The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted on extreme vetting for people coming into the country on national security grounds — but failed to apply the same requirements to a man with direct access to the president and his family.
Wednesday was the last day Rob Porter worked as the White House staff secretary, after physical abuse allegations against him by his ex-wives years ago became public.
It’s since come to light that Porter stayed in his high-level position for more than a year with a temporary security clearance, despite an incomplete background check. Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, told CNN she told the FBI about the alleged abuses in January 2017, including one incident where he punched her face and gave her a black eye. She said she shared photos with the FBI, and warned the bureau that his history of abuse could make him susceptible to blackmail. Holderness’ husband also told the FBI last January that a close friend of Porters was “actively working to quell” background check issues, CNN reported. Porter’s second ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, said she filed a restraining order against Porter.
Porter still got the White House job, though his security clearance check was never completed because of the allegations.
Porter operated on a temporary security clearance. The various kinds of immigrants that the White House has been calling out, on the other hand, appear to be better vetted than him.
President Donald Trump once said that Syrian refugees entering the United States have “no documentation whatsoever.” Yet refugees undergo an 18-to-24-month-long screening process before they can step foot into the country. The process includes background checks, interviews with several federal agencies, and biometrics checks.
The White House has attacked the annual diversity visa lottery program, on concerns of fraudulent applications and allowing the wrong kind of people to enter the country. Yet winners of the lottery, the Immigration Policy Council explained, have to undergo a screening process before their visas are issued. Like refugees, that includes biometrics, criminal and security background checks, cross-checks with watch-lists, and in-person interviews. Any dependents they petition for must undergo the same process.
Immigrants of programs that have been disbanded are similarly vetted. The White House phased out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September, which granted temporary deportation protections and work authorization to certain immigrants who came to the country as children. The program itself has a series of requirements, including that DACA applicants must undergo a criminal and security background check and provide several years of proof of who they are, what names they’ve used in the past, and where they’ve lived.
Immigrants who apply to adjust their status and become green card holders must fill out a very long questionnaire asking about their criminal and security backgrounds, issues that could be grounds for inadmissibility into the country.
The reality is that the president may do well to employ the same standard of extreme vetting process on his staff as he wants for immigrants. As ThinkProgress previously reported, his then-presidential campaign staff included people like political adviser Roger Stone, who once created a fake identity to donate to the opponent of Richard Nixon’s campaign under the Young Socialist Alliance; now-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose foreclosures on thousands of homes was reportedly accomplished through fraud; Corey Lewandowski, who was charged with misdemeanor battery; and Paul Manafort, who co-founded a lobbying firm that has bankrolled on representing dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko, dictator of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).