Reports: Senior White House Officials Knew of Rob Porter Abuse Allegations

HeadlineFeb 09, 2018

The White House said Thursday that it mishandled the case of Rob Porter, who resigned as staff secretary this week after two of his ex-wives accused him of verbal and physical abuse. This is Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah.

Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah: “I think it’s fair to say that, you know, we all could have done better over the last few hours, or last few days, in dealing with the situation. But, you know, this was a Rob Porter that I and many others have dealt with, that Sarah dealt with, that other officials, including the chief of staff, have dealt with, and the emerging reports were not reflective of the individual who we had come to know.”

Shah’s statement came as multiple news outlets reported that senior White House officials—including Chief of Staff General John Kelly—knew for months that the FBI had heard testimony from Porter’s ex-wives about verbal and physical abuse. That contradicts Kelly’s account that he was not “fully aware” of the abuse until this week. Kelly initially supported Porter, describing him in a statement as a “man of true integrity and honor.” The statement was reportedly drafted in part by White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who’s in a romantic relationship with Porter. Rob Porter stepped down Wednesday after The Intercept published photos of his first wife, Colbie Holderness, showing her with a black eye she says she suffered when Porter punched her during a trip to Italy in 2005. The photos’ release came as Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, also went public to detail abuse. This is Willoughby speaking with The Washington Post.

Jennifer Willoughby: “I did know that my marriage was bad. I knew that it wasn’t healthy, that the fights and the verbal and emotional abuse that I was enduring was not, quote-unquote, 'normal.' But I don’t think that I had yet put myself in the category of someone whose husband laid hands on her, until that moment.”

The FBI denied Rob Porter permanent clearance to handle classified information, after it heard the domestic violence allegations from Porter’s ex-wives.

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