WH Doesn’t Deny Reports It Knew About Allegations Of Ex-Staffer’s Abuse

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 01: Rob Porter, right, White House staff secretary, and Don McGahn, White House counsel, attend a luncheon featuring a speech by President Donald Trump at the House and Senate Republican retreat at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on February 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

The White House on Thursday did not deny reports that top Trump administration officials knew that ousted White House staff secretary Rob Porter had been accused by multiple women of domestic abuse.

Rather, White House spokesperson Raj Shah said that White House chief of staff John Kelly “became fully aware” of the allegations on Wednesday. He refused to get further into specifics.

“He had not seen images prior to the statement on Tuesday night,” Shah said.

A reporter pressed: What did “fully aware” mean? What did Kelly know about the allegations before a Tuesday night report in the Daily Mail broke the story publicly?

“Again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of what may have emerged from the investigation,” Shah said, not denying reports that Kelly — who vouched for Porter even after the first reports surfaced publicly — knew about the allegations of abuse well before this week.

Separately, a reporter asked how White House officials had stood behind Porter even after Porter had said in a statement that he had personally taken the photos of his ex-wife showing apparent signs of domestic abuse — namely, a black eye.

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,” Shah said. “But, you know, this was the Rob Porter that I and many others have dealt with. That Sarah dealt with, that other officials including the chief of staff have dealt with, and the emerging reports were not reflective of the individual we had come to know.”

Shah said Porter’s background investigation was “ongoing” at the time of his resignation, and that he was working on an interim security clearance during his time at the White House. Wednesday was Porter’s last day, Shah said.

“Over the course of any investigation, some information may arise that seems troubling or complicated and requires additional investigating,” Shah said at the top of the briefing, reading a description of the background check process from a prepared remark. “It’s important to allow that process to continue in order for a fulsome understanding of the information.”

He added later: “It’s important to remember that Rob Porter has repeatedly denied these allegations and done so publicly. That doesn’t change how serious and disturbing these allegations are. They’re upsetting. And the background check investigates both the allegations and the denials.”

This post has been updated.

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