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Trump fans, brace for a reckoning from Mueller

Trump fans, brace for a reckoning from Mueller
President Trump speaks to the media before departing the White House for California on Nov. 17. (Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

It was that one holiday week in America when most of us are too busy eating or traveling to pay close attention to the news, but no one appears to have told that to President Trump. In the days before Thanksgiving, the president got into a one-sided Twitter fight with the chief justice of the United States and dramatically escalated his administration’s military action against asylum-seekers making their way to the United States — and that came after Trump used the fires that had been raging in California to threaten to withhold federal funds to the state, bizarrely declared the blue-wave midterm a success, and praised Saudi Arabia for reducing gas prices and fighting terrorism after the CIA concluded that that country’s crown prince likely ordered the assassination of a U.S.-based journalist.

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Amid all this chaos created solely by the president, it’s strangely reassuring to know an investigation of Trump grinds on quietly and methodically, even if it results in a constitutional crisis for this country. We can only make educated guesses about what comes next from the probe headed by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, but with the midterm elections nearly three weeks behind us and the president seemingly in a state of rudderless panic, the signs point to an imminent spate of plea deals and indictments.

Law professor and former Justice Department official Harry Litman warns that not even the president’s most diehard supporters will be unable to trivialize what comes next for Trump:

There are concrete indications that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is now about the business of laying down the last big pieces of the puzzle of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

Look first for an indictment against radio commentator Jerome Corsi, who told the world last week that after several months of his cooperating with the probe, Mueller has informed him that he will be charged with “some form of lying” to the Mueller team.

A fabulist, blowhard and general odd duck, Corsi might seem like small quarry for Mueller. But as with Paul Manafort’s lobbying partner Rick Gates, whose cooperation anchored the tax and fraud case against the former Trump campaign manager, Corsi is directly connected to another Trump insider, Roger Stone. Stone was in regular contact with candidate Trump during the campaign, and perhaps with WikiLeaks and its Russian sources....

Mueller’s team is scheduled to file a long-delayed court memorandum Dec. 4, laying out its view of the value of the cooperation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty more than a year ago to lying about his contacts with a Russian official. His sentencing was put off four times as the prosecutors continued to develop new cases and charges based on the information he provided. That they are now prepared to close the books suggests that they will be informing the court, and thus the public, of the full extent of his cooperation, including imminent new charges or charges that have been filed under seal.

None of this constitutes a forecast that, as Team Trump is fond of suggesting, Mueller’s probe or its consequences are near an end. If any of the as-yet uncharged cooperating defendants opts to go to trial, that process will take at least many months. And we likely have not seen the end of Mueller’s efforts to secure information — or, preferably, testimony — from the president.

Here’s something Thanksgiving-related: We’re an increasingly tribal species nowadays, so the L.A. Times Editorial Board is thankful this year for attempts to find common ground. Some examples: the sportsmanlike unity displayed by the two Koreas at the 2018 Winter Olympics, bipartisan efforts in Congress to help opioid addicts, and Sen. Jeff Flake’s call for a brief FBI investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. L.A. Times

Make Nancy Pelosi House speaker again. Her age and the polarizing effect she has on politics — conservatives use her as a left-wing boogeyman, while in some progressive circles say she isn’t liberal enough — make plenty of Democrats reluctant to hand the speaker’s gavel back to Pelosi. But a former Republican opposition researcher warns Democrats: They would be foolish not to keep such a gifted, determined lawmaker as their leader. L.A. Times

No, Finns don’t rake their forests to prevent wildfires, but they do take climate change seriously. Aside from the rather obvious point that much of her country lies above the Arctic Circle and is therefore different from mainly semi-arid California, Finnish author Anu Partanen makes another observation about Trump’s clumsy, inexplicable comment on the Nordic nation’s forest management: Unlike the president, Finland recognizes that the greatest threat to its forests comes from climate change. L.A. Times

Will national parks and other public wild lands survive climate change? The creation of places such as Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks has been called “America’s best idea,” but recent fires have scorched much of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and come perilously close to wiping out other recreational areas. It took decades of hard work to create places such as the Santa Monica Mountains preserve; it will take much more work to save them from global warming. New York Times

Americans distrust and dislike each other. This can’t end well. Matt Welch sees a disturbing pattern taking hold in American life: an association of contemptible personal qualities with people who hold different political opinions, and the inability of one tribe to share any public space with another. “Our friends and family aren’t evil just because some of them have different ideologies or political affiliations,” Welch writes. L.A. Times

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