FBI’s Wray con­tra­dicts White House on Porter

Di­rec­tor says checks com­pleted last year

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page -

WASH­ING­TON — Con­tra­dict­ing the White House, the FBI said Tues­day it gave the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions last year about a top aide ac­cused of do­mes­tic abuse by his two ex-wives, and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion wrapped up in Jan­uary.

That ac­count by FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray chal­lenged the White House as­ser­tion that Rob Porter’s back­ground “in­ves­ti­ga­tion was on­go­ing” and of­fi­cials first learned the ex­tent of ac­cu­sa­tions against him only last week, just be­fore he abruptly re­signed.

Mr. Wray’s tes­ti­mony marked the lat­est de­vel­op­ment in a scan­dal that has called into ques­tion the judg­ment of se­nior mem­bers of the White House staff, put new stress on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s al­ready strained cred­i­bil­ity with the pub­lic and drawn ac­cu­sa­tions of tone-deaf han­dling of abuse al­le­ga­tions.

The week­long fall­out from the al­le­ga­tions against Mr. Porter, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s staff sec­re­tary, has thrown the West Wing into chaos not seen since the ear­li­est months of the ad­min­is­tra­tion and has sparked new rounds of re­crim­i­na­tions in­side the White House.

it pro­vided that in­for­ma­tion in Novem­ber. Mr. Porter was in­ter­viewed about the al­le­ga­tions in Septem­ber, an of­fi­cial said.

“And then we ad­min­is­tra­tively closed the file in Jan­uary, and then ear­lier this month we re­ceived some ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion and we passed that on as well,” Mr. Wray added in his con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony Tues­day, with­out elab­o­ra­tion.

The FBI does not make rec­om­men­da­tions about whether to grant or deny a se­cu­rity clear­ance, of­fi­cials said, leav­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion up to the em­ployee’s agency, in Mr. Porter’s case, the White House.

Ms. San­ders main­tained Tues­day that her state­ment about an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ac­cu­rate be­cause Mr. Porter’s clear­ance hadn’t re­ceived a fi­nal sig­noff from the White House Of­fice of Per­son­nel Se­cu­rity.

“We find those state­ments to be con­sis­tent with one an­other,” she said.

The White House has re­fused to di­vulge the num­ber of staff mem­bers who still do not have full clear­ances, although the list in­cludes Jared Kush­ner, the pres­i­dent’s se­nior ad­viser and son-in-law. Mr. Kush­ner’s at­tor­ney, Abbe Low­ell, said in a state­ment that “there are a dozen or more peo­ple at Mr. Kush­ner’s level” who are work­ing with­out full se­cu­rity clear­ances.

Separately, Mr. Trump’s in­tel­li­gence chief called for top-to-bot­tom re­form of the se­cu­rity clear­ance process, which al­lowed Mr. Porter to op­er­ate in his job for more than a year with only an in­terim clear­ance.

“We have a bro­ken sys­tem and I think ev­ery­body’s come to agree with that now,” Dan Coats, the di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. He called for lim­its on the in­for­ma­tion made ac­ces­si­ble to those with tem­po­rary clear­ances — a prac­tice that is cur­rently not fol­lowed in the West Wing, an of­fi­cial said.

Mean­while, Col­bie Hold­er­ness, Mr. Porter’s first wife, pushed back against com­ments made by pres­i­den­tial coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way that seemed to sug­gest strong women can’t be vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Ms. Con­way, in a week­end in­ter­view on CNN, said she had no rea­son to dis­be­lieve ac­counts by Ms. Hold­er­ness and an­other exwife that Mr. Porter had abused them. But when asked if she was con­cerned for top White House aide Hope Hicks, who re­port­edly was dat­ing Mr. Porter, Ms. Con­way said no be­cause “I’ve rarely met some­body so strong with such ex­cel­lent in­stincts and loy­alty and smarts.”

Ms. Con­way went on to say that “there’s no ques­tion” that do­mes­tic vi­o­lence “knows no de­mo­graphic or ge­o­graphic bounds,” and she un­der­stands there is a stigma that sur­rounds these is­sues.

In an opin­ion piece in The Wash­ing­ton Post, Ms. Hold­er­ness wrote that Ms. Con­way’s first state­ment “im­plies that those who have been in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships are not strong. I beg to dif­fer.”

Mr. Porter re­signed af­ter Ms. Hold­er­ness and his se­cond ex-wife, Jen­nifer Wil­loughby, came for­ward with al­le­ga­tions of emo­tional and phys­i­cal abuse. Mr. Porter has de­nied harm­ing his for­mer part­ners.

The White House ap­proach has drawn crit­i­cism even from Mr. Trump’s own party.

“I think you can’t jus­tify it,” Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst told CNN about a re­port that the White House ar­ranged for Mr. Porter to de­fend him­self pri­vately to re­porters af­ter the al­le­ga­tions sur­faced. “You can’t jus­tify that.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.