Top White House Aide Resigns Over Abuse Allegations—Why Did It Take So Long?

Reports suggest John Kelly knew about the allegations against Rob Porter for months, and did nothing.

Photo Credit: Office of the President-elect

President Trump's staff secretary Rob Porter resigned from his White House position after two ex-wives came forward to say he had abused them physically and emotionally during their marriages. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, publicly praised Porter after the abuse allegations emerged and reportedly kept him on even though the FBI denied the staffer a security clearance.

According to CBS News, the White House was informed about the abuse allegations in November during a background check. Porter was never granted a full security clearance, CBS reports, but he was given an interim clearance to work in the White House.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Porter had gone through the typical "lengthy background check process" for his role in the administration.

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"Rob Porter has been effective in his role as Staff Secretary," she said. "The President and Chief of Staff have full confidence in his abilities and his performance." John Kelly said in a statement to the Daily Mail, which initially reported on the allegations, that Porter had the "highest integrity and exemplary character."

Porter announced Wednesday that he would resign, though he did not specify when his last day will be. He continues to deny the allegations, even after one of his ex-wives provided the Intercept with pictures documenting the abuse.

"These outrageous allegations are simply false," Porter said in a statement. "I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago. And the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described."

Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, said he punched her once in the face while they were on vacation in Italy in 2005, leaving a massive bruise shown in the photos.

“Up until then, he had always done it in a way that didn’t leave marks,” Holderness told the Intercept. “I don’t know if that was conscious or not. He would get angry and throw me down on a soft surface — to his credit, it was always a soft surface like a couch or a bed — and he would lay on top of me shaking me, or rubbing an elbow or a knee into me. He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out, or frankly to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing.”

Jennifer Willoughby, Porter's second wife, documented in a blog post the abuse she says she received.

“The first time he called me a ‘f**king bitch’ was on our honeymoon,” she wrote. “A month later he physically prevented me from leaving the house. Less than two months after that, I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside." Later, she says, he pulled her out of the shower against her will during an argument.

Sanders said Porter's decision to leave his role was "personal."

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.