The Slatest

FBI Report Says It Informed White House Multiple Times About Red Flags in Rob Porter’s Background Check

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) and Staff Secretary Rob Porter leave the White House on Nov. 29, 2017.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) and Staff Secretary Rob Porter leave the White House on Nov. 29, 2017.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Top White House aide Rob Porter resigned in February after repeated incidents of spousal abuse with two different partners came to light. The Trump administration botched Porter’s departure, with chief of staff expressing support internally for Porter to remain in his job even as graphic accounts of Porter’s abuse became public. The whole affair left the historically amateurish administration looking particularly inept and generally indifferent to not only a disturbing and disqualifying character flaw, but also nonchalant about its handling of the security clearance process . The line of defense deployed by the White House as the scandal picked up steam and it realized employing a wife-beater was going to be tough to tweet away was simple: it claimed complete and utter ignorance of Porter’s abusive past. In March 2018, White House chief of staff John Kelly toed this line, saying mistakes had been made in the vetting process, but that he had been unaware of the abuse accusations.

A new FBI report submitted to Congress this month on the timeline of Porter’s security clearance review claims otherwise, the New York Times reported Thursday. In the letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the assistant director of the FBI’s security division Gerald Roberts wrote the bureau had informed the White House on multiple occasions of the red flags in Porter’s past, mapping a timeline that conflicts with the White House’s excuses offered for the continued employment of a violent, abusive man.

Here’s the timeline of the FBI’s interactions between the bureau and the White House on Porter’s security clearance, according to the letter.

• January 2017—Porter’s wives said they were interviewed by the FBI as part of the security clearance process in January 2017 as the Trump presidency was just kicking off.

• March 3, 2017—The FBI sent a “partial report” on Porter “addressed to the Counsel to the President, Donald F. McGahn, which contained derogatory information,” which, the Times reports, included the abuse allegations. The White House said that the information never reached McGahn, and instead was reviewed by a low-level employee in the personnel office who never elevated the report. “The White House previously claimed that the March report contained only basic employment information about Mr. Porter, not allegations of abuse,” according to the Times. “Mr. Porter himself also alerted Mr. McGahn that an aggrieved ex-wife was making potentially damaging accusations about him, according to a person familiar with the discussion.”

• July 2017—The FBI supplied “a completed background investigation” to the White House personnel security office.

• August 2017—The White House personnel security office requested additional information on Porter from the FBI, “including, but not limited to, re-interviews of Mr. Porter, his ex-wives and his girlfriend at the time.”

• November 2017—The FBI submitted another report on Porter to the White House, according the FBI letter, “which contained additional derogatory information.”

Throughout, Porter kept his temporary security clearance until he was escorted from the building in February.