Kelly getting scrutiny after senior aide's resignation
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pressure mounted on White House chief of staff John Kelly as questions swirled today about his defense of a senior aide he fought to keep in a highly sensitive West Wing job despite accusations of spousal abuse from two ex-wives.
White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a member of President Donald Trump's inner circle and arguably Kelly's closest aide, cleaned out his desk Thursday. But the aftershocks of his resignation reverberated amid concerns about his access to classified information and about how long senior staffers knew about the allegations.
Though the accusations against Porter became public this week, Kelly learned last fall that something was amiss with the staff secretary's attempts to get a security clearance, according to an administration official who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal matters.
The chief of staff had sought information about the status of security clearance applications for top aides, and it was then he learned there were allegations against Porter from his ex-wives, said the official. Porter and Kelly later discussed the allegations. Meanwhile, White House counsel Don McGahn was apprised of the allegation in early 2017, the official said.
The White House official said that staffers felt misled about how Porter downplayed the allegations, both to Kelly and McGahn. Kelly himself faced criticism for initially defending his aide – only to later shift course after the publication of photos showing one of Porter's ex-wives with a black eye.
"It's fair to say we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation," said White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, who faced a barrage of questions about Kelly during a press briefing.