The White House would not say Thursday when Chief of Staff John Kelly found out about the allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter from both of his ex-wives.
A spokesman for President Trump would only say that Kelly became ‘fully aware’ of the accusations yesterday, when DailyMail.com published photos of Porter’s first wife that she says were taken after he punched her on a vacation.
‘I’m not going to get into the specifics regarding who may have known what pieces of information because they were all part of an ongoing background check investigation,’ deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in his debut behind the White House podium.
A leading women’s organization is demanding White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s head over his ‘pathetic’ defense of Rob Porter, the senior Trump staffer who resigned after he was accused of domestic abuse by both of his ex-wives
Senior White House aides – possibly even chief of staff John Kelly – were made aware of spousal abuse allegations against Porter in November after the FBI learned about them during a background check – but Porter remained in his sensitive post.
The FBI learned about the allegations after conducting a background check on Porter, the White House staff secretary who resigned Wednesday. It concluded that he could be subjected to blackmail due to what was uncovered, a source tells DailyMail.com.
Now, following a second report on the abuse allegations against the Trump aide, Kelly is coming under fire for his efforts to shield Porter– at a time when the #MeToo movement is rocking Hollywood and the national culture.
A leading feminist organization is demanding Kelly’s head over his ‘pathetic’ defense of Rob Porter, the senior Trump staffer who resigned after he was accused of domestic abuse by both of his ex-wives.
The National Organization of Women called Kelly an ‘enabler of sexual absusers’ in a Thursday morning statement and said he must resign alongside Porter.
In a phone call, NOW President Toni Van Pelt said, ‘It’s not honorable to beat up women. There is no integrity involved in being violent when you go home. These are not American values.’
Kelly described Porter as a ‘man of true integrity and honor’ after he was informed that on-the-record spousal abuse allegations from the senior official’s second wife would be appearing in a story on DailyMail.com.
‘I think its clear, starting at the very top in our country, that they see women as collateral damage that they see women as objects,’ Van Pelt said. ‘They are actually giving permission to abusers. They are giving permission to men to disrespect women and to treat them with disregard.’
As staff secretary, Porter has had access to every piece of classified information that goes through the White House. He was a key ally of Kelly is his effort to vet information that reaches the president and impose discipline on the flow.
Two Porter ex-wives have said they spoke to the FBI during its standard background check on Porter, who was seeking a government security clearance for his high level position.
The allegations delayed Porter’s ability to get permanent security clearance. He was granted interim clearance when he joined the White House in January 2017. Temporary clearances are common in the first 4-6 months of an administration, and in the first 3 months of a new senior level hire.
But his extended for 13 months.
White House chief of staff John Kelly said he was ‘shocked’ by domestic violence allegations leveled against Rob Porter on Thursday evening – exactly 12 hours after DailyMail.com published pictures and an account from the senior White House official’s first wife
Nevertheless, he remained in his role, where he acts as a key gatekeeper for information that gets to President Trump’s desk.
Kelly joined the White House staff in July of 2017. He would not have been part of the team that vetted Porter during the transition.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was leading those operations until he was booted just after the election and replaced at the top of the president’s transition team by Vice President Mike Pence.
Christie told ABC News in a Wednesday podcast that Porter’s name never came up when he was in charge of Trump’s transition team.
‘If they didn’t know, it’s a failure of vetting,’ he said of Porter’s personal history.
The ex-politician who left office last month after two consecutive terms as New Jersey’s chief executive said that Porter brought disgrace to his name and his reputation with the resignation.
‘Because he didn’t resign voluntarily. It’s clear that he was forced to resign given the circumstances,’ Christie assessed.
The White House continued to stand by Porter on Wednesday, though, even after DailyMail.com published a follow-up story that included photos and new allegations from Porter’s first wife.
‘Rob has been effective in his role as Staff Secretary, and the President and Chief of Staff have had full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance,’ White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a televised statement.
It was not until the 9pm hour on Wednesday – exactly 12 hours after DailyMail.com published its second story – that Kelly said he was ‘shocked by the new allegations’ against Porter.
‘There is no place for domestic violence in our society,’ Kelly stated.
But digging in his heels on his defense of Porter 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.’
Van Pelt, the head of NOW, said, Thursday that she believes ‘it’s good that the abusers and the predators themselves are seeing consequences’ in the Me Too era.
‘But the reason that they continue is because of people like John Kelly,’ she said.
Mentioning the photos and the restraining order that accompanied DailyMail.com articles, Van Pelt asked, ‘What more does it take?’
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Staff Secretary Rob Porter follow President Donald Trump as he walks to board Marine One to head to Missouri to push the Republican tax plan, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017
Porter is dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks. She, like Porter, accompanied President Trump to an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. She also assisted in crafting statements responding to the allegations against Porter
As DailyMail.com first revealed in an earlier article, Porter is dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.
In another unusual twist, Hicks participated in crafting Kelly’s defiant statement on the matter Tuesday. Kelly was on Capitol Hill for immigration negotiations when staff learned about the DailyMail’s exclusive on Porter.
It was not immediately clear if Porter was able to operate under a temporary clearance pending approval, or if he had access to less than the full array of information that would normally be required of his high-level post.
‘To have someone in that job who can be so easily blackmailed is crazy,’ Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who served as staff secretary for Bill Clinton, told DailyMail.com.
‘Every day there’s a stack of red folders on this guy’s desk that have the most secret info the government possesses and he has been walking it into the president,’ he said.
He noted that the staff secretary only has two ‘direct reports’: the chief of staff and the president.
‘To have someone in that job for 14 months with no national security clearance, is outrageous. And John Kelly owns that and has some very tough questions to answer, not just about why he’s still defending him, which is outrageous, but about why you would allow someone to be in this position who can be so easily blackmailed. It’s crazy.’
Maloney is calling for a House Oversight Committee investigation into what happened and singled out Kelly’s role.
Kelly stood firm and issued a defiant statement defending Porter as DailyMail.com published the allegations from Porter’s second wife.
‘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.’
President Trump was not aware of the allegations against Porter, according to a source
It was not until a second statement Wednesday night and Porter’s resignation that Kelly said, ‘I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter’ and that ‘there is no place for domestic violence in our society.’
After DailyMail.com contacted the White House Tuesday, Porter’s former boss, Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, also vigorously defended him. Hatch released a new statement hours later condemning assault.
The retiring Senator told ABC News on Thursday that he doesn’t believe all of the allegations against Porter, ‘But there’s enough there that you have to take it very seriously.’
It was only 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, that a new round of statements went out and the White House announced that Porter would resign.
Porter could be out of the White House as soon as today or tomorrow.
Other outlets have reported the information had made its way to the White House.
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 in advance about a 2010 protective order that the DailyMail published in the original story,Politico reported.
CBS also reported the FBI told White House officials about the abuse allegations in November.
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.
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
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.’
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, 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.
Porter also had a role in crafting the president’s State of the Union address the following week.
Kelly’s claim that he ‘shocked’ by new domestic violence allegations leveled against Porter goes against reporting that Trump staffers had known about the accusations for months.
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.
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.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday Porter was resigning but could be in his job for weeks during a transition period
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
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.
The two sets of revelations have stunned the White House and led to a dramatic exit for Porter.
Kelly had earlier described Porter 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.
Sources said Trump and his daughter Ivanka both learned of the allegations this week and were said to be upset and deeply disturbed.
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 is dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, 29. The two were seen leaving her D.C. apartment 10 days ago
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, 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 D.C.restaurant