Top White House officials defended the administration’s handling of allegations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned this week amid accusations that he had physically abused his two ex-wives. But in television appearances on Sunday, the officials struggled to offer a clear timeline for when senior staff knew about the allegations.
Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House counsel Donald McGahn have come under increasing scrutiny after the Washington Post reported last week that they knew about the allegations against Porter at least a year ago. Meanwhile, Porter remained in his high-level position in the White House despite not having a completed security clearance.
The White House has maintained that top officials did not know about the extent of the allegations until this Tuesday, and that Porter was out by Wednesday. But there were also varying claims about whether Porter resigned or was terminated, and when exactly he would be leaving his White House job. McGahn and Kelly have taken the brunt of that criticism for how the White House handled the Porter situation, as the two most-senior people dealing with personnel issues.
In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said there was “no way for me to know what those two men knew, because I’m not in that line, and nor should I be.”
Conway also responded to reports that Kelly had offered to resign over the matter and told host Jake Tapper that Trump is not seeking to replace him.
“I spoke to the president last night. I told him I would be with you today. And he said, ‘Please tell Jake that I have full faith in Chief of Staff John Kelly and that I’m not actively searching for replacements,’” she said.
She added that Trump says Kelly “is doing a great job and that he has full faith in him.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump aide Marc Short acknowledged the situation could indicate “a lack of communication between different elements in the White House.” But he prefaced that comment by noting the affection many in the White House have for Porter.
“I think that Rob is a friend to many of us in the administration. Rob is somebody who is a Rhodes Scholar, is a Harvard-educated guy. He did a great job as staff secretary,” said Short, the legislative affairs director. “But there can be no tolerance for domestic abuse, and there can be no tolerance for violence against women. We have to be absolutely clear about that.”
Short said he could not weigh in on the timeline of when senior officials knew about the allegations against Porter.
“It’s a fair question. I don’t know to be honest. I don’t know who knew what, when at this point,” said Short. “I do know what Gen. Kelly has told me, which is he learned the full information Tuesday and by Wednesday morning Rob Porter was out.”
On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the handling of the Porter situation was “completely reasonable and normal.”
Trump and top officials gave Porter the “benefit the doubt,” Mulvaney said, “up until the time that it became obvious when the photographs came out that the person was not being honest with the president.” He referred to photos that showed Porter’s first wife with a black eye after he allegedly hit her.
Referring to Porter, Mulvaney said, “And that person after that happened, we dismissed that person immediately so. That’s an ordinary and very human reaction to the set of circumstances. You don’t want to throw people out on the street based just upon the allegation. But as soon as it became apparent us that the allegations were true, Rob Porter had to go.”