04:20 - Source: CNN
Mueller witnesses worry about release of testimony
Washington CNN  — 

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead, in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.

1. Mueller witness worries

From CNN chief national correspondent John King:

Most of Washington is waiting to learn how much of the Mueller report will be made public, and whether Congress gets, as Democrats demand, access to the special counsel’s interview transcripts and working files.

But there is one group with perhaps a unique stake in how this transparency debate plays out: Current and former Trump administration officials who cooperated with the special counsel investigation. Their concern: that their accounts about the President’s temper and work habits will infuriate the President if he gets to read them – or sees media accounts about them.

“Very high,” is how one Republican source described the tension on this question. “They cooperated and had to tell the truth. He is going to go bonkers.”

That account is from a GOP source who in recent days has been in touch with several current and former officials who were interviewed by and shared documents with the special counsel.

The source’s take was backed up by a former senior administration official who spent hours being interviewed by investigators. This official, in a weekend exchange with CNN, said any “fair and thorough” account of what he shared would detail an effort “to be truthful and explain the President’s perspective.” But the official also conceded just the fact that so many White House aides cooperated gets under the President’s skin and “some truths about how” he conducts himself would without a doubt make the President angry if he were to read them.

2. Iowa voters feeling the “Bern”?

Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t your typical Democratic presidential candidate – he’s not even officially a Democrat. But after weeks of big crowds, strong fundraising and high poll numbers, AP Washington bureau chief Julie Pace says it’s clear he’s a frontrunner for the nomination.

“His fundraising far surpasses his rivals, and the energy among his crowds was really palpable,” said Pace, who spent part of the week in Iowa covering the Vermont senator.

“What’s really interesting about Sanders is that he’s not doing much different than he did in 2016,” Pace said. “With the exception of a few references to Trump, the remarks he’s given could have been from a 2016 rally or any of his congressional rallies from years past. It really goes to the core of Sanders’ belief in this campaign, which is that his 2016 effort was not a fluke and he will win by moving voters to where he is, not by changing his strategy.”

3. Democrats’ 2020 money chase

Sanders is leading so far in the money race but Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz said none of the candidates’ numbers are particularly impressive so far.

“The Center for Responsive Politics noted this week that they all appear to be lagging past campaigns,” Balz said. “If you go back to 2007 in the first quarter, Hillary Clinton raised about $26 million. Barack Obama raised $25 million, John Edwards raised $14 million.”

Sanders, by contrast, raised about $18 million in the first quarter. Sen. Kamala Harris was second with $12 million, followed by Beto O’Rourke with more than $9 million. Several candidates have yet to report their numbers, which must be submitted to the FEC by April 15.

“What this tells us is there is a lot of money on the sidelines,” Balz said. “And how much is this grassroots money really going to be there, and how will it be distributed?”

4. Transgender troop restrictions take effect this week

Also this week, the Trump administration’s restrictions on transgender troops go into effect after the Supreme Court declined to stop it.

“The Defense Department wouldn’t necessarily call it a ban, but it is a change in how transgender military people are treated,” Vice News DC bureau chief Shawna Thomas said. “What I’m most interested in seeing is what does it mean for those who are grandfathered in? There are some members of the military who will get to keep their jobs, but it’s going to be much more difficult for them to commission, to ascend into other careers or to cross-train.”

5. Lawmakers to grill Pompeo on Khashoggi

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be back in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week – and CNN’s senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju said he should expect lawmakers to grill him on the US-Saudi relationship and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The administration has provided briefings to this committee in the past several weeks. Democrats and Republicans came out not satisfied by it,” Raju said. Congress may decide to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who intelligence officials blame for Khashoggi’s murder.

“There is a bipartisan bill before this very committee to slap Saudi Arabia with sanctions,” Raju said. “The chairman of that committee, Jim Risch, has put the brakes on that for now as he’s tried to discuss other alternative ways of going forward. But nevertheless, pressure is building even as the administration continues to side with Saudi Arabia because of economic concerns.”