- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2018

The White House admitted Thursday to mishandling the response to domestic abuse allegations against a top aide, a day after defending.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said the initial support for Rob Porter, who has resigned as White House staff secretary, was based on officials’ professional relationship with him. When photos emerged showing Mr. Porter’s wife with a black eye, the response changed.

“I think it is fair to say we all could have done better,” Mr. Shah said.

Two of Mr. Porter’s ex-wives accused him of physical abuse and both cited it as reasons for divorcing Mr. Porter, 40.

Colbie Holderness, who married Mr. Porter in 2003, said that he had had kicked and punched her. She had a photo of herself with a black eye in the early 2000s.

Jennifer Willoughby, who married Porter in 2009, said he had an explosive temper and once dragged her naked out of a shower.

“The allegations against Rob Porter involves incidents long before he joined the White House,” said Mr. Shah, who stressed that that “doesn’t change how serious and disturbing these allegations are.”

The White House’s initial resistance to firing Mr. Porter fanned the flames of the scandal, igniting allegations that the president was indifferent to domestic abuse.

“We must know who knew what when, and why Porter was allowed to remain a senior aide to the President despite his inability to gain a permanent security clearance reportedly because of his history of violence,” said Rep. Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence.

Mr. Shah said the president was briefed on the allegations and informed of Mr. Porter’s resignation. The president said he was “saddened” for everyone involved, he said.

The White House acknowledged that some issues arose during the background check for security clearance, but the investigation was still underway and Mr. Porter had interim clearance in order to do his job.

“His clearance was never denied and he resigned,” Mr. Shah said.

He added that Mr. Porter received “no waivers and no special treatment” in the security clearance process.

Mr. Porter’s security clearance and what administration officials, particularly White House Chief of State John Kelly, knew about the alleged abuse have become key questions.

Because of the episode, Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform urged the panel’s chairman to investigate White House security clearance issues.

“If you had agreed to any of our previous requests for information on these matters, the White House would have been required to answer key questions about why Mr. Porter was denied a final security clearance, who at the White House was aware of this information, and how Mr. Porter was allowed to remain in his position,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat wrote in a letter on Thursday to the Chairman Trey Gowdy.

“Instead,” he added, “because of your multiple refusals, we did not find out about any of these issues until they were reported in the press. In this and many, many other areas, it appears that the Oversight Committee has constructed a wall around the White House in order to prevent any credible oversight whatsoever.”

At the White House, Mr. Shah noted that the security clearance process is conducted by the FBI and intelligence agencies, and it is the same process used by previous administrations.

He also said that Mr. Kelly was not “fully aware” of the allegations and certainly had not seen photographic evidence of the abuse prior to Wednesday.

The domestic violence allegations were first reported late Tuesday by the Daily Mail.

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