Senior members of the White House knew of the allegations of domestic abuse against staff secretary Rob Porter for months. But instead of pushing him out, the administration welcomed him. Indeed, Porter's stock continued to rise, and when the accusations surfaced publicly, top White House staffers scrambled to defend him and downplay the reports.
After defending and praising Porter as a "man of true integrity and honor" on Tuesday night and through Wednesday afternoon, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, in a new statement, said he was "shocked" by the allegations that Porter physically abused his two ex-wives, despite Kelly having prior knowledge of it, CNN reported.
Porter, who resigned on Wednesday — against Kelly's wishes — has denied any and all wrongdoing. Kelly's new statement came only after disturbing pictures surfaced of one of Porter's ex-wives with a black eye that she said was a result of him punching her.
"I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society," the statement said. "I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation."
The statement continued, "I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition."
But it wasn't just Kelly who knew of the alleged abuse. Two sources told CNN that "it was widely known" that Porter couldn't get a security clearance because of his ex-wives' claims. Kelly learned several weeks ago that dozens of White House aides, including Porter, would be denied full security clearances, Politico reported Thursday night, citing an unnamed administration official.
Porter's role as staff secretary was not very public, but it was still very substantial, as he helped manage the flow of information that reaches the president. Porter also helped write Trump's State of the Union address and has reportedly been romantically involved with White House communications director Hope Hicks. Prior to the allegations coming to light on Tuesday, Hicks helped put together Kelly's initial statement.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday, "The president and chief of staff have had full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance." That was just before the disturbing photos surfaced and just before Porter announced his departure.
It's alarming that even in the wake of numerous recent allegations of powerful men abusing women, several members of the White House knew about Porter's past, but he was able to continue to work his way up the ranks of the administration anyway.
On the campaign trail, Trump bragged that he would surround himself with "the best people."