It's now been a week since the public first learned about former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter's alleged violence toward his ex-wives. In theory, Donald Trump and his team have had plenty of time to examine how they handled the matter and get their story straight.
It's not going well. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders faced this question during yesterday's briefing:
"Tuesday night, when the initial story came out, the White House praises Rob Porter. Wednesday morning, photos come out. The White House stands by its statement. Wednesday afternoon, the White House continues to praise Rob Porter. And Chief of Staff John Kelly says he acted 40 minutes within knowing the allegations. Can you explain that?"
She couldn't explain that. White House officials have given competing explanations of when they learned about the allegations and when they responded to the allegations. At different times, they've said Porter chose to resign and was forced out. Their timeline, meanwhile, lacks any kind of consistency.
Politico reports this morning, meanwhile, that after reports of Porter's alleged domestic violence reached the public, the White House arranged an off-the-record briefing between the aide and several reporters, allowing him to push back against the claims. This appears to be completely at odds with John Kelly's "40 minutes" claim, which was already a mess.
Making matters slightly worse, the L.A. Times reported yesterday, "Over and over again the past few days, various White House aides have buttonholed reporters to tell them -- anonymously -- that they think Kelly either lied to them or tried to get them to lie about what he knew when."
Fine-tuned machine, indeed.
There is, of course, a broader significance to this that extends beyond one former West Wing aide who's been accused of violent domestic abuse -- allegations he denies. There's also the fact that Trump World doesn't exactly have a reservoir of credibility it can lean on when confronted with controversies like these.
A Washington Post reporter asked rhetorically over the weekend, "What happens when there's an external crisis and the White House needs the American people to believe what it says?" The answer, I suspect, is that much of the public would respond with justifiable skepticism.