Rob Porter, a White House senior aide, resigned last week after allegations surfaced that he had physically and verbally abused two former wives and a former girlfriend. Porter has repeatedly denied the claims. What’s troubling is that some in the White House, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, knew about at least some of the allegations since November of 2017, when the FBI flagged Rob Porter during its background check on Porter for a security clearance.
The White House claims that John Kelly was only “fully aware” of the allegations as of Tuesday. But even if Kelly was “partially aware,” or “a little aware,” why didn’t he follow up on them? Instead, he continued to praise Rob Porter, not only allowing him to continue his duties, but expanding them.
“Rob Porter is a true man of integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” said Kelly on Tuesday.
After photos showing Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye, surfaced, Kelly stated he was “shocked.”
So many troubling elements surround this situation.
Both of Rob Porter’s former wives – Holderness, as well as Jennifer Willoughby – spoke out about the abuse and notified the FBI, citing police actions, including a protection order filed by Willoughby against Porter in 2010. Holderness provided photos in early 2017, showing evidence of Porter’s alleged physical abuse of her.
Though the FBI did inform the White House about the allegations, no one at the White House found them troubling enough to question the appropriateness of Porter’s top-security White House role. In hindsight, the White House has conceded that it “could have handled the situation better.”
A National Security Issue
Rob Porter was a White House aide who had close contact with the President. Because of the domestic violence claims the FBI had flagged in November, Porter has never had a full security clearance. Yet, Porter’s interim security clearance allowed him access to sensitive documents, and freedom to travel on Air Force One with the President. Someone with Porter’s history, and in Porter’s position, is ripe for blackmail. This would place the President, and in turn, the country, in a vulnerable position.
Kelly did confirm he’d known for months about the allegations against Porter. “In November,” he said, “I got an update on some of the investigations. And the update was that there was some things that needed to be looked into. And that’s it.”
All clearance matters, however, do cross the desk of the White House Chief of Staff. Kelly, as Chief of Staff, would have received a detailed FBI report in November – long before last week. So why, following the report, was Porter allowed to work closely with Trump? Did Kelly even look at the report? If he didn’t, someone in the Chief of Staff office did; why didn’t that person act on the information?
No Statement from the White House
A week into the Porter issue, the White House has made statements in support of Rob Porter, but not in support of Porter’s ex-wives. Trump said he was “saddened” – not for Porter’s ex-wives, but for Rob Porter and the potential ruin of his career, even in the face of the FBI report, and the photos that provided evidence.
On Friday, Trump stated, “We wish him well. …It’s an…obviously tough time for him…He said very strongly he was innocent.”
On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
Tough Position for Trump
According to Sarah Sanders, “The White House takes domestic violence very seriously.”
If so, perhaps Donald Trump should tweet as much. Instead, Trump’s Twitter silence in that regard seems to indicate that abuse against a woman is not grounds for disqualification from a job, even if it’s a sensitive, high-security role. Allegations of such abuse don’t warrant further investigation in this White House.
What a tough position Donald Trump must find himself in. During the presidential election, at least 15 women accused Trump of sexual assault, harassment, and lewd behavior. Like Porter, Trump continues to deny the accusations. If Trump were to stop holding up Rob Porter as a victim, and admit any credibility to the claims against him, it would be harder for Trump to continue to deny the allegations against himself.
New focus on when White House staff knew about Rob Porter | Fox News [2018-02-08]
The White House Defends President Donald Trump’s Handling Of Rob Porter Accusations | TIME [2018-02-12]