- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2018

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified Tuesday that a background check on former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was completed months before he resigned over domestic abuse accusations — contradicting accounts given by the White House in recent days.

Mr. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI submitted a partial report on Mr. Porter in March 2017, and a completed background investigation in late July.

He said the White House requested follow-ups, and the FBI finished that inquiry in November.

“We administratively closed the file in January,” Mr. Wray said, although he added that the FBI gave “additional information” this month to the White House. He didn’t elaborate.

His testimony seems to conflict with the White House, which said the background check into Mr. Porter was still ongoing as late as last week, when two of his ex-wives publicly accused him of abuse. As White House staff secretary, Mr. Porter worked alongside the president each day and had access to highly sensitive government information.

The White House had said previously that the background check process was “ongoing” by the time Mr. Porter resigned last week. White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said last week that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “became fully aware about these allegations” on Feb. 7.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to the FBI director’s testimony by saying the FBI’s investigation was closed, but another layer of bureaucracy called the White House personnel security office had not completed its own review by the time Mr. Porter resigned last week.

“They had not completed their process and made a recommendation to the White House for adjudication,” she said.

Asked whether the office had informed the White House about the allegations against Mr. Porter, Mrs. Sanders said “not that I’m aware of,” but couldn’t say with “100 percent certainty.”

President Trump ignored press questions about Mr. Porter during a meeting with lawmakers on trade.

The timelines have raised questions about when Mr. Kelly knew the full extent of the accusations; he has responsibility for West Wing personnel and worked closely with Mr. Porter, initially describing him last week as “a man of true integrity.”

Fox News reported Tuesday that Mr. Porter was on the verge of a promotion to deputy White House chief of staff when the abuse accusations surfaced.

Asked whether the White House was sticking with its account that Mr. Kelly only learned the extent of the abuse allegations last week, Mrs. Sanders said, “I can only give you the best information that I have, and that’s my understanding.”

“Every day we come here, we do the very best that we can,” she said. “We’re humans, making us imperfect people, and so every day I think we can learn from the day before and we can strive to do better.”

While the process of background checks is not controlled by the White House, Mrs. Sanders said “it should be looked at and determined whether or not changes need to be made to the process.”

She said the president has confidence in Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Porter has denied the accusations against him, although a picture emerged last week of one of his ex-wives with a black eye.

Anthony Scaramucci, a Trump ally who served briefly as White House communications director before Mr. Kelly forced him out last year, said Mr. Kelly should resign over the episode.

“Based on FBI testimony, WH Chief of Staff John Kelly almost certainly knew about credible allegations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter at least 6 months ago - then recently forced others to lie about that timeline. Inexcusable. Kelly must resign,” Mr. Scaramucci tweeted.


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