WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday praised Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who resigned on Wednesday amid spousal abuse allegations, saying it was a “tough time” for the disgraced former aide and noting that Mr. Porter had denied the accusations.
“We wish him well,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Porter, who was accused of physical and emotional abuse by two ex-wives. The president added, “As you probably know, he says he is innocent.”
“He worked very hard,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. He said he had only “recently” learned of the allegations against Mr. Porter and was surprised.
Trump walks the Colonnade with Staff Secretary Robert Porter
“He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and he will have a great career ahead of him,” Mr. Trump said. “But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.”
The glowing praise of a staff member accused of serial violence against women was in line with the president’s own denials of sexual impropriety despite accusations from more than a dozen women and his habit of accepting claims of innocence from men facing similar allegations. Among them was Roy Moore, the former Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, who is accused of molesting teenage girls.
Mr. Trump’s comments came as a new timeline emerged indicating that top officials knew much earlier than previously disclosed that Mr. Porter faced accusations of violence against women.
Shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, first learned from Mr. Porter himself that there were abuse allegations against him, according to two people briefed on the situation. Mr. McGahn’s knowledge of the accusations in January was first reported by The Washington Post.
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Mr. Porter told him about the allegations because he was concerned that what he characterized as false charges could derail his F.B.I. background check, according to one of the two people briefed on the matter.
Six months later, the F.B.I. told Mr. McGahn that accusations had indeed surfaced in Mr. Porter’s background check. Mr. McGahn opted at that time to let the F.B.I. complete its investigation into any incidents. Mr. Porter assured Mr. McGahn, another person briefed on the matter said, that the accusations from the former wives were lies.
No one could pretend to be all that surprised that this White House doesn’t see allegations of domestic violence as disqualifying from government service, since it has hired or appointed other men with similar accusations against them, including Stephen K. Bannon and Andrew Puzder, Trump’s first choice to be labor secretary. When you’re working for Trump — who has himself been accused by over a dozen women of various forms of sexual assault and impropriety, and who not only takes the position that they’re all liars but also requires his underlings to repeat that defense — you’re probably not going to get bent out of shape when you learn that the ex-wife of the guy in the next office filed a protective order against him.
The emerging timeline illustrates the degree to which Mr. Porter, a clean-cut and ambitious former Rhodes scholar and Harvard-educated lawyer, concealed troublesome episodes from his past that would normally be considered disqualifying for a senior White House aide.
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Those efforts appear to have succeeded for months, at least in part because of the willingness of a virtually all-male staff in the top echelons of the West Wing to believe a talented male colleague over women they had never met.
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Lawyers in the counsel’s office believed that the bureau — with its vast investigative powers — was best positioned to look into the accusations, the two people briefed on the matter said, and believed it was not their job to investigate conduct that took place long before an official began working in the administration.
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That represents a sharp break with past practice, in which White House counsels undertook elaborate vetting of senior advisers before they were hired — and looked into any serious allegations that surfaced thereafter.
In November, the White House heard back from the F.B.I. Senior White House officials, including John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff, and Mr. McGahn received word from the bureau that the allegations were credible and that Mr. Porter was not likely to pass his background check.
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But while Mr. McGahn privately informed Mr. Porter and encouraged him to consider moving on, according to one of the two people briefed, no action was taken to immediately terminate him. Rather, Mr. McGahn requested that the F.B.I. complete its investigation and come back to the White House with a final recommendation, a process that could take months.
It was unclear precisely what Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff who was instrumental in recruiting Mr. Porter, knew about the matter before he left. One of the two people briefed on the matter said that Mr. Priebus was told there was an issue with Mr. Porter’s clearance. Mr. Priebus has told people that he was unaware of the details and didn’t know that Mr. Porter had ex-wives.
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Also unknown is whether Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who became strong allies of Mr. Porter and sought to promote him wherever possible internally, were aware of his troubles.
Regardless of whether they knew details, there were a significant number of people who were aware that there was something unseemly in the ether about Mr. Porter, and none appear to have sought more information.
A stock market enters a correction when it drops 10 percent below a recent peak, as U.S. stock did on Thursday. The Dow dropped from a Jan. 26 peak of 26,567, closing at 23,860 — a plunge of 10.8 percent. The S&P 500 is down the same percentage, plummeting to close at 2,581 on Thursday.
At least two weeks ago, members of the White House communications office were alerted that journalists were beginning to ask questions about Mr. Porter and his ex-wives and his security clearance, according to three people familiar with the discussions. There was no effort made to try to address the issue, and White House aides tried to wait it out.
Within the West Wing, staff members also appeared to be obfuscating with their own colleagues. Mr. Hagin insisted that he was unaware of the F.B.I.’s concerns as The Daily Mail published an initial article about the allegations against Mr. Porter. So did Mr. Kelly, who denied to some of his aides that he was aware of any specifics about Mr. Porter last fall.
The common thread in the West Wing was that Mr. Porter was among the few staff members who were widely liked and who had not become a major target of the warring factions in the White House.
One person who appeared unaware of what was taking place was Mr. Trump, who was livid when he learned of the allegations, according to two advisers. He spent Thursday working the phones, referring to Mr. Porter in one call as “bad garbage,” according to the advisers, and expressing his frustration with both Mr. Kelly and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, to others. Ms. Hicks had been dating Mr. Porter and was one of the officials behind initial White House statements supporting him.
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The president, who is frustrated with how Mr. Kelly handled the matter, has now sounded out several people about possible replacement chiefs of staff. Those possible replacements include Mick Mulvaney, the budget director; Representative Kevin McCarthy of California; and Gary Cohn, Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump’s desire for military parade: ‘We have a Napoleon in the making’ MORE for praising former White House staff secretary Rob Porter — who resigned from his job after allegations of domestic abuse surfaced.
“Instead of offering sympathy to the women who’ve come forward alleging abuse, Trump wished Porter well & pointed to his claims of innocence,” Lieu tweeted. “At this point, it’s hard to come up w/ new ways to express total dismay for @POTUS’s appallingly unpresidential remarks & actions in office.”
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Instead of offering sympathy to the women who’ve come forward alleging abuse, Trump wished Porter well & pointed to his claims of innocence. At this point, it’s hard to come up w/ new ways to express total dismay for @POTUS’s appallingly unpresidential remarks & actions in office
Trump on Friday morning praised Porter’s work in the White House, saying that he “wishes him well” and hopes he has a “great career ahead of him.”
ADVERTISEMENT “I found out about it very recently and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well, obviously a tough time for him,” Trump said. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House and we hope he has a wonderful, hopefully, he has a great career ahead of him.”Porter resigned Wednesday following news reports that revealed both of his ex-wives had accused him of domestic abuse. Photographs emerged of one of the women with a black eye, which she said she got from Porter, who has denied the allegations.
Trump also stressed that Porter has denied the accusations by his two ex-wives, saying, “he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Lieu, a frequent critic of the president, wrote in a series of tweets that Trump’s comments defending Porter are especially troubling “in a watershed time where more women and men are coming forward with harrowing #MeToo stories of abuse.”
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“While it is clear the current President cannot serve as our moral compass, we must not lose sight of our shared virtues,” Lieu added. “Domestic violence and abuse must always be aggressively condemned.”
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While it is clear the current President cannot serve as our moral compass, we must not lose sight of our shared virtues. Domestic violence and abuse must always be aggressively condemned. RT if you agree.