John Kelly renews defense in wake of Rob Porter abuse scandal

White House chief of staff John Kelly, seeking to defend himself from questions about how he handled the dismissal of...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 1:57 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 1:57 PM

White House chief of staff John Kelly, seeking to defend himself from questions about how he handled the dismissal of Rob Porter, told reporters on Friday that he never considered resigning over the fallout.

Porter, President Donald Trump's staff secretary, was accused of domestic abuse against two ex-wives, though he denied any wrongdoing.

"I have absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over," Kelly said.

But Kelly did admit to reporters that senior White House aides "didn't cover ourselves in glory" in how they handled the fallout.

Kelly, in a lengthy meeting with reporters in his office on Friday, said he first learned of the "serious accusation" against Porter on February 6, the day reporters from the Daily Mail began asking the White House for reaction to what Porter's two ex-wives told them about his abusive behavior.

At issue was how the White House initially defended Porter in statements from both Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders after the Daily Mail and others published their stories about the ex-wives' allegations. Kelly stood by his statement that Porter was "someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character" after photos of the domestic abuse against Colbie Holderness was made public.

"We put out a statement of support for him and an hour later now find out there's a second report -- still not in the press, still no pictures -- just an inquiry by someone probably in this room that said 'Hey, his first wife of 15 years ago says that there was physical abuse,' " Kelly said. "He had already resigned. I just talked to Rob again to make sure he knew he had resigned."

Kelly said during the briefing that he released those statements based on his personal interactions with Porter in the White House and blamed a mix up over the timing of when Porter would be leaving his post.

Kelly's explanation did not fully comport with CNN's reporting on the Porter scandal, however.

The chief of staff told reporters during the briefing that he did not learn about the accusations until the Daily Mail approached the White House for a comment on February 6. But source inside the White House told CNN when the scandal broke that White House counsel Don McGahn, Kelly and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin were also made aware of the domestic issues in November, the source said. The White House contends that the "full nature" of the allegations did not come out until later.

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