FBI Chief Just Worsened White House's Rob Porter Problem

Christopher Wray's account differs with the White House version of events
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2018 1:05 PM CST
FBI Chief Just Worsened White House's Rob Porter Problem
In this Feb. 2 photo, then White House staff secretary Rob Porter, front, walks with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Rob Porter saga re-emerged front and center in Washington on Tuesday, as FBI chief Christopher Wray testified before a Senate panel. The upshot is that Wray's account suggests the White House was warned about Porter's background months before it has previously acknowledged, reports USA Today. Porter resigned his White House post last week over allegations that he beat his ex-wives. Details and developments, including an op-ed from Porter's first wife:

  • What the FBI did: Wray says the FBI submitted a partial report on Porter's security clearance to the White House in March and completed its investigation in July. The FBI then got a request for a follow-up, which it provided in November. Wray said the agency considered the Porter file closed in January, reports Politico.
  • The contradictions: One big one is that the White House has maintained that the investigation into Porter was still ongoing, but Wray says it was over. Also, the White House has never mentioned getting even a partial report as early as March, reports the New York Times. White House officials have said they were first contacted by the FBI about Porter in the summer, per the Washington Post.

  • The findings? Wray did not divulge any details on the FBI's investigation, but he said he was "quite confident" that the FBI "followed established protocols" in the case.
  • Bottom line: "The White House has been roiled with questions about when it knew of the allegations against Porter, and how he maintained a role where he had access to classified papers," notes the Hill. Wray's testimony will only intensify that scrutiny, particularly for Trump chief of staff John Kelly.
  • First ex-wife: Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, writes an op-ed in the Washington Post about abuse in general and hers in particular. "For me, living in constant fear of Rob’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth," she writes. "I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me." (Second wife Jennie Willoughby also has written on the subject.)
  • Up for promotion? Just before he resigned, Porter had been on the verge of a promotion, reports CNN. He had been angling to increase his responsibilities beyond the traditional staff secretary duties, especially on trade policy and speech-writing. Kelly held Porter in high regard and was receptive to the promotion, multiple White House officials tell CNN.
  • Making his case: In a story about how the scandal has isolated Kelly, Politico reveals an interesting nugget. Right after the Daily Mail story emerged, the White House set up an off-the-record meeting with Porter and four top reporters, including Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, so Porter could defend himself. Around that same time, Kelly also publicly defended Porter as a man of "true integrity and honor." Kelly has since said he was not aware of the full scope of the allegations, though skeptics aren't buying it.
(More Rob Porter stories.)

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