So...when does a Weiner staffer get the axe?

That's where Weinergate is headed, right? Some Weiner staffer is going to take the fall, the main question is "When?"

Here's why I think that's where this is headed. On Friday night Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, deletes the lewd tweet within minutes of it happening -- and after about 3.5 hours of public silence -- and declares that he has been "hacked." Thiry-six hours later the recipient of the offending tweet puts out a statement refuting a bevy of accusations no one had actually made, and on Sunday Weiner (through his staff) calls the tweet a "prank" but brushes off questions regarding whether there has been any contact between Weiner and the woman. Thirty-six hours is plenty of time for Weiner and the tweet recipient to get their stories aligned via direct messages or some other means, should they have any reason or need to do that. And then there's this, from Politico's story Sunday:

Weiner’s office did not answer specific questions about the photograph, whether he has contacted authorities or the Seattle woman who received the photograph. He has said that his Facebook was hacked and if his Twitter had the same password, that too could be vulnerable.

Weiner isn't even saying that his twitter account was hacked anymore. He is only suggesting that it could have been hacked. Well, duh. That's true of every single twitter account on earth. This is a pretty significant shift from Friday, when Weiner claimed he'd been hacked and even saluted "Mr. Moriarty" for getting one over on him. That little salute also made Weiner the most incurious Sherlock Holmes ever, by the way: There is no active police investigation of the alleged hacking.

So now Weiner has lawyered up (why does the victim lawyer up? Because he's not the victim!), dodged specific fact-based questions about the photo and whether he has contacted Cordova (because the facts aren't in his favor for one reason or another), and is calling the tweet a "prank." From "hacked" to "prank" is a major, but strategically useful, climb down.

The next step is to find a staffer to blame the "prank" on, which will be a staffer who had some access to his social networking accounts. Deputy communications director, something like that. Weiner finds a way to compensate the staffer for taking the fall (promises to find them another job outside DC or his district), lets them take the fall, and attempts to move on. And the media, which can't even get the basic facts in this whole thing straight after several of us blogger types have helpfully published detailed timelines for them, will do their best to let him move on.

Update: Jonah Goldberg thinks this will end badly for Weiner. Plus:

Do you people have any idea how hard it is not to pepper this post with double entendre?

I hear ya, brother.