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Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump is spoiling for a fight. Aides say he's excited about plans, revealed last night by Axios' Jonathan Swan, to move aggressively against China over its theft of U.S. intellectual property.

  • Against what some aides call his better judgment, Trump moderated his campaign rhetoric about China. Now, irritated about how little Beijing has done to help pressure North Korea, Trump plans to let loose.
  • That announcement, which aides expect soon, reflects a coming hot period for the Trump administration.
  • Suddenly, Trump is facing a bunch of high-stakes confrontations, any one of which could define his presidency.

Richard Nixon wrote a book called "Six Crises" after losing the 1960 presidential race to JFK. Here are six of Trump's coming trials:

  1. North Korea's nuclear capability went from a long-range worry to a clear and present danger, with Denver and Chicago now thought to be in range of weapons the regime is testing. The U.S. has few levers for directly inflicting pain on Kim Jong-un, and the military options are all horrific.
  2. The administration has been sending mixed signals about trade. But the new plan to confront China is a sign that Trump may touch off a trade war, with unpredictable consequences — from the disruption of the flow of commerce, to possible retaliation by the world's other economic superpower.
  3. Anyone in government with access to intelligence and data will tell you the most likely source of a crippling attack on the U.S. is cyber — and the most likely genesis is Moscow. Although this is a known risk, with Putin interfering in elections around the world, Trump has done little to mitigate the danger.
  4. Trump is at real risk of losing his party. His base voters are remaining steadfast, but Republican senators are getting increasingly impatient and resistant. Sen. John McCain's surprise thumbs-down on health care is likely the beginning of a wave of defections from establishment Republicans.
  5. It's rarely discussed publicly, but people in government say that a domestic attack — although unlikely to be on the scale of 9/11 because of all the countermeasures that have been added — is a constant possibility. And critics and skeptics worry about ways Trump could consolidate power in the wake of such an event.
  6. We put Bob Mueller last just because the special counsel gets so much attention. But make no mistake: The special counsel's investigation remains the existential threat to this presidency. Reuters reported that Mueller just added a 16th lawyer to his team — Greg Andres, who has experience prosecuting illegal foreign bribery.

Be smart: Trump, who had a pretty good life before, has never seemed to love this job as much as friends thought he might. And he's about to find out just how hard a job it is.

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Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.