This column has been updated, 2 p.m.

In the wake of last week’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering with the 2016 election, some have suggested special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s timing is suspicious. In a piece in the Wall Street Journal, former attorney general Michael Mukasey questioned why Mueller would return the indictment just before President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Mukasey’s insinuation of impropriety is unfounded.

Mukasey claimed the “plain effect of the announcement was to raise further doubts about the wisdom of the meeting — and perhaps to shape its agenda.” Neither, he argued, is the business of the special counsel. Although recognizing it is not directly analogous, he pointed to the long-standing Justice Department policy against bringing charges too close to an election, in order to avoid influencing the outcome. Mukasey argued the same principle should apply here: Prosecutors must consider the potential impact of their actions on significant outside events and “act with due diffidence.”

The timing of indictments with political implications is a tricky area. Suppose a prosecutor completes a grand jury investigation of a public official and is ready to seek an indictment, but an election is only a week away. Justice Department policy suggests the prosecutor should hold off on bringing the charges. But there is a compelling argument that the public interest would be better served by indicting, so the public may take the information into account, rather than revealing only after the election that voters may have just put a criminal into office.

Prosecutors facing such a decision are in a no-win situation. Both indictments and delays have the potential to influence the election, and either may result in claims that the prosecutor acted politically. Hence another, more general rule of thumb in investigations with political implications: Prosecutors keep their heads down and bring cases when they are ready. They don’t engage in calculations about the potential political consequences.

I expect that’s largely what happened here. Mueller has been investigating Russian interference with the election for more than a year. He had no control over the existence or timing of the Trump-Putin meeting, which was announced relatively recently. I suspect he brought the case when he did primarily because his investigation was done and the case was ready. But recognizing that Mueller does not live in a cave, how should he have thought about the potential impact of the indictment? After all, even if the case was ready, there is no question he could have delayed it a week.

The timing here implicates foreign policy as much as politics — and, of course, foreign policy is not part of a prosecutor’s portfolio either. But Friday’s indictment was not an unexpected bombshell detonated in the middle of sensitive diplomatic negotiation. The unanimous conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election was already known. The indictment simply made it clear that this is also the conclusion of the Justice Department. It presented a united front of U.S. government institutions as the president headed onto the world stage.

In cases involving domestic elections, the Justice Department tradition recognizes the concern that bringing charges too close to an election may be seen as a partisan act — particularly if the prosecutor and the politician being charged are from different parties. But that concern does not apply here. In this case, the political implications do not involve Democrats vs. Republicans. They involve the United States vs. a foreign adversary. When it comes to outrage over the Russian attacks on our election, the country should be united across party lines.

As with a case involving an election, whatever Mueller did would potentially have an impact. But if anything, bringing this indictment actually strengthened the president’s hand. It gave Trump the option to cancel the meeting in response or to confront Putin publicly with detailed charges that otherwise would have remained shielded by grand jury secrecy. It gave the media and public the ability to see the charges, ask questions and evaluate the meeting in light of them. It’s difficult to see an argument that anyone — other than Putin and his loyalists — would have been better off if the indictment had remained under wraps until Trump returned home.

There have been new reports that the White House was briefed about the indictment and did not ask the Justice Department to delay it until after the Putin meeting. If that’s correct, it obviously negates any suggestion of improper political behavior from the special counsel. But regardless of whether the White House signed off, Mueller was on solid ground by returning the indictment when he did.

Mueller’s decision was the correct one, not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an American. That Trump chose to squander the opportunity it presented is a failing of the president, not of the special counsel.

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