John Kelly says he was ‘shocked’ by abuse allegations against Rob Porter, but multiple news reports say the White House knew about them for months

  • White House chief of staff John Kelly said he was “shocked” by the sweeping allegations of domestic and emotional abuse leveled against top staffer Rob Porter.
  • Porter’s two ex-wives made those allegations, which led to Porter’s resignation on Wednesday.
  • Kelly had initially defended Porter, but later released a statement saying “There is no place for domestic violence in our society.”
  • Multiple news reports published Wednesday night said the White House knew about the accusations for months.

White House chief of staff John Kelly said he was “shocked” to hear about the sweeping allegations of domestic and emotional abuse against top staffer Rob Porter, who resigned on Wednesday amid the fallout.

Kelly said in a statement released Wednesday night, “I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society.” Earlier, Kelly said Porter should “stay and fight,” according to a story published by the news website, Axios. Kelly defended those remarks.

“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,” Kelly said.

White House sources cited by CNN said that rumblings of Porter’s personal challenges had been circulating in the West Wing in recent weeks, and that Kelly and some top aides had known of the abuse allegations since “early fall.” President Donald Trump learned of the claims this week, CNN reported.

Politico echoed the same, reporting that the White House knew of the claims against Porter “weeks and in some cases months” before they were made public.

The claims reportedly came up during interviews that Porter’s ex-wives gave to the FBI as part of Porter’s background check, CNN said, adding that he was having trouble obtaining a security clearance because of them.

Porter has called the accusations “outrageous” and “simply false.”

Several others vigorously defended Porter after the accusations surfaced on Wednesday. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised Porter and said Trump and Kelly had “full confidence in his abilities and his performance.” And Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, sought to undercut the allegations as “politically motivated.”

Porter could leave the White House as early as Thursday.