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At one point, Jake Tapper, the veteran CNN anchorman, had to interrupt a guest, turn to the camera and shrug. “I apologize, we have some breaking news,” he said, flashing a lopsided grin. “It’s like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit.”

Over the course of a whipsawing hour of television on Tuesday, journalists struggled to keep up with a developing drama that seemed to put the most outlandish “House of Cards” story lines to shame. President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, was pleading guilty in a Manhattan courtroom, at the exact same time that Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of eight counts of fraud after a trial in Virginia.

It was a pileup of news — and poorly timed for news divisions depleted by the usual August vacations. There were obvious signs of a scramble: Preet Bharara, the former federal prosecutor, shared his thoughts with CNN on a scratchy phone line whose signal dropped in and out.

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