Trump denounces domestic violence
Chief of staff’s future in doubt
President Donald Trump at last broke his silence Wednesday to explicitly denounce domestic violence in the wake of allegations that a top White House aide had abused two former wives. Chief of staff John Kelly, under fire for mishandling the matter, stayed largely out of sight, his future in doubt and the White House in tumult.
The chaos surrounding the departure of aide Rob Porter put a harsh spotlight on Kelly, the retired general who was brought on last summer to instill military-like discipline in the free-wheeling West Wing. Questions persisted about what and when Kelly knew about the abuse allegations against Porter, who resigned as staff secretary last week after the accusations became public.
West Wing aides have had their faith in the chief of staff shaken, and morale has plunged to levels not seen since last spring’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and the August uproar over Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists after the violence in Charlottesville, Va.
This White House scandal erupted initially without the president’s involvement. But Trump fed the fury last week when he defended Porter and questioned the #MeToo movement that sprang up in recent months to protest the mistreatment of many women.
In Trump’s first comments after Porter resigned, he praised his former aide. Next, he appeared to cast doubt on the ex-wives’ allegations by tweeting: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” Finally, on Wednesday, Trump said the words that Democrats and Republicans alike had been listening for:
“I am totally opposed to domestic violence, and everybody here knows that,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that, and it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So now you hear it, but you all know it.”
The denunciation of domestic violence was greeted with relief by some West Wing aides. But a sense of unease about Kelly’s fate persisted.