Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter arrives with U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. February 5, 2018. Picture taken February 5, 2018.
The FBI’s director on Tuesday contradicted the White House’s claim that a security background investigation of top aide Rob Porter was still ongoing at the time Porter quit last week amid domestic abuse allegations.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had issued a partial report on Porter, who was serving as President Donald Trump’s staff secretary, last March – and that the FBI completed its background check on Porter in late July last year.
Wray’s statements contrast with Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah’s claims last week that Porter’s “background investigation was ongoing, his clearance was never denied, and he resigned.”
Various reports say that senior Trump staff had known about the Porter allegations for months.
The White House, particularly chief of staff John Kelly, has come under fire for its handling of the Porter scandal. Kelly himself offered an account last week that contradicted earlier White House timelines of Porter’s resignation.
The White House has said Porter was operating under a temporary security clearance as a result of that delay in completing that background check. Porter’s resignation came on the heels of reports that he had physically and verbally abused both of his ex-wives during their respective marriages to him.
Both wives said they had told the FBI about that abuse during interviews conducted as part of Porter’s background check. That, in turn, raised the question of why the White House was allowing him to continue to handle sensitive documents as part of his daily duties, much less continue to be employed at the White House.
“I can’t get into the content of what was briefed,” Wray testified Tuesday, referring to the findings in the Porter background check.
“What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July, that soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry,” Wray said Tuesday, “and we did the follow up, and provided that information in November, and then we administratively closed the file in January, and earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”
Trump, for his part, has offered Porter well wishes and stressed that Porter has claimed to be innocent. “I think you have to remember that,” Trump said Friday. “He said very strongly yesterday he’s innocent.”
Additional reporting by Kevin Breuninger