White House aide Rob Porter resigns after photos of alleged abuse surface

Meanwhile, Porter is reportedly dating Donald Trump’s White House Communications Director Hope Hicks

By Nicole Karlis

Published February 7, 2018 6:30PM (EST)

Rob Porter (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Rob Porter (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, has resigned after allegations surfaced in the media that he abused two of his ex-wives.

The Trump aide announced his resignation and released a statement denying the allegations that were first reported by the Daily Mail. Other outlets corroborated the Daily Mail’s original reporting, and disturbing photos emerged that led to Porter’s resignation.

Porter’s statement via Axios stated:

"These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."

“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

The photographs he refers to in the statement are of Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, whom he allegedly assaulted on their honeymoon in Florence, Italy. In an interview with the Daily Mail, who obtained the photos along with The Intercept, Holderness alleged he kicked and choked her, then punched her in the face. The Daily Mail also interviewed Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughy, who alleged that Porter pulled her naked from the shower and was verbally abusive. The New York Times reported that Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, filed an emergency protective order against him in 2010.

“When he heard me on the phone with the police,” Willoughby wrote in the complaint, “he apologized and begged me not to involve them.”

According to multiple outlets, Porter is currently dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

CNN reports that Porter’s last day employed at the White House is unknown, but that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he will stay on to help his successor transition.

White House officials and Republican lawmakers expressed shock at the news.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, released a statement today saying he was “heartbroken.” Porter was Hatch's top aide from 2015 to 2017.

Hatch said:

“I am heartbroken by today’s allegations. In every interaction I’ve had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”

White House chief of staff John Kelly also released a statement about Porter.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said. “He is a friend, a confidant and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

Both Politico and Vanity Fair allege that Kelly knew about Porter’s past transgressions.

Politco reported:

A senior administration official said White House chief of staff John Kelly had been aware of the 2010 protective order, which prevented Porter from getting a full security clearance. The official said Kelly considered trying to push Porter out of his role but never did.

Intriguingly, Vanity Fair reports that White House officials are allegedly frustrated that Kelly tried to defend Porter.

“It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him,” one former West Wing official told Vanity Fair.

Another Republican said to a Vanity Fair reporter, “How many times has Kelly put out a statement defending Trump?”

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Assault Domestic Violence Donald Trump Hope Hicks Rob Porter Senator Orrin Hatch Spousal Abuse