For Trump, therefore, the key question is: Is it better to force a crisis by firing Mueller now, or wait for the crisis that hits when Mueller releases his findings? In narrowly political terms, he might think there’s an advantage to acting now.

First, and most obviously, Mueller won’t have laid out his case. To be sure, were Mueller fired, he and his aides would likely disseminate whatever information they had uncovered. But the sooner Trump acts, the less they’ll have to disseminate.

Second, Trump might believe it’s in his interest to provoke a showdown while ordinary Republicans are still on his side. As of now, they are. More than eighty percent of Republicans approve of his job performance. Over the next year or two, that number is more likely to go down than up, and the further it falls, the less fearful congressional Republicans will be to break with Trump and potentially even support impeachment.