May 7, 2018

A defining week for the Trump Doctrine

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

This high-stakes week could be the most defining yet for the emerging Trump national security doctrine, with major news expected on Iran, North Korea, Israel and the CIA.

Why it matters: This isn’t just another round of Trump rhetoric. These are policy decisions with real consequences.

What to watch:

  • President Trump has to decide by Saturday whether the U.S. will abandon the Iran nuclear deal. Signs suggest Trump will withdraw. If so, watch Iran’s next move and how America’s European allies respond. Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, is keeping up Europe’s pressure on Trump to remain in the deal with a visit to Washington and a New York Times op-ed. [Go deeper: The AP outlines some possible scenarios on Iran.]
  • The White House is expected to announce the date and location of Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump has expressed interest in holding it at the DMZ. An announcement could coincide with North Korea’s release of three jailed Americans and would lock in an extraordinary shift in U.S. posture toward Pyongyang. For Trump, this is high-risk, high-reward. If the summit fails, there are few diplomatic options left for dealing with the North Korea threat.
  • Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, faces a potentially brutal Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday. The White House is gearing up for a fight — leaning on red-state Democrats, and Haspel’s potential to become the first woman to lead the CIA — to get her over the finish line. But the confirmation vote has become such a referendum on America’s stance on torture, and a political litmus test for Democrats, that she offered to withdraw, per the Washington Post.  [Go deeper: NBC’s Ken Dilanian has a "Nightly News" profile on Haspel.]
  • The Trump administration moves the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on May 14. Israel is preparing for a spike in violence to coincide with the move.

Be smart: No one should be surprised by these developments, given Trump’s campaign promises. But they nonetheless are likely to create a new era of uncertainty.

  • The combination alone of Trump withdrawing from the Iran deal and meeting with Kim could have widespread ramifications.
  • Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tells me: “The result will violate a cardinal national security rule: avoiding having more than one nuclear crisis at a time.”

Go deeper

Energy deputy secretary nominee in hot water after contradicting Trump

Mark Menezes speaks at a forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 12. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Trump administration officials are internally raising concerns about President Trump’s nominee for Energy deputy secretary, who appeared to openly contradict the president on nuclear waste storage at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain last week.

Driving the news: While speaking at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing last Wednesday, Mark Menezes told members of the panel that the Trump administration is still interested in storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and that “what we're trying to do is to put together a process that will give us a path to permanent storage at Yucca."

Exclusive: Pompeo says new China media restrictions "long overdue"

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The State Department announced Tuesday that it has designated five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions," meaning that they will be treated as arms of the Chinese government.

Driving the news: In his first public statement on the new designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Axios that the five outlets are "clearly controlled by the [Chinese Communist Party], and we are simply recognizing that fact by taking this action.”

Go deeperArrow1 hour ago - World

Trump pardons the swamp

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he would commute former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issue full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy