At least two top White House officials, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Counsel Don McGahn, knew for months that former staff secretary Rob Porter had been credibly accused of abuse by his two ex-wives, The Washington Post and CNN report, and they not only didn't follow up on the allegations but elevated Porter's responsibilities and access to President Trump. Kelly, especially, is facing withering criticism over the mishandling of the Porter scandal.
Kelly reportedly learned about the spousal abuse accusations last fall when McGahn told him they were holding up Porter's security clearance. Kelly "agreed that Porter should remain and said he was surprised to learn that the 40-year-old had ex-wives," the Post reports. He urged Porter not to resign even after The Intercept published photos Wednesday of a black eye Porter's first wife says he gave her, according to White House officials. Trump is not inclined to fire Kelly, yet, CNN reports.
McGahn also has some explaining to do, the Post reports:
In January 2017, when McGahn learned of the allegations, he wanted Porter to stay put because he saw the Harvard Law-trained Capitol Hill veteran as a steadying, professional voice in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. His view didn't change in June when the FBI flagged some of its findings to the White House. Nor did he act in September when he learned that the domestic violence claims were delaying Porter's security clearance, or in November when Porter's former girlfriend contacted him about the allegations, according to these people. A White House spokesman said that McGahn — who had access to the FBI's background investigation file conducted for Porter’s security clearance — and Kelly feel misled by Porter. [The Washington Post]
The White House had rallied support for Porter Tuesday by arguing that the allegations were part of a "smear campaign" led by, among other people, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, two sources tell The Daily Beast. Lewandoski flatly denied any role in Porter's downfall.