Donald Trump defends former top official after domestic abuse allegations from his ex-wives

Alexandra Wilts
Mr Trump made the statement during a meeting in the Oval Office: Getty

President Donald Trump has defended former White House official Robert Porter, who has been accused of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives.

“He says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent,” Mr Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “But we absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job when he was at the White House.”

Mr Porter’s ex-wives accused him of physical abuse in interviews with the Daily Mail. Both alleged that their ex-husband had consistently, violently abused them over the course of several years before he entered the White House.

“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” Mr Porter said in his statement. “I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

The President said his administration only recently found out about the accusations and that he was surprised by them.

“We hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him,” Mr Trump added. “But it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he’s also very sad now.”

The White House initially issued a supportive statement when Mr Porter announced his resignation on Wednesday. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called him “a man of true integrity and honour” and said he was “proud to serve alongside him.”

But hours later, after seeing pictures of 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 a 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 Porter said in his statement that he “took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.”

On Thursday, White House spokesman Raj Shah defended Mr Kelly for not firing Mr Porter, saying the Chief of Staff was unaware of the “full nature” of the accusations.

“I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better dealing with this over the last few days,” Mr Shah said during a White House press briefing.

As for Mr Kelly, told reporters on Friday that he he learned Tuesday night about the allegations. “Forty minutes later he was gone,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly's handling of the Porter matter has cast a harsh spotlight on the chief of staff, however a White House official said that Mr Kelly has not offered his resignation.

Associated Press contributed to this report