The slow drip of revelations and convictions will eventually force America to confront a simple question
It was the kind of moment that would crown the career of a reality-TV producer.
While the president of the United States was on his way to a campaign rally, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud;
and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, fraud and breaking campaign-finance laws.
Cable-news channels needed so many split screens to cover what was going on that they began to resemble a Rubik’s cube.
Amid the frenzy, however, something important changed this week.
For the first time, President Donald Trump faces a formal accusation that he personally broke the law to further his candidacy.
Mr Manafort’s conviction did not surprise anyone who had followed his trial, or his long career as a political consultant available for hire by dictators and thugs.
Mr Cohen’s plea was more striking, because he was not just Mr Trump’s lawyer; he was the guy who made his problems go away.
This included making payments during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of two women who appear to have had affairs with Mr Trump.
(The president has denied the affairs and now says he learned about the payments later.)
But Mr Cohen told a court under oath that the money was paid “at the direction of a candidate for federal office”.
In other words, that Mr Trump told Mr Cohen to break the law, then lied to cover it up.
Neither Mr Manafort’s conviction nor Mr Cohen’s plea is directly related to the allegations of collusion with Russia that have dogged the Trump campaign,
and are being investigated by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
Yet neither case would have been brought without his investigation.
This week’s events mean that Mr Mueller now stands on firmer ground.
It will be harder for the president to dismiss him without it looking as though he is obstructing justice.
And in such cases, convictions often lead to more convictions as those found guilty look for ways to save themselves.
The question now is whether, and how far, Mr Manafort and Mr Cohen will turn against their former boss in return for leniency.
As the slow drip of revelations and convictions continues, Americans will have to confront a simple question: is Mr Trump above the law?