WH Addresses Spousal Abuse Allegations: 'We All Could Have Done Better'

By Susan Jones | February 9, 2018 | 10:03am EST
(Photo: Department of the Interior, U.S. National Park Service)

(CNSNews.com) - Great fury and indignation from liberal media outlets on this Friday, not over another (brief) government shutdown and a bill that will produce escalating deficits and debt, but over the White House hiring -- and now firing -- a high-ranking official whose two ex-wives accuse him of domestic abuse.

Aside from the outrage over the alleged abuse, press reports said some White House officials tried to give Rob Porter a pass, even though they have known for some time why Porter's security clearance was held up by the FBI.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday, spokesman Raj Shah admitted, "We all could have done better over the few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation."

One of Porter's ex-wives is circulating a photo of herself with a black eye. She said she gave the photo to the FBI, and it was also printed in The Daily Mail, which broke the story Tuesday.

Porter's second ex-wife went on CNN Thursday night to predict that if Rob Porter hasn't already abused Hope Hicks -- a trusted aide to President Trump whom Porter is dating -- "he will."

Much of the fury centers on White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, who issued a statement earlier this week defending Porter as a "man of true integrity and honor. I can't say enough good things about him," Kelly's statement read. "He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him."

Kelly later issued a second statement, apparently after seeing the "black eye" photo, saying he was "shocked" by the "new allegations" against Porter.

"There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation," Kelly said. "I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition."

Porter cleared out of the White House on Wednesday.

As the White House Staff Secretary, Porter was around classified material, but his security clearance never was approved. He was working with an interim security clearance, press reports said. 

White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters on Thursday that President Trump did not know about the abuse allegations until the story broke earlier this week. Nor did the president know that Porter had only a temporary security clearance. Shah described Trump as "saddened for all the individuals involved" after hearing the allegations against Porter.

"To summarize," Shah said, "the allegations against Rob Porter are serious and deeply troubling. He did deny them. The incidents took place long before he joined the White House, therefore they were investigated as part of the background check, as this process is meant for such allegations. It was not completed, and Rob Porter has since resigned."

Shah said the "tried and true" background check process was "followed meticulously."

"We trust the background check process," he said. "And the chief of staff does not get detailed updates about what may or may not have been alleged. This is a process. It involves a thorough investigation. And as I went through the process, it involves looking at not just accusations, but denials."

Shah also said, "Rob Porter was never denied a security clearance. He was never given any special treatment. The process was still ongoing. We relied upon it."

Both of Porter's ex-wives told The Daily Mail they had been interviewed by the FBI. And one of them "shared the photos of her injuries with the FBI, photos pictured in this story," the Mail noted.

President Trump and Republicans lately have been very critical of the apparent bias and alleged surveillance abuse among officials in the FBI's senior management.

The Mail reported that in 2010, Jennifer Willoughby – Porter's second ex-wife – filed a protective order against him after he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave their apartment.

Yet Willoughby also told the Mail that Porter's problems were "personal," not professional:

"I want to be very clear when I say this," Willoughby was quoted as saying. "I don't want to be married to him. I would not recommend anyone to date him or marry him. But I definitely want him in the White House and the position he is in. I think his integrity and ability to do his job is impeccable. And the majority of the issues he suffers from are very personal and intimate."  

Willoughby said she never saw Rob take his anger out on other people -- "not even road rage" -- but that it was all behind closed doors.

Press reports said Kelly and others in the White House knew about the domestic abuse allegations for months.

But Shah said Kelly "became fully aware" of the domestic abuse allegations on Wednesday, after seeing the photo of Porter's ex-wife with a black eye. "I'm not going to get into the specifics, regarding who may have known what pieces of information. Because they were all part of an ongoing background check investigation."

Shah also said Kelly's second statement on Porter reflected that "these allegations are deeply troubling. They are shocking. And I think the first statement reflected, you know, the Rob Porter that we have known."

Shah admitted that "we all could have done better over the few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation. But you know this was a Rob Porter that I and many others have dealt with, that Sarah had dealt with, that other officials, including the Chief of Staff had dealt with. And the emerging reports were not reflective of the individual who we had come to know."

Liberal media outlets -- newspapers and cable shows -- on Friday attacked Kelly's character and credibility.

"Kelly Is Now Center of the Storm He Was Hired to Tame," read one headline in The New York Times. The liberal media also pounced on the by-now familiar theme of dysfunction and tone-deafness in the Trump White House.

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