Ex-wife who accused Rob Porter of abuse says she lived in 'constant terror,' and says he asked her to downplay her story

Jennifer Willoughby, one of the two women who leveled accusations of domestic and emotional abuse against the former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, says she lived in a state of "low-grade, constant terror" with him.

That terror stemmed from "not knowing what I might do to set something off," Willoughby said during a CNN interview that aired Thursday night. She said Porter engaged in a "systematic tearing down" of her character during their marriage.

Those accounts from Willoughby and Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, amplified the scrutiny around Porter this week, as he became the Trump administration's latest casualty. He strongly denied the allegations. He was terminated on Thursday.

During her interview, Willoughby at points offered measured praise for Porter, who she called "intelligent, kind, chivalrous, caring, and professional." But the other side of that, she said, is a man who is "deeply troubled, and angry, and violent."

When CNN host Anderson Cooper openly wondered whether Porter's colleagues in the White House had any suspicions about him, Willoughby said it was "reserved for the intimate and most vulnerable moments in his life."

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter watches as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on Friday, Feb. 02, 2018. President Donald Trump talked to reporters and members of the media about the release of a secret memo on the F.B.I.'s role in the Russia inquiry. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) says hello to reporters as he and White House advisors Sebastian Gorka (from L), Omarosa Manigault and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci accompany President Trump for an event celebrating veterans at AMVETS Post 44 in Struthers, Ohio, U.S., July 25, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "The most visible person in any White House is naturally the President, followed by the press secretary. But there are also the staff who support them, any one of whom might suddenly jump into public view and be national news for a day or two. For those of us covering the President Trump administration, there seem to be more compelling figures in the West Wing than ever before. It's crucial to know who's who and why they're important. When I raised my camera and back-pedalled ahead of the group to take this image Lewandowski gave me a hello and pointed right into the lens. I liked the photo, but had no idea it would go a little bit viral, especially since Scaramucci, who was the biggest mover and shaker that week, was hidden back in the pack. But I guess the image catches a glimpse of what it's like to be a West Wing staffer on the road."REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File photo SEARCH "POY STORY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 01: Rob Porter, right, White House staff secretary, and Don McGahn, White House counsel, attend a luncheon featuring a speech by President Donald Trump at the House and Senate Republican retreat at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on February 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Stephen Miller, White House senior advisor for policy, right, talks to Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, after arriving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. In a speech to congressional Republicans at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia today, Trump recognized the party's leadership and then riffed on his election. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: White House chief of staff John Kelly, (L), walks with staff secretary Rob Porter, (C), and White House senior advisor Stephen Miller, before boarding Marine One to depart from the White House with President Donald Trump, on February 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) and Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller (C) return to the White House after a day trip with President Donald Trump to Cincinnati, Ohio, February 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. While in Ohio President Trump delivered remarks after touring cylinder manufacturer Sheffer Corporation while the first lady Melania Trump visited patients and their families at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, right, Stephen Miller, White House senior advisor for policy, left, and Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, walk toward the White House after arriving on Marine One with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Trump today threw a wrench into negotiations over a shutdown-avoiding spending bill by saying he didn't want a provision funding children's health insurance in the short-term measure. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) arrives aboard Air Force One with fellow senior staff and U.S. President Donald Trump for a summer vacation at his Bedminster estate, at Morristown Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn (R) talks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) as they arrive with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One at Indianapolis International Airport in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S. September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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'What I said were factual statements'

After several news outlets published the abuse claims from his ex-wives, Porter this week called the allegations "outrageous" and "simply false." Willoughby said Porter contacted her days earlier, warning her that the stories would come out, and tried to convince her to downplay her own claims.

"That just didn't feel right to me," Willoughby said, adding, "what I said were factual statements." She rejected Porter's public assertions that the claims were part of a "coordinated smear campaign" against him.

"I have no vendetta against Rob Porter," Willoughby said. "I seek no harm for him."

When asked whether she thought Porter may have abused White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is rumored to be in a relationship with Porter, Willoughby said, "I don't think he's changed. If he hasn't already been abusive with Hope, he will."

Hicks is believed to have helped draft Porter's written statement on the allegations. She's one of several top officials within, and close to, the administration who initially defended Porter. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised Porter on Wednesday and said Trump and chief of staff John Kelly had "full confidence in his abilities and his performance." Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, initially tried to undercut the allegations as "politically motivated."

But the GOP congressman, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, minced no words: “If you want to serve the public, particularly as a member of a president’s staff, I don’t care who you are, even if you’re a Rhodes Scholar, you can’t beat the hell out of your spouse. It’s wrong.”

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SEE ALSO: John Kelly says he was 'shocked' by abuse allegations against Rob Porter, but multiple news reports say the White House knew about them for months

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