Top Trump lawyer reportedly knew about abuse allegations against Rob Porter for more than a year, but did not act

  • White House counsel Don McGahn was informed more than a year ago that staff secretary Rob Porter’s two ex-wives alleged that he abused them.
  • McGahn refused to investigate Porter, who served at the highest levels of the Trump administration for 13 months, even after he was informed that the FBI’s investigation into the allegations had stalled Porter’s security clearance.

White House counsel Don McGahn was informed more than a year ago that staff secretary Rob Porter’s two ex-wives alleged that he abused them during their marriages, but McGahn did not investigate the claims while Porter continued to serve at the highest levels of the White House, The Washington Post reported.

The president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, was informed of the allegations, and that they were being investigated by the FBI and had denied Porter a permanent security clearance, last fall.

Porter, who resigned on Wednesday, denies all of the allegations that he engaged in years of physical and verbal abuse. He has called the accusations, including that he punched his first wife in the face, “a coordinated smear campaign.”

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, and Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, were first interviewed by the FBI about their relationships with Porter in January 2017.

Holderness provided investigators with photos of her bruised face, which she says was the result of Porter punching her in 2005. Willoughby authorised the FBI to obtain a 2010 protective order she filed against him after she said he violated their separation agreement and broke the glass on her front door.

In April, Willoughby published a blog post in which she accusing Porter of physically and verbally abusing her during their marriage, including one instance in which he pulled her from the shower to yell at her in a rage.

In June, the FBI informed McGahn about some of their findings, the Post reported. In September, McGahn found out that the investigation was delaying Porter’s security clearance, and in November Porter’s ex-girlfriend, who works for the administration, contacted McGahn to ask him to investigate the claims of abuse.

A White House official told the Post that Porter told McGahn and Kelly that the allegations against him were either exaggerated or not true. And McGahn, who had access to the FBI’s investigative file on Porter, did not look into the matter further.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Thursday that the White House did not think it right to take any action regarding the allegations until the FBI’s investigation of Porter had been completed. In the meantime, Porter obtained a temporary security clearance.

“We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made, unless they could compromise national security, or interfere with operations at the White House,” Shah said. “The truth must be determined, and that was what was going on with Rob Porter. His background investigation was ongoing.”

On Wednesday, after Holderness and Willoughby’s allegations had been published by multiple news outlets, the White House stood by Porter. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president and Kelly retained “full confidence and trust” in Porter.

Kelly released a statement calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honour” and reportedly pressed Porter to stay on in his role.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly wrote. “He is a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

Late on Wednesday night, Kelly released another statement saying he was “shocked by the new allegations” against Porter, which included the photo of Holderness’ injuries.

Watch CNN’s interview with Willoughby below:

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