White House officials were told last year by the FBI about abuse allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter, CBS and CNN reported Wednesday, as news broke that the top aide to President Donald Trump had resigned following a Daily Mail article in which Porter's two ex-wives said he had abused them.
Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, told the Daily Mail that he punched her on a trip to Florence in the early 2000s. Pictures were published showing her bruises from the alleged assault.
A document from June 2010 included in the article also shows that another ex-wife of Porter's, Jennifer Willoughby, filed a temporary protective order against Porter in Arlington, Virginia, after he allegedly violated their separation agreement. In the document she says he punched the glass on their front door, cutting his hand.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Willoughby details an incident in which Porter grabbed her and pulled her out of the shower, following an argument the two had. This happened about a year into their marriage and she said it was the first time his abuse had turned physical.
After three years of marriage, she said she was a "shell of a person" and a "muted version of the woman that I had been."
She said that since their 2013 divorce, their relationship has been cordial and that the two still speak regularly.
"I think that professionally he is intelligent and he is measured and he is certainly someone that I would trust in that professional position and in his personal life he is also abusive and angry," Willoughby said.
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Porter said that the allegations were "simply false."
According to the CBS and CNN reports, the FBI told the White House in November about the domestic abuse allegations against Porter. BuzzFeed News has reached out to the White House and FBI for confirmation but did not immediately receive responses.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier Wednesday that the White House had accepted Porter's resignation, saying he will be leaving his position soon but "it won't be immediate." Sanders added that the president and chief of staff John Kelly "have full confidence in his abilities and his performance."
In a second statement issued by the White House late Wednesday, Kelly said he was "shocked" by the allegations and condemned domestic violence, but also backed up his earlier comments on Porter.
"I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter," Kelly said in that statement. "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. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition."
Both CBS and CNN also reported that White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is reportedly dating Porter, helped Kelly draft his first statement expressing confidence in the staff secretary's performance.
Porter was an influential aide in the White House who vetted everything that made it to the president's desk. He also traveled with Trump on Air Force One and was frequently seen by the president's side.
In order to work in a high-level position in the White House, Porter would have had to undergo a background check, which should have turned up the protective order filed against him by Willoughby. Politico reported that "Kelly had been aware of the 2010 protective order, which prevented Porter from getting a full security clearance."
Both of Porter's ex-wives told CNN that the FBI interviewed them last year, when Porter was trying to obtain a security clearance, and said they had been truthful about their experiences. Earlier on Wednesday, Sanders said that the White House would not comment on whether Porter was granted a security clearance for his position, which involved handling information read by the president.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
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