- Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary, met quietly with reporters last week to explain his side of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives.
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sandersreportedly arranged the meeting after photos surfaced of Porter’s ex-wife with a black eye.
- The details shed new light on how the White House responded to the still-unfolding scandal.
At the height of the scandal over staff secretary Rob Porter’s domestic violence allegations last week, the White House convened a hasty, off-the-record meeting between him and four prominent reporters, Politico reported on Tuesday.
Controversy over the abuse allegations has engulfed the entire West Wing in recent days as questions mount over what top officials – particularly chief of staff John Kelly – knew about Porter’s past, and when they learned of it.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday that the bureau told the White House about problems with Porter’s background check months ago.
Porter’s two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, accused him publicly of physically and emotionally abusing them during their marriages.
The Daily Mail first broke the news of abuse allegations last Tuesday. Porter resigned the following day after The Intercept and the Daily Mail published images of a black eye Holderness said she got because Porter punched her.
But before Porter tendered his resignation – and after the images were published – he got a chance to make his case to the four reporters and answer their questions. The group included Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post, Jonathan Swan of Axios, and Michael Bender of The Wall Street Journal.
Politico reported later on Tuesday that Porter, in the meeting, blamed Holderness’ black eye on a fall she took after the two argued over a Venetian glass vase.
Two White House officials told Politico that the White House’s mixed messages on the scandal show just how much Kelly is being left out to dry.
Kelly was the subject of several damning developments in recent days, including a Washington Post report last Friday that said Kelly told top staffers he took action to remove Porter from the White House within 40 minutes of learning of the allegations.
That version of events contrasts with Kelly’s actual response, which included initially giving the Daily Mail a glowing statement about Porter, calling him “a man of true integrity and honor.”
He later issued a second statement after the black eye photo emerged, saying he was “shocked by the new allegations” and that “there is no place for domestic violence in our society.” It’s unclear if Kelly knew about Porter’s off-the-record meeting with reporters.
Another report surfaced on Tuesday from CNN, who sources told that Porter was angling for a promotion before his ouster, and that he was being considered for the deputy chief of staff position.