The White House was under fire Thursday for circling ranks to defend accused abuser Rob Porter, even though aides were made aware of some of the allegations against him months ago.
The White House on Wednesday announced Porter would resign after DailyMail.com reported allegations abuse by his two ex wives. But when first contacted on Tuesday, the White House issued defiant statements from chief of staff John Kelly, as well as from Porter, while his former boss Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch also defended him.
After DailyMail.com published additional allegations, and a photo of first wife Colbie Holderness with a black eye she says Porter gave her when he punched her during their marriage, the White House issued a new round of statements and announced Porter would resign.
Now Porter could be out of the White House as soon as today or tomorrow.
White House chief of staff John Kelly (left) says he was ‘shocked’ by domestic violence allegations leveled against Rob Porter (right) as it is claimed staffers knew about it for months
Aides knew about allegations against Porter since last year, the Washington Post reported. ABC News reported that high level officials knew about the domestic violence accusations. Officials also knew about a 2010 protective order that appeared in the original story in advance, Politico reported.
The allegations delayed Porter’s security clearance. Both of his ex-wives said they spoke to the FBI about the abuse they say he committed. Nevertheless, he remained in his role, where he acts as a key gatekeeper for information that gets to President Trump’s desk.
Axios reported after the initial story that Kelly wanted Porter to ‘stay and fight.’
Kelly considers Porter, a Harvard-trained former Rhodes scholar a key advisor, and Kelly has said one of his own chief reforms was better organizing the White House to filter the information that gets to Trump.
A former White House official told Vanity Fair, ‘It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him.’
When the DailyMail first approach the White House for comment on allegations of domestic abuse by Porter, Kelly issued a defiant statement.
‘Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional,” Kelly said. ‘I am proud to serve alongside him.’
CNN reported that White House communications director Hope Hicks, who DailyMail.com has revealed is dating Porter, participated in drafting statements in response to the allegations.
Porter, described as one of the most important players in Trump’s circle, resigned from his role as White House staff secretary on Wednesday following claims of domestic abuse
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Porter’s former employer, issued a statement Tuesday scolding the ‘vile attack’ on Porter.
Hatch called it ‘incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.’
After DailyMail.com’s second story, both Kelly and Hatch issued new statements. Kelly said he was ‘shocked’ by the new allegations, and Hatch – less than 15 hours after his initial statement – said he was ‘heartbroken by today’s allegations.’
Despite the White House’s knowledge of the looming issue, Porter traveled with the president to an an economic conference in Davos, where he played a key role in drafting Trump’s speech. Hicks also attended.
Kelly says he was ‘shocked’ by new domestic violence allegations leveled against Rob Porter as it is claimedTrump staffers had known about the accusations for months.
Porter resigned from his role as White House staff secretary on Wednesday after his first ex-wife Colbie Holderness told DailyMail.com that he choked and punched her during their marriage.
His second wife Jennifer Willoughby revealed on Tuesday that he had once dragged her wet and naked out of the shower and was verbally abusive, calling her a f***ing b***h’ on their honeymoon.
Kelly had earlier fiercely backed Porter calling him a man of ‘integrity and honor’ but issued a statement late Wednesday expressing his shock.
‘I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society,’ Kelly 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.
‘I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.’
Kelly had earlier described him as a man of ‘true integrity and honor’, adding that he couldn’t say enough good things about him.
‘He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,’ he said.
The allegations made by Porter’s two ex-wives had reportedly been known among senior aides to President Trump since at least November, multiple sources told CNN and CBS.
Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, (left) claims he repeatedly punched and choked her. His second wife Jennifer Willoughby has also claimed that Porter was abusive in their marriage
Kelly was reportedly one of those top aides to have known about the allegations.
Sources said Trump and his daughter Ivanka both learned of the allegations this week and were said to be upset and deeply disturbed.
Porter’s former boss, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, also made a stunning U-turn after just 24 hours. He was Hatch’s chief of staff from March 2014 until he came to the White House on Inauguration Day.
After the first allegation surfaced, Hatch said in a statement that it was ‘incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this – and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.’
‘I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal advisor,’ Hatch continued at the time. ‘He is kind and considerate towards all.’
‘The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.’
But when Porter’s other ex-wife came forward detailing abuse, Hatch backpedaled and said he didn’t know what Porter may have done in the years before he knew him.
‘I am heartbroken by today’s allegations,’ Hatch said.
‘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.’
The two sets of revelations have stunned the White House and led to a dramatic exit for Porter.
Porter is dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, 29. The two were seen leaving her D.C. apartment 10 days ago
Porter, who is dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, denied the claims made by the two women but still resigned.
‘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,’ Porter said in a statement Wednesday.
‘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.’
Porter’s first wife, Holderness, 37, who is a senior analyst for the U.S. government, spoke on the record to DailyMail.com about their five-year marriage, detailing physical and mental abuse.
She said he broke down her confidence so badly with his verbal and emotional abuse that she took an extended leave of absence from grad school.
Holderness said she was interviewed by the FBI – as was his second wife Willoughby – about their marriage after Porter was tapped for his current White House position as staff secretary. She shared the photos of her injuries with the FBI.
Porter required a security clearance – which he has not received.
‘I was his first wife and it wasn’t until there was a second wife and then a long-time girlfriend reaching out to me, who was experiencing some weird things. I started to realize that he keeps getting away with it. It’s a pattern now, it hasn’t gone away,’ Holderness said.
In 2010, Jennifer Willoughby – Porter’s second ex-wife – filed a protective order against him after he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave their apartment.
According to a complaint filed with the police, he punched the glass on the door to their home, cutting his hand in the process.
Last week, DailyMail.com revealed that Porter, who is Mormon, and White House Director of Communications Hope Hicks are dating, and were seen kissing in a cab on the way back to her apartment from a bar.