Robert Mueller just set the legal stage for bringing obstruction charges (and more) against Donald Trump

With his dizzying array of recent moves, it’s become increasingly difficult to figure out the specifics of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is doing in the big picture of the Trump-Russia scandal, beyond the fact that he’s swinging for the fences. However, it’s as clear as ever that Mueller is targeting Donald Trump for obstruction of justice charges, and he’s planning to pull that trigger soon. Today he set the legal stage for how he’s going to make that happen.

Mueller brought a whole new round of criminal charges today against Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The upshot for Manafort is that he’s, in a word, screwed. But the big news today comes in the form of one new charge against Manafort in particular. Mueller has now charged Manafort with obstruction of justice during the period of time in which Trump was in the White House, according to MSNBC. It’s not difficult to see what’s going on here.

Trump and Manafort were still in communication after Trump took office, even though Trump had “fired” Manafort months before election day. The two of them were conspiring to sabotage the Trump-Russia investigation. This means they conspired to obstruct justice. By charging Manafort today for his role in that conspiracy, it sets the legal stage to charge Trump in that same obstruction of justice conspiracy.

So now we know how Robert Mueller is going to play this. He’s established that Donald Trump participated in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice. In so doing, he’s also tied Trump to the greater conspiracy between Manafort and Russia, including Manafort’s offer to trade campaign favors to a Russian oligarch in exchange for personal debt relief. So now Mueller can essentially charge Trump with conspiracy to commit everything Manafort did.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report