Chief of Staff John Kelly accused of promoting Rob Porter while knowing of domestic abuse allegations

The White House said Thursday it was "not going to get into" when the abuse allegations against Rob Porter were known and in response to reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly knew of the allegations, said he became "fully aware" of the allegations on Feb. 7.

John Kelly, the Chief of Staff in Donald Trump’s White House, is coming under fire for allegedly knowing about allegations of domestic abuse against a member of his staff.

Staff secretary Rob Porter was accused of being violent towards two of his ex-wives earlier this week and resigned amid the scandal.


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White House aide Rob Porter stepping down amid domestic abuse allegations by 2 ex-wives

Porter was promoted to an important role in the White House in the past months. He, along with Kelly, controlled the amount and type of information that the president receives.

But questions on whether or not Kelly knew about the allegations beforehand have surfaced.

“If John Kelly is covering this up, he needs to be held accountable,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told CNN.

The ex-wives both told the Intercept they detailed the violence to the FBI while being interviewed for Porter’s security check in early 2017 – though it’s unclear whether or not Kelly would have seen the security check.

Politico reported that Kelly was aware about the 2010 protective order from Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife – which was the reason Porter wasn’t given full security clearance.

In this Nov. 29, 2017, file photo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, walks with White House staff secretary Rob Porter to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

In this Nov. 29, 2017, file photo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, walks with White House staff secretary Rob Porter to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The White House confirmed that Porter had been working in his role, despite operating on an “interim security clearance.”

“His background investigation was ongoing,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Thursday.

Shah also denied reports that Kelly knew the full extent of the allegations ahead of time — but he wouldn’t get into specifics.

“He became fully aware about these allegations ,” Shah said.

WATCH: Trump ‘saddened’ by Porter abuse allegations

“I’m not going to get into the specifics regarding who may have known what pieces of information because they were all part of an ongoing background check investigation.”

 

On Wednesday, the Daily Mail published a story about the domestic abuse allegations,

The two ex-wives of Porter told multiple media outlets he was violent with them; Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told the Daily Mail he was “verbally, emotionally and physically abusive” and Willoughby accused him of punching a glass panel in a door after he violated a separation agreement – which led to a protective order being filed in 2010.

Holderness also provided pictures to The Intercept of bruises she says she received from Porter.

 

But Kelly’s first statement on the allegations against Porter appeared in the Daily Mail’s article on Wednesday. The statement was reportedly drafted with the help of Communications Director Hope Hicks, who is also romantically involved with Porter, according to CNN. It didn’t mention his accusers at all.

WATCH: White House calls Porter abuse allegations ‘serious and disturbing’

“A man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” Kelly said in the statement.

The Washington Post reported that Porter said he would resign then, but was talked out of it by Kelly and other senior staff.

According to Axios, Kelly was one of a group of officials trying to convince Porter to “stay and fight” instead of resigning.

On Wednesday, the photos from Holderness were published. After that, Porter officially resigned.


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Porter added in a written statement: “I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a co-ordinated smear campaign.” Porter said he will leave the White House after a transition period.

Late Wednesday night, after Porter had resigned, Kelly issued another statement saying the “new” allegations had shocked him.

“There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation,” Kelly said.

WATCH: Rob Porter resigning from the White House

However, some sources told CNN that senior officials in the White House – including Kelly – knew about the allegations for a month.

The Washington Post also reported that sources said the generalities of the situation were known for a while, but the specifics weren’t known until Tuesday, when the Daily Mail reached out for comment.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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