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'Inside Politics': Alleged Russian spy's charm offensive

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

Posted: Aug 20, 2018 10:13 AM
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 10:13 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. Alleged Russian spy's image rehabilitation

spy

2018 Midterm elections

Unrest, conflicts and war

Conflicts and wars

Afghanistan war

Business, economy and trade

Banking, finance and investments

Financial markets and investing

Wall Street

Society

Societal issues

Income inequality

Government and public administration

Politics

Elections and campaigns

Misc people

Maria Butina

Political Figures - US

Donald Trump

Continents and regions

Europe

Eastern Europe

Russia

Government bodies and offices

Investigations

Russia meddling investigation

US federal government

White House

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina and her lawyer are attempting something of an image makeover.

Butina, who was arrested in July on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent, allegedly worked to make inroads with the NRA and other conservative groups, all with the goal of pushing Russia's agenda in the US.

Her lawyer, however, is trying to change that narrative, launching an online legal defense fund and using sympathetic photos of Butina to reframe her as an innocent student wrongly accused.

"But those very glossy photos are going to be up against a very different image," CNN's Sara Murray said, "and that's going to be her mugshot as she was booked into the Alexandria Detention Center over the weekend."

2. Questions over Trump's Afghanistan strategy

One year ago this week, President Trump unveiled his strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

But with the war now in its 17th year, and the Taliban making strategic gains throughout the war-torn country, there are mounting questions over whether or not that strategy is actually working.

Military leaders are urging the President to be patient, but they are increasingly concerned that he may decide the current plan isn't working -- and order the military to pull out of the country altogether.

"His instinct has always been to withdraw," the New York Times' Julie Davis said. "And with a $4-billion-a-year price tag just for propping up those Afghan security forces, you're starting to hear more concern in the administration that he could just follow through on that instinct."

3. Are Trump rallies losing their headline-grabbing effect?

Once upon a time, Trump campaign rallies were must-see TV, driving the news cycle for days.

But more recently the President's rallies are not having the same effect, even as he ramps up his campaign schedule

For a President who sometimes struggles with staying on script, Trump's rallies largely follow a familiar pattern -- a rehashing of election night, slams against political opponents, and criticism of the ongoing investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

But as the Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender notes, that familiarity might lose its appeal to the President, who prides himself on his ability to upend a news cycle.

"This is a President who thrives on driving a news cycle in front of large crowds," Bender said. "The question is, how long will this be a release for the President as the top networks stop carrying these rallies?"

4. Will income inequality be an important part of the Dems' 2018 playbook?

As the stock market is set to hit its longest run of growth in US history, the President is touting the strength of the American economy.

But a report from the Labor Department shows that while Wall Street is doing well, it's an entirely different story for workers.

Wages for workers have remained essentially flat since the 2008 recession, and are actually down slightly when adjusted for inflation, despite Trump's recent tax cuts.

That's bad news for Republicans running on the tax cuts' success -- and Democrats are looking to drive that message home ahead of the November midterm elections.

"Corporate America is doing great, worker wages are flat," Bloomberg's Toluse Olorunnipa said. "That's going to be a theme on the campaign trail for a number of Democrats this fall."

5. Independents look to shake up 2018

There was a political convention of sorts in Denver this weekend. It was a gathering of independents who may face long odds in their efforts but are worth watching.

Unite America is the organization, and its leaders say their goal is to provide financial and organizational support to independent candidates -- not to organize as a third party.

There are a handful of statewide candidates that have the organization's backing. But a major immediate goal is focused on lower ballot races: Unite America is targeting state legislatures with chambers that are evenly or closely divided. The idea is that electing two, three, or four independents to such chambers could provide a centrist, pragmatic swing vote on major issues.

This is hardly the first group to come forward and offer itself up as the alternative to partisanship and polarization -- and most of those past efforts have fizzled. But it is no secret that displeasure and even disgust with the major political parties runs high, so tracking support for independent candidates running with Unite America's support is one good way to judge how high -- and how willing voters are to go outside of the usual choices.

Leaders of the effort say they understand the long odds and will target their energy and resources where they believe there are openings. The executive director of the organization, Nick Troiano, was an unsuccessful independent candidate for Congress in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Here is how he characterized the Unite America effort to the Denver Post: "We're not just independent voters coming together to complain about the system. We have a real strategy, real backing and real candidates to make a tangible difference on the system."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 113195

Reported Deaths: 4923
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook738193354
Lake7767250
DuPage7290340
Kane5866153
Will5238258
Winnebago199351
McHenry145268
St. Clair101773
Kankakee80242
Kendall72719
Rock Island63922
Champaign5697
Madison54056
Boone40716
Sangamon33226
DeKalb3313
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21210
Stephenson1952
Ogle1922
Macon18819
Peoria1858
Clinton17816
Out of IL1771
Union1417
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13310
Iroquois1314
Unassigned1200
Coles1159
Warren1140
Jefferson10116
Knox950
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee761
Tazewell683
Cass670
Henry670
Williamson541
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin421
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas280
Jo Daviess270
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Mercer150
Carroll132
Franklin120
Piatt120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
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