Trump wishes former aide Rob Porter 'well' after domestic abuse allegations


WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Friday that White House aide Rob Porter, who resigned this week after allegations that he abused two former wives, had maintained his innocence, and he wished him well.

"He says he's innocent. I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

SEE ALSO: Rob Porter's abuse scandal is roiling the White House to its core, and the knives are coming out for John Kelly

"It's obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career," Trump added. "But we absolutely wish him well."

Trump did not express any sympathy for the two women who this week provided graphic accounts of the verbal and physical abuse they said they suffered while married to Porter.

Trump said he found out about the allegations recently, and was "surprised" by them.

Porter's resignation on Wednesday has raised questions about how long it took the White House to act on the accusations.

Some senior White House officials were generally aware of the allegations before Trump found out a report surfaced on DailyMail.com, a source familiar with the matter said.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has so far taken the brunt of the blame.

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John Kelly and Rob Porter
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John Kelly and Rob Porter
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 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 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 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 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 (R) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) walk to board Air Force One with U.S. President Donald Trump en route to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (R) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) walk to board Air Force One with U.S. President Donald Trump en route to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (R) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) walk to board Air Force One with U.S. President Donald Trump en route to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) leads White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter off of Air Force One as they arrive with U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Kelly and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders both issued statements calling Porter a man of "integrity" in response to an initial Daily Mail report that Porter's two former wives had accused him of abuse.

Kelly later put out a statement saying he was shocked by "new" allegations against Porter, stressing that domestic violence is unacceptable.

Trump has been privately complaining about Kelly and wondering whether to replace him, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

"If he (Trump) draws scrutiny to himself, he's OK with that. But when the staff draws scrutiny to him, he does not appreciate that," said one of the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Thursday that Kelly was not "fully aware" of the extent of the allegations against Porter until photographs of one of his former wives with a black eye emerged on Wednesday.

Shah also conceded the crisis could have been better handled by senior White House officials.

Reuters has not independently confirmed the allegations.

As White House staff secretary, Porter was responsible for reviewing all documents signed by the president, from legislation to executive orders.

The position put him in close contact with the president and required a security clearance but Porter, a Harvard Law School graduate, had not yet been approved for security clearance because the required background check was still ongoing.

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Rob Porter in his White House role
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Rob Porter in his White House role
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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Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter's ex-wives, said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show on Friday that she told the Federal Bureau of Investigation during Porter's background check that he had been abusive toward her.

"Of course, I was part of the background check and I was completely honest with what my experience of the marriage, including telling the police instances of abuse or police contact," said Willoughby. (Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Kieran Murray, Paul Simao, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

 

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