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Week That Was 

After the wildest week of the wildest presidency in history, the clouded future suddenly unfolds more clearly and, yes, nearer. That includes the end of the Trump presidency.

It was the period during which the president tweeted his exultant expectation that after trading insults and threatening annihilation for a year he would persuade the North Korean dictator this spring to give up his missiles and warheads; announced his plan to get out of Syria and leave Bashar al-Assad to run Syria as he likes but, after the quick humiliation of Assad's chemical attacks on his own people, he arranged, obliquely through the Russians, a muted attack on three vacated Syrian chemical depots; condemned his friend Vladimir Putin by name for the first time and then begged for collaboration and friendship; and, finally, saw the Republican patronage in his own Justice Department once again place him and his presidency in mortal jeopardy by confiscating the records of his shady longtime consigliere, Michael Cohen.

Oh, and it was the week that the president's old nemesis, former FBI Director James Comey, starting his book tour, called the president a serial liar who was morally unfit for the presidency and that Trump unleashed the nastiest personal attack on another citizen ever to leave the lips or pen of a president. It was the week that he dispatched an urgent plea to his imperiled friends by pardoning Scooter Libby for the 13-year-old crimes of lying to the FBI and a grand jury and obstructing justice.

Let's deal with the war issues first, for they offer a ray of sunshine, at least for the many Americans who have lived in fear of Armageddon since the campaigning Trump speculated about using the country's nuclear stocks to solve hard diplomatic problems and encouraged Japan, South Korea and the Philippines to get their own nuclear arsenals.

Trump's poll numbers surged when he jumped on South Korean's suggestion that he have a quick summit with Kim Jong-un in spite of his previous insistence that he would never do it until Kim first agreed to give up his bombs and missiles. The meeting is still doubtful but, no matter what happens, it will not lead to war, unless by accident and panic. Trump will learn what his predecessors did, that "denuclearization" in the North Korean lexicon means a long and indefinite timetable for giving up weaponry or testing in exchange for America's folding its nuclear umbrella and military presence and easing sanctions — "phased, synchronized measures to achieve peace," in the words of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. It was President George H.W. Bush who removed the last hundred U.S. nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991.

The likeliest scenario is that, yielding to his advisers, Trump won't agree to the North Korean deal and will fire off more recriminations, but that he, or at least the country, will learn to accept the status quo of a ninth nuclear nation.

After the Week That Was, there also is a sort of permanence to the status quo on the eastern Mediterranean: The seven-year civil war in Syria is effectively over and Assad will rule shakily but unmolested by foreign powers until his death or the next coup. It has to be noted, pointlessly now, that President Obama asked the Republican Congress after a catastrophic chemical attack in 2013 to authorize use of American forces, but Congress refused. Trump, beginning his campaign for president, had tweeted days earlier that Obama had to seek congressional authorization.

But it was the shocking raid on Cohen's financial records last week that exhumed the dismal past and prefigured doom. A month ago, I wondered here if Special Counsel Robert Mueller, like Kenneth Starr 20 years earlier, would follow the sex to get to Trump's money. If he did, it would be over, as Trump himself had warned. It feels like it's about over.

After four years of fruitless investigations of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Starr heard about Monica Lewinsky and asked Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno, for permission to investigate the affair. As always, she obliged. Impeachment followed.

It turns out that for some time federal investigators, whether owing to Trump's indirect payoffs to his paramours or not, have been looking into Cohen's financial dealings, and perhaps those involving Trump to silence negative news before his 2016 election.

The president raged all week, not so much this time at Mueller but at the FBI and the whole U.S. Department of Justice. It was not Mueller who was looking at Trump's syndicate, but federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York, where Trump had been very careful to see that good Republicans loyal to him were in charge. He had made Geoffrey S. Berman, who had given his campaign $2,700, the chief attorney after having Berman visit him and apparently asking for a loyalty promise. Berman was forced to recuse and now another career prosecutor, though also a Republican, is in charge of Trump's future.

Trump's future, and ours, depends upon whether the prosecutor subscribes to Comey's vision of a "higher loyalty" or the president's.

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