Break­ing his si­lence, Trump de­nounces do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

The Palm Beach Post - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Deb Riech­mann and Zeke Miller

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump broke his si­lence Wed­nes­day af­ter de­fend­ing a for­mer aide who was ac­cused of do­mes­tic abuse by two ex-wives.

“I am to­tally op­posed to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, and every­body here knows that,” the pres­i­dent said, more than a week af­ter the al­le­ga­tions against Rob Porter first be­came public.

The pres­i­dent added: “Ev­ery­one knows that, and it al­most wouldn’t even have to be said. So now you hear it, but you all know it.”

Trump had praised Porter, his for­mer staff sec­re­tary, on Fri­day in his first com­ments about the al­le­ga­tions. And on Satur­day, he ap­peared to cast doubt on the women’s al­le­ga­tions when he tweeted: “Peo­ples lives are be­ing shat­tered and de­stroyed by a mere al­le­ga­tion.”

The White House’s han­dling of the Porter sit­u­a­tion has en­snared se­nior West Wing of­fi­cials, call­ing into ques­tion the de­ci­sion-mak­ing and can­dor of chief of staff John Kelly and White House coun­sel Don Mc­Gahn.

Trump’s com­ments come as law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill launched a probe into how Porter was al­lowed to work at the White House un­der an in­terim se­cu­rity clear­ance de­spite al­le­ga­tions of spousal abuse.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chair­man of the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form, sent let­ters to the FBI and White House on Wed­nes­day as his panel opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked Wed­nes­day about how the White House has han­dled the Porter al­le­ga­tions and whether Trump needs to pub­licly con­demn do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“Clearly, we all should be con­demn­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence,” Ryan told re­porters. “And if a per­son who com­mits do­mes­tic vi­o­lence gets in the gov­ern­ment, then there’s a break­down in the sys­tem. There’s a break­down in the vet­ting sys­tem, and that break­down needs to be ad­dressed.”

Ryan’s com­ments and word of the House probe fol­lowed a day af­ter the FBI con­tra­dicted the White House over the Porter ac­cu­sa­tions. The FBI said it gave the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions last year about Porter and that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion wrapped up in Jan­u­ary.

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

Wray’s tes­ti­mony Tues­day 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 tonedeaf han­dling of abuse al­le­ga­tions.

The week­long fall­out from the al­le­ga­tions against Porter 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.

Pri­vately, of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge that the public time­line of­fered last week — that the ad­min­is­tra­tion first learned of the ex-wives’ charges against Porter last Tues­day — was flawed at best.

Sev­eral se­nior of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Kelly and Mc­Gahn, were aware of the broad al­le­ga­tions against Porter for months, of­fi­cials said.

Kelly found out af­ter re­quest­ing an up­date on the large num­ber of se­nior staffers op­er­at­ing with­out full se­cu­rity clear­ances, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Mc­Gahn told Kelly last fall there was con­cern about in­for­ma­tion in the back­ground in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing Porter’s ex-wives, the of­fi­cial said, and Kelly ex­pressed sur­prise that Porter had pre­vi­ously been mar­ried.

De­spite that, Porter had an in­creas­ingly cen­tral West Wing role and was un­der con­sid­er­a­tion to be Trump’s deputy chief of staff, two of­fi­cials said.


Rob Porter, the White House’s then-staff sec­re­tary, looks on as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a meet­ing with North Korean de­fec­tors in the Oval Of­fice on Feb. 2.

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