Senior members of Trump’s administration knew about allegations of abuse against staffer: sources
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Senior members of President Donald Trump’s administration knew for months that there was a personal issue haunting White House staff secretary Rob Porter, multiple sources told ABC News — raising questions among staffers about why he was allowed to continue in such a prominent role in the West Wing.
Porter, a top White House aide who has served since the start of the administration, resigned abruptly Wednesday in the wake of multiple allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives, a story first reported by The Daily Mail and confirmed by ABC News.
In two separate media accounts, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby painted a dark and disturbing picture of Staff Secretary Rob Porter, describing multiple instances emotional abuse and physical violence.
Even as news of the scandal broke, White House officials initially defended Porter, with Chief of Staff John Kelly calling him a “man of true integrity and honor.” Following his resignation, as pictures of Porter’s first wife with a black eye circulated online, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sander told reporters that Porter was not forced out and his departure would not be immediate.
“I think that was a personal decision that Rob made and one that he was not pressured to do but one that he made on his own,” Sanders said.
Porter denounced the accusations as a “coordinated smear campaign” and released a statement, saying “These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos … and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims.”
Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told The Intercept that Porter “would lay on top of me shaking me… He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out, or frankly to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing.”
She also released a series of photos to the Intercept, showing her with a black eye and a bruised cheekbone after she claims Porter punched her in the face more than a decade ago.
Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, told ABC News she wrote a blog post about her marriage to Porter in 2017, in which she claimed “just after our one year anniversary, he pulled me, naked and dripping, from the shower to yell at me.”
She also filed for an emergency protective order against Porter, stemming from a June 2010 incident in which, according to a criminal complaint reviewed by ABC News, she alleges that Porter refused to leave her apartment — where she was living during their separation.
“He punched in the glass on the door. I called the police, afraid he would break-in. He came to the door asking me to let him in to take him to get medical attention. When he heard me on the phone with the police, he apologized and begged me not to involve them. When he heard me give my name and address to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, he drove off,” Willoughby said in her complaint.
Porter frequently traveled with the president, worked closely with Chief of Staff Kelly to manage the flow of information to the President Trump’s desk and played a key role in writing the State of the Union address that President Trump delivered last week.
He has been linked in a romantic relationship with White House communications director Hope Hicks, the president’s longest serving aide.
Asked whether the president was concerned about the allegations against Porter, Sanders said she had not spoken with the president about that and declined to comment further.
Kelly later released an additional statement saying he was “shocked” by the allegations.
“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” he told reporters in a statement. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society. 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.”
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