If Trump plans to fire Mueller, the time to do it is right now

If there is something to hide, it’s worth stressing how dangerous and unhealthy it would be to our constitutional system for the president to use his authority in this manner. For as much as this administration has run roughshod over well-established norms protecting the Justice Department from White House interference, a modern Saturday Night Massacre would cement those norms’ evisceration — with long-term, and deleterious, consequences for those of all political stripes.

But if the president and his advisers are truly worried about what Mueller might uncover or what evidence he has received from Papadopolous (and others who might already — or soon — be cooperating), it seems like the time to act is sooner, rather than later. The more indictments Mueller hands down, and the closer he gets to Trump’s inner circle, the more likely it becomes that Republicans in Congress will suddenly find the courage to stand up to the president. If, instead, Trump uses Monday’s news as provocation to shut Mueller down, he’ll be calling Congress’s bluff — and daring his own party to stand up to him based solely on the existing record. It’s just not that difficult to see how a rational president could view that as his best option — even (if not especially) if it’s the country’s worst.