President Donald Trump outlines his National Security Strategy on Monday,...

President Donald Trump outlines his National Security Strategy on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, in Washington. Credit: Getty Images / Mark Wilson

Tough talk

In his new, 55-page National Security Strategy, President Donald Trump declares that both China and Russia “challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”

“They are determined,” he says, “to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”

Some of the rhetoric is a Cold War extension, some of it a repudiation of 20 years of U.S. policy. Climate change is no longer to be considered a security threat. Trump cites, in part, Chinese and Russian support for Venezuela and regional arms sales.

Other areas in the report are regularly discussed: Cyberdisruptions, jihadi terrorism, border security and nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue regimes, mainly North Korea.

Many sides

Much coverage centered in recent days on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to thank Trump for CIA intelligence information that helped foil an attack in St. Petersburg.

Other coverage has centered on the question of whether Trump will fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the question of campaign collusion with Russia.

Trump said he won’t.

For more than a year, Trump has defensively downplayed any Russian political mischief in America. But his strategy report says: “Russia uses information operations as part of its offensive cyberefforts to influence public opinion across the globe.

“Its influence campaigns blend covert intelligence operations and false online personas with state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’ ”

It is unknown how this might jibe with the president’s earlier talk of a joint cybereffort with the Putin regime.

Great expectations

Reports emanating from the White House keep giving the impression that Trump thinks he’ll be exonerated soon by the Mueller probe and that aides say this leaves him vulnerable to a shocking disappointment and perhaps a rash reaction.

What’s driving this belief is unclear. Trump’s team has kept up its protests over transition emails obtained by investigators. In a rare public statement, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said:

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”

Withdrawn, your honor

Last week, a Trump nominee to the federal judiciary, Matthew Petersen, came out looking so ignorant of relevant law in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the embarrassing session went viral.

On Monday, White House spokesman Raj Shah confirmed that Trump had accepted Petersen’s withdrawal, but declined to elaborate. Petersen was the third Trump judicial pick to bail out in a week, amid criticism over qualifications.

What else is happening

  • The Obama administration derailed a law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, Politico reports.
  • Vice President Mike Pence will postpone and shorten his Mideast trip, citing the upcoming tax vote, for which he may be needed in the Senate, the AP reports.
  • Steve Bannon, the Trump political adviser, had his Breitbart News site trumpeting how well Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin benefited from a fundraiser Bannon headlined.
  • The IRS must prepare to enforce a new tax code — a complicated task for a battered agency if ever there was one.
  • Top tech companies might see higher tax rates, even as most businesses would get a cut under pending GOP legislation.
  • The U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution urging members to keep diplomatic missions out of Jerusalem.