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Trump's border czar pick says he hasn't agreed to job

Updated 4:54 PM ET, Sun June 16, 2019

Washington (CNN) - Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead, in today's "Inside Politics" forecast.

1. Trump's premature personnel announcement

President Trump told Fox News last week that he's hiring former ICE director and immigration hardliner Tom Homan as his "border czar." The only problem? No one told Tom Homan, who says he hasn't accepted the job.

"Sources are telling me it's very premature," CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip said. "There are ongoing conversations within the White House about what exactly that position will look like and whether it's even legal to take some of that power that Congress gave statutorily to the Department of Homeland Security and give it to an unconfirmed White House official."

A White House border czar might also make it tougher for the President to find a new permanent Homeland Security Secretary, Phillip said.

"Will they be okay with that kind of arrangement? That's one of the many reasons why this situation is very much still in flux."

2. Big SCOTUS decisions ahead

The Supreme Court is nearing the end of its term -- with several pivotal decisions likely to be announced in the coming days.

"There's about 24 big opinions left, including some real politically charged ones," New York Times chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse said. They include cases on whether political gerrymandering should be legal, a controversial US Census question about citizenship, and the power of federal agencies.

"This is the first time we're really going to see the impact of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh," Hulse said. "And I'm also waiting to see if Chief Justice John Roberts puts his thumb on the scale in a couple of these cases to make sure it don't look super partisan."

3. Democratic field -- including Biden -- heads to South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina, will be the center of the political universe next weekend, when nearly every Democratic presidential candidate is there for the state's Democratic convention.

And one man they all want to woo -- Rep. Jim Clyburn the highest-ranking African-American in Congress.

"He's the most important politician in South Carolina for these Democrats," Washington Post national political correspondent Matt Viser said. The 2020 hopefuls will pay homage to Clyburn at his annual fish fry on Friday.

"It's going to be the single biggest gathering of the Democratic race so far," Viser said. "Joe Biden will be there, he has avoided a lot of these gatherings when he's on the same stage with other candidates."

4. Warning sign for House GOP

Republican Congresswoman Susan Brooks of Indiana -- one of the House GOP's few women -- said last week she won't run for reelection. She's the third House Republican so far to announce her retirement, and Time magazine's Molly Ball said that could be a warning sign for the party.

Brooks' announcement "is bad news for House Republicans for a couple different reasons," Ball said. "We all know the Republican Party has been having trouble attracting women -- there are only 13 women in the House Republican caucus. ... And Brooks had been in charge of recruitment for the Republican congressional committee, particularly trying to get more women to run for office."

Plus, "it could portend a wave of further Republican retirements," Ball said. "The Democrats have been predicting this, and it's always a sign of a tough cycle ahead."

5. Trump's China Challenge

And from CNN chief national correspondent John King:

The remarkable protests in Hong Kong add a new wrinkle to what is already a major China challenge for the Trump White House.

The President himself has said very little, voicing his awe at the crowd sizes when asked about the demonstrations this past week, but staying neutral on the issue at hand: a planned new law that would make it easier for suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China.

"I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong," the President said Wednesday. "I'm sure they'll be able to work it out."

The protests have escalated since those remarks, and continued Sunday even after Hong Kong's administrator announced that action on the new policy would be delayed.

The timing is fascinating: this is a major test of President Xi Jinping's authority, and it comes as his strength on the world stage is also being tested in his trade war standoff with the United States.

It also comes as Xi makes his plans for the upcoming global economic summit, the G-20, in Osaka, Japan.

President Trump upped the stakes of the G-20 the other day in saying he is prepared to impose additional tariffs on Chinese goods if Xi declines to meet with him in Osaka.

The Hong Kong demonstrations, at first glance anyway, would appear a perfect opportunity for any American president to urge Beijing to show restraint and to respect the wishes of those taking to the streets.

But President Trump rarely weighs in on issues of democratic or human rights around the world, and instead has often heaped praise on authoritarian leaders like China's Xi.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was among those voicing the hope in recent days that the demonstrators would get the President's attention.

"This is so wrong," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill. "And I do hope that the President will speak about human rights in China and freedoms in China when he talks about trade with the Chinese. I am pleased with Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo's statement on what's happening in China now in this regard."

The President frequently brags of his bond with Xi, and a recent Bloomberg account is instructive for those wondering -- perhaps hoping -- that Trump would stand with the Hong Kong demonstrators.

Bloomberg reports that Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to deliver a major speech two weeks ago, on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but that Trump nixed it because he did not want to offend Xi at such a sensitive time in the trade standoff -- and with the question of an Osaka meeting still unresolved.


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