Speed Reads

Rob Porter Scandal

The White House's story about Rob Porter is an incoherent mess

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter resigned Wednesday, hours after Britain's Daily Mail and The Intercept reported that Porter physically and verbally abused both of his ex-wives. But other than that established point, the White House has given significantly different versions of who knew what, when.

Notably, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's version of Porter's departure is markedly different than the version from other White House officials, so "either the White House spokespeople or the president's chief of staff is lying," says Jonathan Swan at Axios. "It's a stunning display of incompetence that five days after the initial story broke, they still can't get their stories straight."

In Kelly's version, he demanded and got Porter's resignation within 40 minutes of fully understanding the severity of the allegations from the Daily Mail story, then went in and told President Trump what had happened. Porter had misled him Tuesday about the nature of the imminent negative stories about his marriages, Kelly told people to say.

But "multiple administration officials" told Politico and other news organizations that Kelly had known about the main points of the allegations against Porter for months, as had White House Counsel Don McGahn. In the main alternate timeline from the White House, the communications team had met with Porter on Tuesday, warned Kelly about the coming domestic violence accusations, then worked up a statement defending Porter in Kelly's name. On Wednesday, Swan says, "the White House press team told reporters that nobody asked for Porter's resignation. They added that several senior officials encouraged Porter to 'stay and fight,'" possibly including Kelly.

On Sunday's Face the Nation, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney added another wrinkle, saying that Porter had proclaimed his innocence to Trump himself, telling him: "I've been falsely accused of this. Please don't believe it. It's not true." Porter was given "the benefit of the doubt" until the photos of Porter's ex-wife's black eye were published, Mulvaney said. That would be at 1:53 a.m. on Twitter — so Trump was plausibly asleep.