Trump breaks si­lence, de­cries do­mes­tic violence

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - JONATHAN LEMIRE ZEKE MILLER

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at last broke his si­lence on Wed­nes­day to ex­plic­itly de­nounce do­mes­tic violence in the wake of al­le­ga­tions that a top White House aide had abused two for­mer wives. Chief of staff John Kelly, un­der fire for mis­han­dling the mat­ter, stayed largely out of sight, his future in doubt and the White House in tu­mult.

The chaos sur­round­ing the de­par­ture of aide Rob Porter put a harsh spot­light on Mr. Kelly, the re­tired gen­eral who was brought on last sum­mer to in­stil mil­i­tary­like dis­ci­pline in the free-wheel­ing West Wing. Ques­tions per­sisted about what and when Mr. Kelly knew about the abuse al­le­ga­tions against Mr. Porter, who re­signed as staff sec­re­tary last week after the ac­cu­sa­tions be­came pub­lic.

West Wing aides have had their faith in the chief of staff shaken and morale has plunged to lev­els not seen since last spring’s fir­ing of FBI di­rec­tor James Comey and the Au­gust up­roar over Mr. Trump’s re­fusal to de­nounce white su­prem­a­cists after the violence in Char­lottesville, Va.

This White House scan­dal erupted ini­tially with­out the Pres­i­dent’s in­volve­ment. But Mr. Trump fed the fury last week when he de­fended Mr. Porter and ques­tioned the #Me­Too move­ment that sprang up in re­cent months to protest the mis­treat­ment of many women.

In Mr. Trump’s first com­ments after Mr. Porter re­signed, he praised his for­mer aide. Next, he ap­peared to cast doubt on the exwives’ al­le­ga­tions by tweet­ing: “Peo­ples lives are be­ing shat­tered and de­stroyed by a mere al­le­ga­tion.”

Fi­nally, on Wed­nes­day, Mr. Trump said the words that Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike had been lis­ten­ing for.

“I am to­tally op­posed to do­mes­tic violence and ev­ery­body here knows that,” Mr. Trump told re­porters in the Oval Of­fice. “I am to­tally op­posed to do­mes­tic violence of any kind. Every­one knows that and it al­most wouldn’t even have to be said. So now you hear it, but you all know it.”

The de­nun­ci­a­tion of do­mes­tic violence was greeted with re­lief by some West Wing aides. But a sense of unease about Mr. Kelly’s fate per­sisted.

For months, Mr. Kelly – with help from Mr. Porter – had es­tab­lished a sem­blance of sta­bil­ity in a White House of­ten rat­tled by an un­pre­dictable Pres­i­dent. That has eroded in a week’s time, as ac­counts about the han­dling of the Porter mat­ter con­tinue to shift and some aides come to be­lieve Mr. Kelly lied to save face and save his job.

Mr. Trump has com­plained to con­fi­dants that Mr. Kelly let the scan­dal spin out of con­trol and that the con­stantly shift­ing nar­ra­tives make the White House – and, by ex­ten­sion, Mr. Trump him­self – look am­a­teur­ish and in­com­pe­tent, ac­cord­ing to one per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions but not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss them pub­licly.

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