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Will we ever see Trump's tax records? Ask the Supreme Court.

Our reporters tell us about the stories they're watching in 2020 -- including the possible release of President Trump's tax returns, the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, how the presidential campaigns will use text messages to communicate with voters, and whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo runs for Senate.

Posted: Dec 29, 2019 8:40 PM
Updated: Dec 29, 2019 8:40 PM

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

1. Supreme Court to rule on Trump tax records

The Supreme Court is expected to rule next year on efforts to obtain President Donald Trump's tax records.

House Democrats and New York prosecutors are among those suing for access as part of ongoing investigations. And Wall Street Journal White House reporter Catherine Lucey says a decision could come right in the heat of the 2020 presidential campaign.

"The Supreme Court has agreed to hear these cases in March," Lucey said. "If the courts rule against the President, it could have long-reaching implications for presidential power, and also have an impact on the 2020 race."

A ruling is likely in June -- meaning Congress could get a look at the President's closely-guarded financial secrets before Election Day.

2. Texting while campaigning

It's not just social media that's changing how presidential candidates campaign and raise money. They're finding creative new ways to text you too, Politico national political reporter Alex Thompson said.

"The Trump campaign is spending millions of dollars on this technology," Thompson said. "They're already way ahead of Democrats in terms of embedding videos and everything else. And while there's scrutiny with ads on Facebook and Twitter, this is still largely the wild wild west."

Thompson said Democrats are slowly catching up with Trump.

"You are seeing Elizabeth Warren's campaign doing things where you sign up, you get a photo of her dog Bailey or a photo of a llama that was canvassing with voters in New Hampshire," Thompson said. "So look at this technology to be really important in contacting voters in this 2020 election."

3. US-Saudi relations

It's been a difficult two years for US-Saudi Arabia relations. Even as Trump has largely looked past it, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi still looms large for many key lawmakers.

But despite plenty of talk of punishing Saudi Arabia, Washington Post congressional correspondent Karoun Demirjian said not much has actually changed.

"It seemed like a critical mass was building in Congress, when you first had the resolution condemning the Saudis for Khashoggi's murder," Demirjian said. "You had the fight to do something about curtailing US support for the air campaign in Yemen. It seemed to be building to something, and then nothing happened at all."

Not even a Saudi military officer killing three people at a US Navy base in Florida earlier this month is making much of an impact, Demirjian said.

"People barely flinched in terms of policy," Demirjian said. "The question is does this issue keep just kind of fizzling and go away?"

4. GOP & paid parental leave

The concept of providing paid time off for new parents isn't new but the US is one of the only major countries in the world not to require it.

Democrats have long championed the idea, but McClatchy White House reporter Francesca Chambers says a lot of Republicans are now on board.

"The President just signed a bill that gives paid parental leave to all federal workers for 12 weeks," Chambers said. And more could be coming -- she points to a bipartisan bill from Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, that would let new parents essentially borrow money from the government as an advance on the Child Tax Credit.

"The original thought was this could get a vote as early as February," Chambers said. "We don't know how long the Senate will be tied up with impeachment, but they're hopeful it could become law in 2020. And the White House has said it endorses this bill."

5. Pompeo's next move

And from CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly:

It's no secret that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is actively considering leaving the administration to run for Senate in Kansas, despite what he may say publicly. But it's the effort going on behind the scenes by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that has been most interesting to me.

McConnell has been unabashed about his desire to see Pompeo as the next senator from Kansas. But it goes beyond his repeated public statements to that effect. Sources tell me he and his allies have made clear to Pompeo that the Senate is an ideal post-administration landing spot for someone with big -- the biggest even -- political ambitions.

Beneath McConnell's genuine respect for Pompeo lies his uncertainty about the state of the race in Kansas, where internal numbers on the current crop of candidates have raised red flags for national Republicans.

This was precisely the point McConnell made directly to Pompeo's boss in a meeting earlier this fall, sources tell me. While no specific ask was made, McConnell, I'm told, laid out numbers for Trump and made clear Pompeo's entrance would all but take the race off the map. Within days Trump made the same exact point -- publicly -- in a Fox News interview.

I'm told Pompeo is genuinely undecided at this point, and nothing will happen until the impeachment trial ends. But Trump is already working up a short list of replacements for secretary of state.

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