White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly tried to cover up a White House domestic abuse scandal, and may have jeopardized national security in the process.
On Tuesday, The Daily Mail published accounts from two of White House secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives, who claimed he had previously abused them. In the wake of those allegations, Kelly released a statement unequivocally defending Porter, but backtracked later, releasing a second statement in which he claimed he was “shocked by the new allegations.”
However, according to sources who spoke to CNN and Politico this week, Kelly and senior White House staffers reportedly knew about the domestic abuse allegations for months, but allowed Porter to keep his job handling highly classified documents anyway.
The controversy has sparked calls for Kelly’s resignation. On Thursday, the National Organization for Women released a statement blasting him as an enabler and calling on him to step down.
“Women who work for John Kelly are asking themselves today if they can trust General Kelly to protect them from sexual predators. Clearly, they can’t,” spokespersons wrote.
Despite the backlash, some Republicans would still rather talk about anything else.
Speaking with reporters in Japan, Pence — who’s on his way to the Winter Olympics in South Korea — said he had just learned of the accusations against Porter that morning and wouldn’t comment on them until he was back in the states.
A reporter followed up by asking the vice president if he could explain why he “often seem[ed] a little bit out of the loop on some of this major news,” indirectly referencing several instances, including Pence’s claim last year that he had made false statements to the press about former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s contacts with Russia because other officials had misinformed him.
Pence ignored the question entirely, replying, “It’s a great honor for me to serve as vice president.”
Question to Vice President Pence about Rob Porter: "Can you comment on why you often seem a little bit out of the loop on some of this major news?" pic.twitter.com/oi5vt8iKS5
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 8, 2018
During a CNN interview, House Armed Services Committee Chair Mac Thornberry (R-TX) responded with extreme skepticism to host Brianna Keilar’s question about whether he thought Kelly should resign.
“I don’t know what General Kelly or anybody else knew,” Thornberry said.
Keilar pointed to CNN’s and Politico’s reporting indicating that Kelly had known about the abuse for some time. Thornberry immediately tried to change the topic by insisting he was devoting all of his energy to making sure Congress passes a large military spending increase.
“No look — I am fixed on trying to fix on planes and ships, and do the right thing by the military,” he said.
Later during the interview, Thornberry said he hadn’t invested much thought in the White House abuse scandal because “if you are a soldier on a mountaintop in Afghanistan right now, or standing near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, you are not concerned about the to-ing an fro-ing of all of this politics.”
Like Thornberry, Trump’s favorite cable network has desperately been trying to change the topic and shift focus to other issues. While the White House abuse scandal has been a dominant story for most major outlets, Fox News has mostly ignored it, pushing debunked conspiracy theories about the Obama administration instead.