- Kevin Dietsch/UPI
- Senior officials described to The Washington Post a closed-door meeting with chief of staff John Kelly.
- During the meeting, he reportedly told top staffers to describe a chain of events in the Rob Porter scandal that contradicts past White House accounts.
- The officials appeared to tell of the story in an effort to make Kelly look bad.
- Knives were already out for Kelly, who’s been chief of staff since last summer.
A Friday story in The Washington Post painted a damning picture of White House chief of staff John Kelly’s handling of the scandal involving former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
Two senior officials described to the publication a meeting Kelly held Friday morning. In the meeting, they said, he instructed top staffers to describe events that preceded Porter’s resignation from the White House in a contradictory way to the administration’s previous accounts.
Kelly told staffers he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of first learning of credible allegations that he physically and mentally abused his two ex-wives. Both of them provided evidence to The Daily Mail, including pictures of a black eye one ex-wife alleged came from Porter and a 2010 restraining order filed against him.
“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one official said, adding that attendees expressed disbelief and felt that account was not true.
Officials said Kelly also told staff to convey to colleagues that he cares about domestic violence.
The Post said that account contradicts both the public record and other officials’ accounts in the days since the Daily Mail story was first published.
Kelly initially released a statement in defense of Porter after first learning of the allegations, noting his “integrity” and character. Hours later, Kelly sent out a subsequent statement in which he expressed shock over the “new allegations” against Porter while standing by earlier comments “of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff.”
Knives had already begun coming out for Kelly, both in and outside of the White House.
Vanity Fair reported Thursday that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were discussing possible replacements for the chief of staff, while former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski called the president and told him to fire Kelly in the aftermath of the Porter ordeal.
Meanwhile, a source told PBS that White House staffers were surprised and dismayed that Kelly initially defended Porter, before the photos emerged publicly, calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”
The White House even publicly admitted that it could’ve handled the situation better.
“I think it’s fair to say that we all could have done better over the last few hours – or last few days – in dealing with this situation,” said Raj Shah, a White House deputy press secretary, in Thursday’s press briefing.