'We could have all done better': White House admits it could have dealt better with Rob Porter abuse allegations

Alexandra Wilts, Emily Shugerman
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) waves to journalists as he and Staff Secretary Rob Porter leave the White House: Getty/Chip Somodevilla

White House spokesman Raj Shah defended the Trump administration for its response to domestic abuse allegations against ex-aide Rob Porter, saying White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was unaware of the “full nature” of the accusations.

Officials reportedly knew that Mr Porter was not able to receive his full security clearance while in the White House due to a protective order against him. But Mr Shah refused to explain why Mr Porter was allowed to stay in his job when his security clearance had been held up over the order.

Mr Porter was allowed to stay in his job when his security clearance had been held up over the order.

“His background investigation was ongoing,” Mr Shah said of Mr Porter, the former White House staff secretary. “His [security] clearance was never denied, and he resigned.”

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Shah later added that the White House trusted “the background check process”.

But, he added: “I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better dealing with this over the last few days.”

In a statement announcing his resignation, Mr Porter declared that “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.”

Mr Kelly had issued a supportive statement when Mr Porter announced his resignation on Wednesday, calling him “a man of true integrity and honour” and said he was “proud to serve alongside him.”

But hours later, after pictures emerged showing one of the ex-wives with a black eye, Mr Kelly said he “was shocked” by “the new allegations released today” against the ex-White House aide.

“There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” Mr Kelly said in his follow-up statement. “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.”

Mr Shah defended Mr Kelly for not firing Mr Porter, asserting that Mr Kelly had not seen the photos.

Two of Mr Porter’s ex-wives accused him of physical abuse in interviews with the Daily Mail last week. Both alleged that their ex-husband had consistently, violently abused them over the course of several years before he entered the White House. Both said they told the FBI about these allegations during Mr Porter’s White House background check.

Mr Shah said on Thursday that “no waivers and no special treatment” were given to Mr Porter during the credential process. Mr Porter has denied all of the allegations against him.