Within 48 hours, Porter had resigned amid a series of allegations from both of his ex-wives about how he physically and mentally abused them as well as a photograph of his first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye.
It’s been a remarkable series of poor decisions, miscalculations and mixed messages. Below, I’ve documented what the White House said — and what facts we learned — over each of the eight days of the Porter scandal. It’s a wild ride.
The Daily Mail story posts just after 7 p.m.
Wednesday, February 7
Chief of staff John Kelly releases a statement that reads: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” (We later learn that communications director Hope Hicks, who is romantically involved with Porter, was involved in the crafting of Kelly’s hugely supportive statement.)
Kelly stands by his initial supportive statement until almost 9:30 p.m., when the White House issues a new statement from Kelly. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” he says in the new 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.”
Thursday, February 8
“By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff John Kelly — both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them,” CNN reported. “No action was taken to remove him from the staff.”
Not only that, but Kelly repeatedly urged Porter to hunker down and try to weather the stories in hopes of keeping someone he has increasingly leaned on to manage Trump on staff.
White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah issues a statement before the start of the daily press briefing that reads in part:
“It is important to remember that Rob Porter has repeatedly denied these allegations, and done so publicly. That doesn’t change how serious and disturbing these allegations are. They are upsetting. And the background check investigates both the allegations and the denials. The investigation does not stop when allegations comes to light. It continues to determine the truth.
“We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made, unless they could compromise national security or interfere with operations at the White House. The truth must be determined.”
Under questioning, Shah says that Porter was “terminated” shortly after the “full nature” of the allegations became clear. That stands in direct contrast to the reporting froM CNN and others that Kelly knew of the basic parameters of the allegations last fall.
Shah also acknowledges that “we all could have done better over the last few hours — or last few days in dealing with this situation.”
Friday, February 9
For the first time, Trump himself addresses Porter’s resignation and the accusations against his former staff secretary. Here it is in full:
“Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well.It’s obviously a tough time for him.
“He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him, but it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.
“Now he also — as you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent. So you’ll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.”
Saturday, February 10
Sunday, February 11
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says that Trump was “very disturbed” by the allegations against Porter. White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short says Trump was “saddened.”
Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney suggests that the Trump Saturday tweet wasn’t even about Porter at all. “When I saw the tweet — I know Rob Porter wasn’t mentioned — I wondered if the President was talking about his friend Steve Wynn, who has been accused and essentially condemned without any due process,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Monday, February 12
Reporting out of the White House suggests that aides are perplexed at Trump’s public statements versus his private sentiments.
Sanders, under fierce questioning about the still-unclear timeline of who knew what when and the seeming sympathy for Porter in Trump’s statements, says this in the daily press briefing:
“The President and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. Above all, the President supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process.”
Tuesday, February 13
In a briefing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, FBI Director Chris Wray says that the bureau reported a completed background investigation on Porter in July 2017 and then responded to a follow-up request in November. The FBI closed its file on Porter in January, according to Wray.
That directly contradicts what Shah said last Thursday. “In this instance, in the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process,” said Shah. “That process hadn’t been completed.”