The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee says he has launched an investigation into the White House’s decision to keep staff secretary Rob Porter in his job for months after the West Wing was reportedly informed by the FBI of domestic abuse allegations against him.
“I spent two decades believing women and children who alleged abuse, even sometimes when no one else did,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former prosecutor, said on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday. “I have real questions about whether someone like this can be considered for employment, whether there’s a security clearance issue or not. So yeah, I’m troubled by almost every aspect of this.”
Porter resigned from his post last week after the allegations of domestic battery by his two ex-wives were published. Porter has denied the allegations. The White House said it did not become “fully aware” of the abuse claims against Porter until shortly before his resignation. But FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that the bureau, which investigates White House staffers for security clearances, completed its report on Porter last July and sent it to the White House — calling into question the Trump administration’s evolving public account of its handling of the matter.
Both of Porter’s ex-wives said they were interviewed by the FBI in January 2017, shortly after his appointment as staff secretary, and they each reported their abuse allegations to investigators.
On CNN, Gowdy was asked how Porter could have remained employed in a high-level position that involved handling classified information for so long.
“That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer,” Gowdy replied. “Who knew what, when and to what extent? Those are the questions that ought to be asked.”
“If you knew it in 2017 and the bureau briefed them three times, then how in the hell was he still employed?” Gowdy continued. “The security clearance is a separate issue — it’s an important issue, but separate. How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse? Again, I am biased towards the victims. I spent two decades believing them. But you don’t have to be biased towards the victim to ask how in the hell did this happen?”
Gowdy, who oversaw the House Intelligence Committee’s months-long investigation into the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, said the panel launched a probe of the Porter case on Tuesday night after Wray’s testimony.
“The chronology is not favorable for the White House,” said Gowdy, who recently announced he is not seeking reelection.
The Porter scandal has cast yet another shadow over a Trump White House that has become notorious for chaos and confusion. President Trump further stoked controversy by publicly praising Porter and pointing to his denial without expressing sympathy or support for the alleged victims — then appearing to cast doubt on the #MeToo movement in a weekend tweet.
And the West Wing’s bungling of the Porter case has led to speculation that chief of staff John Kelly’s job may be in jeopardy.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN on Wednesday that Kelly has the “full confidence” of President Trump.