The House has officially launched an investigation into the Rob Porter scandal -- and they're demanding the FBI and John Kelly come clean about what they knew when

  • The House Oversight Committee will formally investigate the employment of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
  • The investigation will look into the process by which Porter got an interim security clearance and try to determine how much the White House knew about the allegations against him and when.
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray mentioned in his testimony before the Senate on Tuesday that the FBI had closed their background check investigation into Porter in January, potentially contradicting the White House’s version of events.

Rep. Trey Gowdy has confirmed that the House Oversight Committee has officially opened an investigation into the White House’s employment of disgraced former staff secretary Rob Porter after inconsistencies in the timeline of his background investigation raised questions about what President Donald Trump’s staff knew about the allegations against him and when.

Gowdy, who chairs the Oversight Committee, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Wednesday that he is demanding answers from the FBI and from the White House.

“I’m going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer,” he said. “And if they don’t answer them, then they’re going to need to give me a really good reason.”

In twin letters addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray and White House chief of staff John Kelly, Gowdy said he was interested primarily in the process for granting interim security clearances for White House staff, how involved the FBI was, and when the FBI notified the White House of “potential derogatory or disqualifying information on Porter” before he officially left his post.

Porter formally resigned from the White House last Wednesday after both of his ex-wives came forward with accusations that Porter had domestically abused them. His first wife, Colbie Holderness, presented photo evidence of a black eye Porter had allegedly caused, and wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post about the alleged abuse.

A muddled storyline

The White House’s handling of the Porter case has come under scrutiny after inconsistencies emerged between the version of events White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy press secretary Raj Shah had presented to reporters.

During a press conference on Thursday, Shah, who called the allegations against Porter “serious and disturbing,” said Porter’s background check had not yet been finished while he was serving in the Oval Office.

Raj ShahMark Wilson/Getty ImagesRaj Shah.

“[Porter’s] background investigation was ongoing he was operating on a limited security clearance. His clearance was never denied, and he resigned,” Shah said.

But on Tuesday, Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI had submitted a partial report on Porter’s background-check investigation in March and after several follow-ups “administratively closed” the case in January, appearing to contradict the White House’s timeline.

Responding to Wray’s sworn testimony that same day, Sanders brought up new details about the case at a press conference.

“The White House personnel security office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation report in November,” Sanders said. “But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.”

Zeroing in on John Kelly

A large part of the House Oversight investigation will likely focus on ironing out the discrepancies between these accounts.

It is also bound to focus on Kelly’s personal role in the affair.

In 2010, Porter was handed a protection order against him as a result of the domestic abuse allegations, which Kelly was well aware of, one senior member of the administration told Politico. Although Kelly had considered pressuring Porter to leave his role, according to that official, he never did.

Kelly, who had worked closely with Porter for several months, had initially defended Porter as a man of “true integrity.” He later issued a statement speaking out against domestic abuse in general without specifically condemning Porter himself.

“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” Kelly said. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society.”

But several White House officials are reportedly doubting Kelly’s judgment in the case, and questioning why Kelly has emerged as a defender of some of the administration’s most controversial issues.

“It’s beyond disbelief,” one former White House official told Vanity Fair. “Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him.”

Watch clips of Gowdy’s CNN interview here:

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