TrumpWatch, Day 390: FBI Pushes Back White House Over Staffer Accused of Domestic Abuse

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Donald Trump and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, Bedminister, New Jersey, August 12, 2017

FBI Director says White House initially told in March of issues over Rob Porter


Developments on Day 390 of the Trump Administration:

FBI Reported on Credible Allegations for Months

The FBI casts more doubt on the White House’s actions over Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned last week amid accusations made by two ex-wives of domestic abuse.

Amid its chaos last week, the Trump Administration said Porter’s background check was still ongoing when the allegations — including a photograph from one ex-wife of her bruised face — surfaced. Chief of Staff John Kelly, in whose office Porter worked, said he only learned of the claims last Tuesday, 40 minutes before he dismissed Porter.

Those accounts came under fire immediately, with informed sources saying Porter himself had told the White House in January 2017 of the allegations while denying them. White House lawyers did not act on the matter but passed it to the FBI, who said in November that the accusations were credible and Porter should not be given a security clearance.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray added to the refutation of the White House, telling a Congressional hearing that the agency had updated the Administration in March, July, and November, delivering a final evaluation in January. “Two people briefed on the matter” said the July update included a detailed summary of the allegations

The White House the changed its story. It conceded that the FBI had told officials last summer about problems in Porter’s background check. However, it insisted that Donald Trump’s top advisers were still unaware of the case.

Wray indicated on Tuesday that Porter had been given an interim security clearance to remain in his post. Three officials later confirmed that the granting of interim security clearances to new hires was halted last fall by Kelly.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that senior officials had not learned about the allegations because the FBI gave the information to the White House Personnel Security Office, overseen by Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin. She said the “career officials” of the office had not finally determined if Porter should receive his security clearance by last week, when the accusations were published in the media.

However, pressed on whether senior officials could have been unaware as far back as last July, she hedged, “Not that I’m aware of. I can’t say with 100 percent certainty.”

The “two people briefed on the matter” said the White House security office reviewed the allegations in July and asked the FBI to interview Porter. In November, the FBI provided another report to the security office, and a final review began of whether the Staff Secretary should have a full security clearance.

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