Chief of Staff John Kelly was among officials open to promoting ex-Trump aide Rob Porter and overlooking signs of potential abuse allegations in his background

White House scrambles to contain Porter fallout


His anticipated elevation further highlights how top White House officials were willing to overlook indications from the FBI that there were potential abuse allegations in his background in exchange for professional competence in a tumultuous West Wing.

Porter had been actively lobbying to take on new policy portfolios outside the traditional scope of the staff secretary, one person familiar with the matter said, which included speechwriting duties and a role in planning policy rollouts. Neither of those tasks is traditionally carried out by the staff secretary.

One of the areas Porter was set to delve further into was trade policy, according to the person. Porter was a regular attendee at a weekly trade meeting among top-level administration officials.

He was also being considered for the deputy chief of staff position, another source familiar with the situation said. CNN reported Friday that Jim Carroll, who served as the deputy chief of staff for less than three months, was stepping down to helm the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Several White House officials, including chief of staff John Kelly, were receptive to promoting Porter. Kelly had told associates that Porter was one of the few competent professionals on his staff and wanted to ensure that he was being used to his full potential. CNN has reported that Kelly was aware for months of the potential that Porter’s ex-wives could present damaging information on him.

Kelly “definitely wanted to expand his role,” a source familiar tells CNN.

Senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump also viewed Porter as a professional, competent staffer and worked to elevate his standing inside the West Wing, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Aides have stressed in recent days that they were gravely misled by Porter over the allegations.

“That’s what the President did up until the time that it became obvious, when the photographs came out, that the person was not being honest with the President,” Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “After that happened, we dismissed that person immediately.”

But FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicted days of shifting explanations from the administration Tuesday when he said the bureau gave the White House a partial report on problems in Porter’s background last March. That is months earlier than the White House has admitted becoming aware of the problems in Porter’s past.

“The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March and then a completed background investigation in late July,” Wray said as he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Soon thereafter, we received requests for follow up inquiry and we did the follow up and provided that information in November and then we administratively closed the file in January. And then, earlier this month, we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters Thursday that Porter’s background investigation was ongoing.

“He was operating on an interim security clearance,” Shah said. “His clearance was never denied, and he resigned.”

As the fallout from the Porter scandal has stretched into a new week at the White House, a frustrated President Donald Trump has spent his days phoning allies and associates for advice on how to handle negative coverage, sources familiar with the conversations say. His two main questions regarding the scandal: When does it end? What do we do?

Trump has expressed concerns that dismissing members of his staff could result in a stalled agenda just as his approval ratings have enjoyed an uptick, a person familiar with the conversations said. He is particularly concerned with advancing his immigration proposals, a policy objective that has been helmed by Kelly.



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