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Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images

Consider this: It's been five days since domestic violence allegations toward Rob Porter surfaced. Within 24 hours, Porter was out of a job. The scandal has rocked the White House and one of its most astonishing components is that Chief of Staff John Kelly and the White House press shop are still providing conflicting stories about what happened.

This is crazy. Even in a White House that's famous for chaos, I've never seen anything like this.

Through an outside ally, Kelly has given the following account:

  1. On Tuesday afternoon, Porter told Kelly a damaging story was coming about his messy marriages and divorces, with allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.
  2. Kelly asked if the story was about domestic violence and Porter said it wasn't.
  3. After the story broke on Tuesday evening, Kelly realized immediately that Porter had lied about what was in the story.
  4. Within 40 minutes, Kelly demanded Porter's resignation.
  5. Porter complied and Kelly told all of this to the president.

But the White House has publicly projected the opposite versionof events. Here's what officials have told reporters on background and, in part, on the record:

  1. On Tuesday afternoon, The Daily Mail told the press shop the story was coming and asked for comment.
  2. The press shop huddled with Porter, and then told Kelly there was a story coming with horrific allegations — including domestic violence — against Porter. (This is a key break from Kelly's narrative; see item 1 above.)
  3. Together, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kelly, and other press shop officials drafted a statement defending Porter.
  4. The Daily Mail story published, including that statement.
  5. On Wednesday, around noon, the White House press team told reporters that nobody asked for Porter's resignation. They added that several senior officials encouraged Porter to "stay and fight."
  6. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said from the podium that nobody asked Porter to leave but he resigned anyway.

One more surreal twist: Representing the Trump administration on CBS' "Face the Nation" today, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Porter was given "the benefit of the doubt" until the photos came out showing the black eye he allegedly gave his ex-wife. (This contradicts Kelly's story: The first time anybody saw these photos was at 1:53 a.m. on Wednesday when The Intercept's reporter Ryan Grim tweeted them out.)

Bottom line: Either the White House spokespeople or the president's chief of staff is lying. It's a stunning display of incompetence that five days after the initial story broke, they still can't get their stories straight.

Go deeper

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."

COVID created an epic U.S. trade gap

Chart: Axios Visuals. Data: Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis

The details of the blockbuster fourth quarter GDP report released Thursday morning tell a vivid story of how the underpinnings of the world economy have been reshaped by the pandemic.

One example: In the arithmetic around U.S. economic output, trade acted as a more severe drag last year than it has in a generation.