FBI Director Christopher Wray is providing new details that call into question the White House timeline leading up to the departure of former staff secretary Rob Porter. (Feb. 13)
WASHINGTON – FBI Director Christopher Wray Tuesday defended the bureau’s background inquiry into former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned last week amid allegations of domestic abuse.
In his first public remarks on the FBI’s investigation to determine whether Porter qualified for a security clearance, Wray provided a specific timeline on the inquiry to the Senate Intelligence Committee that appeared to be in conflict with recent White House accounts.
Wray said a “partial report” on Porter was submitted to the White House as early as March, and the FBI submitted a completed review in “late July.”
The White House requested follow-up information from the FBI on Porter’s review as recently as November, he said, before the bureau “closed the file” in January.
White House staff secretary Rob Porter, part of President Trump’s inner circle, resigned from his position after accusations of abuse from his ex-wives.
Last week, the White House said it was not aware of the “full nature” of the abuse allegations until Wednesday, just before officials accepted Porter’s resignation.
White House spokesman Raj Shah also said last week that Porter’s background investigation was never completed – and was still ongoing.
The White House, whose handling of the abuse allegations leveled by Porter’s two ex-wives has been under fire since they were first disclosed last week, has refused specific comment on when officials first learned of the allegations against Porter and why he was allowed to continue his duties as a top aide to President Trump.
Earlier this month, Wray said the FBI received additional information on Porter and passed that along to the White House. The director did not characterize the nature of that information.
“I’m quite confident that the FBI followed established protocols,” Wray said.
Porter, who has denied the allegations he abused two ex-wives, resigned last week. His departure was quickly followed by David Sorensen, a White House speechwriter, also accused of domestic abuse. Sorensen has denied his former wife’s claims.
Yet the White House’s handling of the matters, specifically Porter, has largely focused on chief of staff John Kelly.
John Kelly reportedly has become increasingly isolated, Politico reports. Elizabeth Keatinge (@elizkeatinge) has more.
As Porter announced his resignation mid-day Wednesday, Kelly issued a statement calling him “a man of true integrity and honor.” Hours later, after pictures surfaced showing one of Porter’s ex-wives with a black eye, Kelly issued a more critical statement saying he “was shocked” by “the new allegations released today.”
Kelly said in that second statement that “there is no place for domestic violence in our society,” but he added that “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.”
As questions continued to swirl over how the two officials were permitted to join the White House staff, Trump has appeared to side with the accused men. He tweeted Saturday that lives were being destroyed by a “mere allegation.”
“Is there no such thing any longer as due process?” Trump tweeted Saturday.
Trump’s comments fly in the face of a national movement that has swept the nation — from Hollywood to corporate America — encouraging women to come forward with their accounts of sexual violence.
The firestorm also comes in the wake of congressional efforts to address sexual harassment and assault on Capitol Hill, including the House passing a bill last week that would require members to pay settlements for claims rather than taxpayers.
Trump, himself accused by multiple women of past sexual misconduct, has expressed his support for others accused of abusive behavior, including former Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
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