Questions about the resignation of White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter are now centering on what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly knew and when he knew it. Chief of Staff Kelly allegedly became aware of the allegations of domestic abuse against Porter as early as last fall but not only kept Porter on, but kept expanding his role within the West Wing.
Porter’s role had been expanding since Kelly became Chief of Staff last year, when, upon coming into the role, Kelly imposed strict controls on the information flows to the President. Porter’s role was to manage the documents, news stories and briefings that made their way to the Oval Office. He was also someone who became a neutral arbiter between warring White House factions. Kelly came to view him as a right-hand man.
Revelations of a past of domestic abuse were made this week when Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, provided images of a black eye Porter allegedly gave her while on vacation in Florence, Italy, in the early 2000s to a news publication. Porter’s second wife, Jenny Willoughby, revealed that she had previously filed an order of protection against Porter after he allegedly violated their separation agreement, refused to leave their Northern Virginia apartment and punched out the glass on the door, cutting his hand.
Porter has only said of the allegations that the “reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.”
The White House first became aware of the allegations because Porter had trouble getting security clearance after the FBI had become aware that his ex-wives were prepared to make the accusations about him. Kelly was made aware of the allegations but allegedly keept Porter on anyway.
White House Counsel Don McGahn was also aware of the allegations as a former girlfriend of Porter’s told McGahn last November that he should investigate the abuse allegations made by his ex-wives. That former girlfriend also works in the administration.