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Newsletter: Trump shouldn’t ‘hereby demand’ anything from the Justice Dept.

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President Trump addresses a meeting at the White House on May 18.
(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 26, 2018. My apologies to the newsletter subscribers reading this from Europe — the links below probably will not work for you. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Since the FBI confirmed in March 2017 that it was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow — and after James Comey was fired from the FBI and former director Robert S. Mueller III was appointed special counsel to take over the probe — the president has insisted there was “no collusion!” with Russia but has behaved in a way that suggests he is something short of completely innocent. Among other things, he has derided the investigation as a “witch hunt,” privately chastised Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions for recusing himself, taunted his critics by name and reportedly had to be talked out of firing Mueller.

Trump’s latest move to frustrate the Russia investigation puts him and the country in ominous new territory. On Sunday, the president tweeted he “hereby demands” that the Department of Justice investigate his bogus conspiracy theory that the Obama administration may have planted spies in his campaign. The Times Editorial Board warned that Trump appears ready to cross a bright line:

This threat of intervention was ominous. If Trump was willing to order the Justice Department, which is supposed to act independently and without political influence, to instead pursue investigations that served him personally and politically, would he be equally willing to demand an end to one he considered a political liability?

The leadership of the Justice Department scrambled to try to placate the president without compromising its integrity any more than necessary. After Trump's tweet, the department announced that its inspector general would expand an ongoing internal review to determine "whether there was any impropriety or political motivation" in the FBI's counterintelligence operation connected to the 2016 campaign....

Trump's defenders in Congress and in the conservative news media insist that law enforcement and U.S. intelligence services should stay out of partisan politics. But if there is evidence that a presidential campaign is being courted or manipulated by agents of a foreign power, it can't simply be ignored.

Whether anyone involved in the Trump campaign criminally cooperated with Russian efforts is something Mueller is attempting to establish. The question is whether he will be allowed to complete his investigation unmolested by the president who derides his efforts as a witch hunt. After Trump's latest outburst — and the Justice Department's response, however careful and calibrated it may have been — we're more concerned than ever that the president might take that chance.

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Her exam by a disgraced USC gynecologist was anything but normal. Sixteen years ago, Dr. George Tyndall — who was revealed by the Los Angeles Times to have been the subject of multiple complaints and yet allowed to continue practicing for nearly three decades — examined USC alumna Cate Guggino, who still remembers precisely where she felt pain when she was probed in way that’s totally inconsistent with protocol. Her account is deeply troubling and, for those who care to better understand the scandal, a must-read. L.A. Times

USC President C.L. Max Nikias’ time is up. The Times Editorial Board agrees with the 200 professors who called for the embattled university leader — mired in his second major scandal in as many years — to resign or be dismissed: “Like leaders of the Catholic Church and many other institutions that have faced reputational scandals, Nikias has responded to crisis by trying to protect his brand first — rather than the at-risk members of his community. … That’s not the kind of leadership USC needs as it moves forward.” L.A. Times

Power lines are setting the West on fire. We still don’t know definitively what caused the 250-square-mile wildfire that burned much of Santa Rosa last fall, but we do know that the utility PG&E is hoarding cash in case it needs to fund a multibillion-dollar payout. Elsewhere in California and the western United States, aging, frayed or otherwise compromised power lines have fueled major fires over the last several years. The Atlantic

No, Trump didn’t call all undocumented immigrants “animals.” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens puts the president’s remarks in context and notes he was specifically referring to immigrants affiliated with the notorious MS-13 gang. As for MS-13, Stephens includes a helpful reminder about the gang’s Los Angeles origin and how Trump seems to miss a bigger lesson about the unintended consequences of mass deportation. New York Times

We’ve tried everything to curb mass shootings — except the one thing that would work. After 10 people were killed at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, earlier this month, there were calls to fortify campus entrances, arm teachers and more. Some schools even put their students though “active shooter” drills, conditioning children to accept gun violence as a fact of living in America. What we haven’t tried is reducing access to guns, writes Timothy Waters. L.A. Times


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