White House Chief of Staff tried to convince aide accused of domestic assault not to quit

Members of the Trump administration, including chief of staff John Kelly, reportedly asked him to stay.

Rob Porter, right, White House staff secretary, and Don McGahn, White House counsel, attend a luncheon featuring a speech by President Donald Trump CREDIT: Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rob Porter, right, White House staff secretary, and Don McGahn, White House counsel, attend a luncheon featuring a speech by President Donald Trump CREDIT: Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned Wednesday after both of his ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse.

Both women reportedly spoke to the FBI as part of Porter’s background check and told the bureau Porter had abused them. The Daily Mail first reported the allegations earlier this week.

Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Mail that Porter had allegedly pulled her naked out of the shower not long after their first anniversary and that he was verbally abusive to her. The Mail also obtained a 2010 police complaint detailing an incident in which Porter allegedly punched a glass door at their home. Willoughby filed a temporary protective order after the alleged incident.

On Wednesday, the Mail and The Intercept reported accusations by Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness. Holderness says Porter kicked her, chocked her, and punched her in the face on their honeymoon. Holderness provided photos of her various facial injuries which both outlets published.

Although the White House initially defended Porter, he subsequently resigned Wednesday afternoon. He continues to deny the allegations.

“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” Porter said in a statement. “I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

According to Axios, senior officials, including chief of staff John Kelly, encouraged Porter not to resign and to “stay and fight.”

Kelly defended Porter publicly Tuesday, saying in a statement, “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.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also stood by Porter.

“I have worked directly with Rob Porter nearly every day for the last year and the person I know is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character,” Sanders told the Mail in a statement. “Those of us who have the privilege of knowing him are better people because of it.”

Porter did not have official security clearance, and the Mail said sources told them that was because of Porter’s “dark past,” thoughtthe White House would not comment on the issue.

“As has always been our policy, we do not comment on security clearances,” Sanders told the Mail. “Rob Porter had been effective in his role as staff secretary and the president and chief of staff have full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance.”

Before joining the White House staff, Porter served as Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) chief of staff. In a statement circulated by the White House Tuesday night, Hatch said it was “incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man.”

On Wednesday, however, Hatch changed his tune.

“I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life,” Hatch said in a statement. “Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”