As White House officials prepared their initial response to public abuse allegations from staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives, some of them painted the accusations as part of a smear campaign from Porter’s enemies, the Daily Beast reported Thursday night.
Two White House officials told Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) office that a forthcoming story from the Daily Mail with abuse allegations was the product of a “smear campaign” against Porter. The officials laid some of the blame on former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and claimed that he had been researching Porter’s past, per the Daily Beast. Porter is dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, according to CNN and CBS News. Lewandowksi also reportedly dated Hicks, as was mentioned in the book “Fire and Fury,” though Lewandowski disavowed the reporting in that book.
Lewandowski denied to the Daily Beast that he was pushing the story about Porter’s alleged past domestic abuse.
“I’ve never had a bad word about Rob Porter,” Lewandowski told the Daily Beast. “I think he did a very good job, and I wish him the very best.”
Hatch’s office sent a statement praising Porter to the White House on Tuesday before the senator learned that Porter would be accused of physical abuse, per the Daily Beast. After Porter announced his resignation Wednesday, Hatch issued a new statement condemning domestic violence.
Porter has denied the allegations from the start and did so again when he announced his resignation on Wednesday. He told aides in the White House that his ex-wives were making up the stories, two White House officials told the New York Times. He also reportedly later claimed that the photo of one of his ex-wives with a black eye came after his wife was hit with a vase while the two were arguing over it, according to the Washington Post. It’s not clear what he told FBI investigators about his ex-wives’ allegations.
Since Porter’s resignation on Wednesday, when the White House was still circulating statements praising the White House aide, the administration has acknowledged that they handled the situation poorly.
“I think it’s fair to say that we all could have done better over the last few hours— or last few days in dealing with this situation,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Thursday.