Days after former White House aide Rob Porter left his post following reports that he physically and emotionally abused two ex-wives, there is still no cohesive story—or sense of accountability—from the administration about who knew what about Porter’s history, and when.
In fact, the White House press office, chief of staff John Kelly, and Porter (and, while we’re at it, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney) each have different accounts of when, what, and how much the Oval Office knew about Porter’s reported history of domestic violence.
Axios reported Sunday that Porter has told colleagues that he confronted John Kelly before the allegations were made public, warning him that his marriages were contentious but that “the more outrageous allegations of physical abuse that might be suggested were untrue.” He then reportedly offered to resign, but stayed as “some senior White House officials urged him to ‘stay and fight.’” As the reports continued to circulate, he again offered his resignation, which the White House accepted.
That version of events varies wildly from the version offered by Kelly, who claims he “immediately took action: he confronted Porter, told him he had to resign, then called President Trump to inform him of his decision” after reading The Daily Mail’s initial report detailing the allegations against Porter. All of this allegedly took place within a span of 40 minutes.
But the White House press office has privately offered a different version of events to reporters. Here’s that story, from Axios:
- On Tuesday afternoon, The Daily Mail told the press shop the story was coming and asked for comment.
- The press shop huddled with Porter, and then told Kelly there was a story coming with horrific allegations — including domestic violence — against Porter. [...] Together, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kelly, and other press shop officials drafted a statement defending Porter.
- On Wednesday, around noon [after TDM’s story], the White House press team told reporters that nobody asked for Porter’s resignation. They added that several senior officials encouraged Porter to “stay and fight.”
- White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said from the podium that nobody asked Porter to leave but he resigned anyway.
All three versions of Porter’s exit can’t simultaneously be true. So who in the administration is lying? Is it Porter? Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Or Chief of Staff John Kelly?