White House chief of staff John Kelly expressed his willingness to resign over his handling of the domestic abuse allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter this week, The New York Times and ABC News reported on Friday, citing anonymous sources within the West Wing.
President Donald Trump has floated several potential replacements for Kelly to aides, sources told ABC. Reportedly on his list are House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney and businessman Tom Barrack.
Porter resigned on Wednesday after his two ex-wives alleged that he physically, mentally and emotionally abused them over the course of their marriages. His second ex-wife received a protective order against him in 2010, which prevented Porter from receiving a full security clearance at the White House. Porter has denied the allegations against him.
Kelly reportedly knew about the protective order against Porter well before the staff secretary resigned. It’s unknown whether Kelly took any action when he first became aware of the allegations, but on Wednesday, he reportedly urged Porter not to resign and wrote a glowing review of the alleged abuser.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said in a statement. “He is a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
Kelly was also criticized for letting White House communications director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been romantically involved with Porter, help draft his statement.
In a second statement released later on Wednesday, Kelly said that he was “shocked” by the domestic abuse reports but that he would “stand by” his praise of Porter.
“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” Kelly said. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.”
Since Trump appointed him chief of staff in July, Kelly has been viewed as a disciplined and stabilizing force within the White House and someone whose word could be trusted. Kelly took over from former chief of staff Reince Priebus, who lasted just six months on the job.
Porter had been instrumental in Kelly’s ability to reduce much of the chaos that defined the Trump White House’s first months, a factor that may have played into his reluctance to lose the secretary.
As staff secretary, Porter determined what material made it to Trump’s desk and, under Kelly’s supervision, who was granted a meeting with the president.
But some say the authority Kelly commanded has been damaged by his public statements about Porter and by reports that Porter stayed as long as he did in the White House only at Kelly’s urging.
Kelly also reportedly instructed White House aides to communicate a different version of events than what public record shows, to make it appear that “he took immediate and direct action,” The Washington Post reported Friday.
Two senior Republican officials told Vanity Fair in October that Kelly was “miserable” in his post at the White House. And in January, Kelly attracted Trump’s fury when he said the president had not been “fully informed” when he promised during his campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and had “evolved” on the subject.
Trump later tweeted: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”