Rob Porter, one of Donald Trump’s top White House aides, announced on Wednesday that he was resigning as staff secretary to the president following reports that he’d beaten and emotionally abused two former wives. The White House had reportedly urged Porter to “stay and fight” the charges.
On Tuesday, The Daily Mail published an interview with Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, who alleged a long history of abusive behavior, including an incident in which “he lashed out and was really angry, and both under his breath and explicitly to me called me a ‘fucking bitch’ and ‘fucking ridiculous.’” Willoughby also said Porter—who helped control which people and documents ultimately made it to Trump’s desk—once yanked her out of a shower to scream at her, shortly after their first wedding anniversary.
The pair eventually split, and in 2010, Willoughby filed a protective order against Porter for violating the terms of their separation.
White House officials were quick to jump to Porter’s defense. “I have worked directly with Rob Porter nearly every day for the last year and the person I know is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Mail.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly—a close ally of Porter’s—defended him as a “man of true integrity and honor,” adding, “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
But just hours after Kelly and Huckabee Sanders stuck their necks out for Porter, The Daily Mail published a second interview with Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife. According to Holderness, Porter had been both emotionally and physically abusive over the course of their five-year marriage, and once punched her in the face during a vacation in Italy. She accompanied her account with photographs showing the black eye she sustained from the alleged assault.
By Wednesday morning, Porter had resigned. According to Axios, the decision to step down was his alone, with many of his administration colleagues—including Kelly—urging him to “stay and fight.”
In a statement announcing his resignation, Porter pushed back on his ex-wives’ claims:
These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign. My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.
When asked during Wednesday’s briefing whether President Trump had any concerns over Porter’s alleged history of domestic abuse, Huckabee Sanders told reporters simply, “I don’t know.”
Despite announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Porter will reportedly stay in his role for an indeterminate transition period.