It’s obvious where this is going as you’ve nicely sketched the possibilities. Pardoning a low grade, vicious criminal such as Arpaio made no sense except as a signal that the Trump gang is going for the big time. They know that Mueller is closing in and their only option is to gut the constitution and destroy the rule of law.
The frightening thing is the percentage of the population that think Trump will go quietly or that, if he is still in power, there will ever be another election. The pattern is clear and Kim Jong-un is coming in very handy.
As a thought experiment: Mueller files charges on conspiracy concurrent with New York filing state charges. Trump orders an attack on North Korea’s missile sites while ordering Mueller fired to block a conspiracy against the national defense. Guam becomes radioactive. Trump orders his zealots into the streets to root out subversives with police support.
Efforts to prevent this would necessitate the removal of the Trump regime. And that would be dependent on decisions by the Joint Chiefs to either support an out of control danger or save the country and much of the planet.
We do not have mechanisms to handle this level of system failure. We are moving very close to something like this. We know that Trump has only one tactic. If threatened or attacked he must attack someone else with greater force. The reaction to his attack then becomes his cover supported by blatant lies denouncing those threatening him.
The question is, how close are we? In my opinion Kim Jong-un knows what he is doing based on Trump’s limited understanding, violent reactions, and impending removal. He is willing to accept tens of thousands of deaths of the North Korean people (that many have starved to death in the recent past) knowing that Trump will be stopped before he can do more. In exchange Kim Jong-un becomes a world class threat and can demand what he wants.
This is an absolute nightmare that I see growing in potential by the day. You cannot trigger the collapse of the world’s strongest imperial power without terrible consequences. What can we do?