Updated on September 24 at 2:06 p.m. ET
You know those signs that say In case of emergency, break glass?
This is that emergency.
President Donald Trump will reportedly soon fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who has most directly protected the independence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump’s efforts to compromise that inquiry mean that Rosenstein’s position has been in peril for some time, but a report last week in The New York Times that Rosenstein had suggested wiretapping the president—potentially sarcastically—made it likely that Trump would seek to push Rosenstein out.
After a morning of contradictory reports, it now seems that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will remain on the job at least until Thursday. The topsy-turvy story—and the still uncertain ultimate outcome—remind of a core lesson of the Trump years:
What happens to U.S. institutions is not something only to watch. An energized public can deter the administration’s worst instincts—whether those are to browbeat a woman alleging sexual abuse or to fire Rosenstein and suppress the Mueller investigation. Since the firing of James Comey at the beginning of his administration, President Trump has flinched from direct confrontations with those trying to uphold the rule of law. It all depends on his sense of the risks of public outcry in the media and at the polls.