The Slatest

After Aide’s Spousal Abuse Becomes Public, Trump’s Anger Reportedly Swings Towards Chief of Staff John Kelly

Chief of Staff John Kelly looks on as President Trump during an Oval Office meeting on February 2, 2018.
Chief of Staff John Kelly looks on as President Trump during an Oval Office meeting on February 2, 2018.

The resignation of top Trump aide Rob Porter Wednesday over allegations of physical abuse by two of his ex-wives has the White House reeling. The questions of who-knew-what-when remain, but what seems abundantly clear is enough people knew plenty well before this week. Both cases of abuse, after all, came up during routine FBI background checks of Porter, which had not granted him security clearance a year into his tenure. It’s a failure on a number of levels for a White House that is flailing on every level. There are reports that chief of staff John Kelly knew about the abuse, but not only failed to act, defended Porter after the abuse became public. It’s a misjudgment that would surely cost the chief of staff his job in any other administration. But will it doom Kelly?

Gabriel Sherman’s reporting at Vanity Fair Thursday wades into the chaotic scene at the White House and finds Kelly may be on shaky ground.

President Trump, sources said, vented that John Kelly failed to fully brief him on Rob Porter’s violent past relationships. On Wednesday night, Donald Trump vented to advisers that Kelly had not fully briefed him on Porter’s issues with women until recently, two sources told me. Trump was also not aware of the severity of the alleged abuse until yesterday, when Ivanka walked into the Oval Office and showed her father a photo published in the Daily Mail of Porter’s ex-wife with a black eye. “He was fucking pissed,” said one Republican briefed on the conversation. According to a source, Ivanka and Jared Kushner have been discussing possible chief-of-staff replacements. The problem is there’s not an obvious candidate waiting in the wings.

“The crisis also raises questions about Hope Hicks’s decision-making, and whether her romantic relationship with Porter clouded her judgment,” Sherman reports. “According to a source, Hicks did not get a sign off from Trump for the White House’s initial statement defending Porter, in which Kelly was quoted calling Porter a ‘man of true integrity.’ This morning, Hicks continued to defend Porter in private, a source said, telling people she thinks the allegations aren’t true.”