The summit in Singapore will give us some clues as to what is really going on in terms of any type of war -- policy-wise or power-wise -- between Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo," Talev said. "The White House has insisted for weeks that this notion of a rift between Bolton and Pompeo and Trump is really quite overblown.

"I think in terms of what meetings Bolton participates in and what we hear from him and what we hear about, we may get a better sense of what's really going on."

2. Democrats avoid primary purity tests

Remember the Tea Party insurgents who beat establishment Republican Senate candidates in 2010 and 2014? They were a major problem for the GOP. So Democrats are thankful that despite a move to the left, they haven't seen the same demands for purity from their base.

"The Democratic resistance today is not trying to purge the party's moderates, the way the Tea Party did to the Republicans," Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur reported. "Diane Feinstein crushed her liberal challenger by 33 points. Jon Tester coasted to re-nomination, and the same thing has been true of Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly.

"Democrats do not have the same level of antipathy toward their party establishment. They're aiming their knives at the other party," Kapur said.

3. Trump plans Minnesota campaign swing

Meantime, New York Times correspondent Jonathan Martin says President Trump is planning a campaign swing out west. He'll head to Minnesota to campaign for the Republican candidate in one of the few Democratic-held seats the GOP thinks it can win.

"They are largely playing defense in the House, but there is an open seat there," Martin said. "President Trump actually carried that part of Minnesota, and so they're trying to sort of maximize his popularity in some of the pockets of the country where there are competitive House races that his party can pick up."

Martin said the President also may stop in North Dakota to campaign with Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, who's trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in a state Trump won by nearly 40 points.

4. A birthday present for Trump?

President Trump is hoping for a birthday gift this week from the Justice Department's inspector general: the results of an internal investigation into the FBI's handling of the Clinton email probe.

The report will be out Thursday, when the president turns 72.

"Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are definitely interested in seeing what this says to resolve a lot of questions and political accusations that have been swirling about how the FBI handled this," Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian said. "I think the most interesting place to see the reaction is going to be the President's Twitter feed. This has been a favorite topic of his and it is very, very likely that he's going to take whatever comes out of this and opine about it."

5. And from CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:

They readily admit it is tea leaf reading -- not a judgment based on any inside information. But two law enforcement veterans, long familiar with Robert Mueller and how he works, see a message in his latest indictment.

The charges were filed Friday against Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and a longtime Manafort business partner whom prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence. Both were charged with trying to obstruct Mueller's investigation of Manafort's work in Ukraine.

The charges have nothing to do with the 2016 presidential campaign. But they come in the wake of a series of Manafort challenges to the special counsel's mandate and practices, they pull another Russian into the special counsel's investigative web, and they show the depth of the investigative effort. For example, the evidence to support the new charges includes text messages sent on encrypted applications.

The law enforcement veterans, again speaking from their experience with him -- not any inside scoop -- said the timing was a clear message from the special counsel that he is more than willing to play hardball and will not be intimidated by attacks on his authority or credibility.

It is near impossible to get a read on the special counsel operation. In addition to secrecy about the pace of its investigation, there are questions about how Mueller might navigate the calendar as we get closer to the midterm elections.

One of the sources described Mueller, a former prosecutor and FBI director, as "Sphinx-like when he has to be" but suggested he would of course be constantly mindful of the domestic political environment.

"He can't respond to the President, but he can let his work speak for him," this source said.

The second source used the term "methodical bricklaying" to describe Mueller's investigative style. The source said a combination of recent developments, including the new Manafort charges and some of the President's comments about the investigation, led him to believe "there is a desired arc" in the prosecutor's work and it is "my hunch we are making a bend toward the main event."

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