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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

As Ukraine stories change, White House faces a credibility drought

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Oct. 17. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Jim Watson

First, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney freely admitted that yes, the administration delayed Ukraine aid in pursuit of a foreign probe involving a U.S. Democratic Party computer server that may or may not exist.

Suddenly Mulvaney did an about-face. “The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption," he said.

Left unexplained was how Mulvaney could have believed one thing and then the other.

A similar reversal came from Gordon Sondland, who is President Donald Trump's $1 million inauguration committee donor and also European Union ambassador.

While Mulvaney went from yes to no on the quid-pro-quo, Sondland abruptly went from no to yes.

First, Sondland told Congress he “never” thought there was any precondition on the aid to Ukraine.

Suddenly, on Tuesday, Sondland better aligned his story with corroborations from other witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry.

Now Sondland says he let a Ukraine official know that "resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."

This "public anticorruption statement" would cast aspersions on the Democrats by announcing a Ukrainian "investigation."

Once again there is no coherent public explanation of how a high-level Trump appointee went in short order from saying one thing to saying the direct opposite.

Options are many.

Told to lie? Volunteered to lie? Totally forgot the facts? Got confused? Got warned about perjury? Drank too much Kool-Aid? Not enough Kool-Aid?

None of these sound good.

On the other hand, the mystery "whistleblower" who so vexes the Trump circle hasn't had to change his story a bit. This intelligence officer gave one account of what he saw as wrongdoing and it proved correct.

That's why the whistleblower's identity is completely beside the point to the Ukraine drama.

And since Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and pro-Trump media seem so eager to identify the informant, perhaps illegally, this person might as well call a news conference now to declare: "I told you so!"

Just to refresh, the intelligence officer wrote Aug. 12: "I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."

"The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well," the informant stated. "I am also concerned that these actions pose risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government’s efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections."

The officer wrote about the president's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, mentioning discussion of potential anti-Democratic searches. The incomplete "transcript" memo released by the White House confirms this.

Trump's denial of a quid pro quo now lacks credibility. 

Will he and his chorus of excuse-makers even bother to change their story too?

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