Typically the firing of a White House aide whose ex-wives both told the FBI that he’d physically abused them (and provided corroborating evidence) would be an open-and-shut story. Not so with the Trump administration (of course!) and ex-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned Wednesday after the aforementioned allegations became public. Here’s Donald Trump, in a brief Friday appearance, telling the press that he hopes Porter “has a great career ahead of him” and expresses his sympathy that Porter is going through such a “tough time”:
(Trump is correct that Porter has denied the allegations against him.)
Meanwhile, the Washington Post says that multiple White House staffers believe chief of staff John Kelly—who reportedly knew in some fashion about the allegations against Porter for months—is asking them to lie about the way that the administration handled the situation:
During a staff meeting, Kelly told those in attendance to say that he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations from two ex-wives were credible, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions in such meetings are supposed to be confidential.
“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one of the officials said, adding that people after the meeting expressed disbelief with one another and felt his latest account was not true.
As the Post’s piece makes clear, it’s not obvious when Kelly is suggesting he had this moment of clarity. The White House stood by its emphatic initial statements of support for Porter until well after multiple outlets had run detailed interviews with his accusers and published photos of a bruise that one of his ex-wives said she sustained when he punched her in the face. Kelly, in fact, reportedly urged Porter to stay in his job on Wednesday even after the interviews and photos became public.
In other words, what we seem to have here is Kelly trying to save face by throwing Porter under the proverbial bus just as Trump is trying, in his alternate-reality kind of way, to rehabilitate him. Just another day in the White House!