As staff secretary Rob Porter ascended in stature at the White House, allegations that he physically and emotionally abused his past wives were known by President Trump’s senior aides. When the claims went public this week, there was a mad rush to defend him.
As CNN reports, Trump’s aides are still defending Porter even after his recognition. He has denied the accusations.
By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff John Kelly — both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff.
Instead, Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter’s standing. He was one of a handful of aides who helped draft last week’s State of the Union address. He traveled instead of Kelly to the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. And he was one of a select group of aides who shook Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hand during a state visit to Beijing in November.
Senior White House aide Rob Porter physically assaulted two ex-wives, they tell @theintercept. Full story to come in the morning.
His first wife, Colbie Holderness, provided these photos from a vacation they took together in Florence, Italy: pic.twitter.com/tl3TbyGA8Y
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) February 7, 2018
Chief of Staff Kelly said 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.”
Former wives Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby said Porter’s constant abuse was the reason for their divorces. But in a statement, Porter outright denied the allegations as “outrageous” and “simply false.”
“I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims,” he said. “But I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”
CNN reports that a statement supportive of Porter was drafted partly by Hope Hicks, who was once romantically involved with Porter.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and 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 reportedly wanted Porter to remain in his position despite the allegations.
The news that Trump’s inner circle defended a known domestic abuser was met with disgust across social media.
“This is disgraceful,” Peter Wehner wrote on Twitter. “It tells us so much about Porter, who’s credibly accused of abusing his ex-wives; about Kelly, whose defense of Porter is unconscionable; and about the Trump ethos in the White House. They treat women in horrible/dehumanizing ways.”
That sentiment was echoed many times over.
I know we're all so jaded but we can take a moment to recognize how remarkable it is that the White House knew Rob Porter beat women and defended him as a man of "honor" anyway?
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) February 7, 2018
you will be shocked to learn that the domestic abuse allegations against white house aide rob porter did not come up on hannity tonight
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) February 8, 2018
Gen. John Kelly is as shocked that Rob Porter beat up his wives as Mike Pence was shocked that Gen. Mike Flynn lied to him.
— Nell Scovell (@NellSco) February 8, 2018
I wonder what John Kelly would have to say if Rob Porter’s wives had been pummeled in the face by brown-skinned immigrants.
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) February 8, 2018
This Rob Porter story is going to end with Hope Hicks resigning.
Mark my tweet.
— Edan Clay 🌊 (@EdanClay) February 8, 2018
Featured image via screen grab/CBS News