White House: `We all could have done better' on Porter case

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WASHINGTON — White House officials conceded Thursday that they regretted the way they handled accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned Wednesday after two former wives publicly accused him of abusing them. But they refused to provide any information about when President Donald Trump's most senior advisers learned about the episodes.

Porter abruptly departed the West Wing on Thursday afternoon, one day after John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, and other senior officials had issued statements defending him.

He left behind questions about whether Kelly and other members of Trump's inner circle had been willing to ignore serious episodes of domestic violence to protect a trusted aide who had denied they ever happened and about how Porter could have continued in his job when it was known that his permanent high-level security clearance had been held up.

"I think it's fair to say we all could have done better dealing with this over the last few days," Raj Shah, the deputy White House press secretary, said during a briefing with reporters.

Porter was trusted by Kelly as a crucial ally in bringing order and discipline to a White House full of political and policy novices, and he was regarded as an even-tempered check on the volatile tendencies of the president and some of his other aides.

Shah called the accusations against Porter "upsetting" and said Kelly had not been made "fully aware" of them until this week. But two people close to the White House said Kelly and Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations, as well as Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, had known of the issues since late fall.

It was unclear whether they knew the extent of the women's allegations, although one former senior U.S. official said White House officials had been aware in August that the issue was preventing Porter from obtaining the security clearance he was seeking.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity about a delicate topic that they were not authorized to discuss.


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