During the White House press briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if President Trump stands by remarks he made last Friday, when he said he hopes former top aide Rob Porter “has a wonderful career” immediately after he was ousted from his White House job following domestic assault accusations made by two of his ex-wives.
“Does the president still wish Rob Porter well, does he still believe that he wants him to have a great career ahead of him?” a reporter asked.
Sanders indicated that Trump’s comments were meant to reflect that he hopes all Americans — domestic abusers included — do well.
“I think the President of the United States hopes that all Americans can be successful in whatever they do, and if they’ve had any issues in the past — I’m not confirming or denying one way or the other — but if they do, the president wants success for all Americans,” Sanders said. “He was elected to serve all Americans, and he hopes for the best for all American citizens across the country.”
Almost all of the questions Sanders faced on Monday were about the Porter allegations and the White House’s response to them. Sanders repeatedly dodged questions about why Trump hasn’t personally spoken out against against domestic violence — “it’s my job to speak on behalf of the president,” Sanders said at one point — and claimed reporting indicating White House Counsel Donald McGahn learned about the allegations against Porter as early as January 2017 is inaccurate.
But pressed on exactly what part of the reporting is wrong, Sanders refused to go into detail.
“Again, I’m not going into the specific details of how the process works,” Sanders said, adding that “the White House had not received any specific papers” about Porter’s background check when the Daily Mail broke news of the abuse accusations.
While Sanders insisted that her denunciation of domestic violence reflects Trump’s views, Trump’s own comments suggest he has more sympathy for Porter than his alleged victims.
After praising Porter on Friday, Trump on Saturday lamented that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Trump’s comments have alienated even some of his staunchest defenders. On Monday morning, hosts of Fox & Friends staged what amounted to an on-air intervention for the president. Host Ainsley Earhardt pleaded with White House spokesman Hogan Gidley to team up with Sanders and talk some sense into the president.
“Will you and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, will y’all get together and maybe advise [Trump] and talk to him about, this is an opportunity when he can come out against domestic violence?” she said. “I mean those pictures are horrific.”
On Monday, Sanders refused to say if Trump — who has been accused of sexual assault by 14 women, all of whom he claims are lying — even believes Porter’s accusers.
“Does he believe Rob Porter’s accusers or are they lying?” a reporter asked.
Sanders didn’t answer the question, but instead said “the president, along with the entire administration, take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be thoroughly investigated.”