The Washington Post on Tuesday reported on the ongoing turmoil within the White House over a senior staffer’s ouster following accusations of domestic violence.
White House chief of staff John Kelly, whose handling of the scandal has come under intense scrutiny, is a “big fat liar,” one unnamed White House official told the Post, which cited “a dozen top White House officials and outside advisers and confidants,” mostly anonymously, for the report.
“To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty,” the source added.
Various reports have asserted that the White House knew about the multiple allegations of domestic violence made against former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter before the allegations became public in media reports last week. And FBI Director Christopher Wray testified Tuesday that the bureau’s background investigation had concluded before Porter’s resignation, despite the White House’s recent excuse that the check was ongoing.
One unnamed White House aide told the Post that Wray’s testimony was “a killer” and, asked if Kelly could have been more truthful about the scandal, said: “In this White House, it’s simply not in our DNA. Truthful and transparent is great, but we don’t even have a coherent strategy to obfuscate.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday pinned responsibility on a middleman: The White House Personnel Security Office, “staffed by career officials,” she said, had not completed their own process at the time of Porter’s resignation.
President Donald Trump, the Post said, has expressed frustration in private with the fallout from the scandal, and he has mused in recent days about a replacement for Kelly, two unnamed people with knowledge of the conversation told the Post. The paper noted, though, that Trump often muses about personnel changes he ultimately does not make.
Unnamed aides told the Post that Kelly’s response to the breaking Porter story included instructing staff to communicate what many believed to be a false version of events last Friday.
White House counsel Don McGahn and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin also face scrutiny over the scandal, the Post said.
Unnamed officials told the Post that, rather than being forthcoming about their mistakes in vetting Porter, Kelly and McGahn sought to avoid blame. Kelly told at least one unnamed confidant, the Post said, that the White House communications office ought to take some responsibility for the fallout. He said separately that the media overplayed the story, the Post reported.
At a press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked Sanders if she was “telling us that no senior staff — not Don McGahn, not Joe Hagin, not John Kelly — nobody in the senior staff in the West Wing was involved in that decision to tell [the FBI] to go back and see if they could get more information” on Porter, after the bureau completed its initial background check.
“Again, not that I’m aware of,” Sanders replied. “I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, but not that I’m aware of, of any conversations between those individuals.”