President Donald Trump took time on Friday to send his very best wishes to his now-former staff secretary, Rob Porter, who resigned this week after being publicly accused of physically abusing two ex-wives and a former girlfriend.
“We wish him well. He worked very hard. Found out about it recently and I was surprised by it,” Trump told reporters. “We hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him.”
In his role as staff secretary since the first day of Trump's presidency, Porter was responsible for reviewing all material heading to the president's desk and some scheduling tasks.
“As you probably know, he says he’s innocent,” Trump added.
(It's an abrupt policy reversal for the president who tweeted at the singer Rihanna in 2012 that continuing to date her abusive boyfriend, Chris Brown, would be a "death wish," because, "A beater is always a beater—just watch!")
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also repeatedly came to Porter's defense as the scandal brewed, claiming he was "shocked" by photos in the media showing Porter’s first wife with a black eye that she said Porter gave her during a vacation in Florence, Italy, but standing by earlier comments about Porter’s upstanding character.
Trump and Kelly's continued support of Porter is especially confusing, given the number of conflicting reports coming from the White House. After the story broke in the Washington Post on Tuesday, Porter claimed in a statement that he had resigned his post but intended to stay on for a few weeks to “ensure a smooth transition.” The White House initially said he was terminated but clarified later he had resigned, and he cleared out his desk the next day.
Also unclear is what people in the White House knew, and when. Porter was reportedly stalled from obtaining a full FBI security clearance because of the allegations, and his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby, told the Post that they spoke to the FBI in January of 2017 as part of Porter's screening process — something Kelly was allegedly aware of. And White House counsel Donald McGahn reportedly knew about Porter’s alleged abuse for at least a year, the Washington Post reported late Thursday.
Nor is it the first time Trump has defended a man accused of abusing women. During the 2016 campaign, he called then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields a liar after she accused his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of grabbing her arm (video footage later showed she was telling the truth). And in November of last year, he vehemently defended Roy Moore, the former Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, who was accused by multiple women of making sexual advances toward them when the women were teenagers. Trump has also been accused of unwanted groping, touching, and kissing, and other sexually inappropriate behavior by at least 18 women. Trump has denied all the allegations and repeatedly called the women liars.