Top Trump Aide Rob Porter Out After Allegations He Abused His Ex-Wives
In the latest sordid episode of the corruption-riddled, scandal-plagued Trump administration, today another of his top aides, Rob Porter, was forced to resign when the news broke that he’d physically and mentally abused two of his ex-wives — and then Chief of Staff John Kelly actually defended him and wanted him to stay.
For weeks, Donald Trump has been souring on his Chief of Staff John Kelly because of his controlling ways and rising public profile. And now Kelly is in the midst of a bonafide crisis, one that exacerbates the president’s own #MeToo problems. On Tuesday, Kelly strongly defended White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter against disturbing allegations, first published in the Daily Mail, that he abused his ex-wives. Kelly’s decision to back Porter has left many people inside the White House angry, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. On Wednesday afternoon, Porter resigned. Axios reported Kelly wanted Porter to “stay and fight.”
Yesterday, Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Mail that Porter called her a “fucking bitch” on their honeymoon, and once pulled her naked out of the shower. In response, Kelly put out a statement calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor” and a “trusted professional.” But shortly after Kelly rallied behind his colleague, Porter’s first wife came forward with additional harrowing allegations. Colbie Holderness, who married Porter in 2009, told the Daily Mail that Porter punched her in the face and choked her, among other alleged abuses. The article included a photo of her with a black eye. “It was not hard enough for me to pass out, but it was scary, humiliating, and dehumanizing,” she said. Porter told the Daily Mail that the allegations were “slanderous and simply false.”
Kelly’s decision to go to bat for Porter deeply frustrated White House staffers, sources told me. He was supposed to be the West Wing’s resident grown-up, but staffers are increasingly questioning Kelly’s judgment, four Republicans close to the White House told me. “It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him,” one former West Wing official said.
And it gets worse. Because there’s also evidence that Kelly and the FBI knew about Porter’s misogynistic history before this news broke.
If Kelly did not know about the allegations in Porter’s past, then his unflinching defense is a matter of bad judgment, but there are reasons to believe that Kelly should have known. Both of Porter’s ex-wives told The Intercept that they had informed FBI agents vetting Porter about the past abuse. A senior administration official also told Politico that Kelly was aware of a 2010 protective order against Porter.
Every decent person knew America was in trouble when Donald Trump was elected, but every day it keeps getting worse.