If Trump is a dictator, why are his people headed to prison?

The double whammy of Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the case of Paul Manafort and guilty plea in that of Michael Cohen — President Trump’s former campaign manager and personal attorney, respectively — must have stunned the White House, and certainly elated the president’s critics, who are busy filing their teeth in preparation for an impeachment case.

But as the nation moves into untrodden constitutional territory, with demands that Trump be indicted for political corruption, it’s worth examining the balance of power in the US today, and the extent to which the president — frequently accused of unprecedented abuse of executive authority — may actually be more respectful of legal procedure and norms than his critics charge.

While the Mueller investigation moves laboriously toward its ostensible focus — Russian meddling in the 2016 election — it has been blazingly fast in racking up convictions and guilty pleas on what appear to be less-than-urgent tax-fraud cases.