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FBI contradicts White House on investigation of former aide accused of domestic abuse

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Photographs by AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a House Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

WASHINGTON — Contradicting the White House, the FBI said Tuesday it gave the Trump administration information on multiple occasions last year about a top aide accused of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives, and the investigation wrapped up in January.

That account by FBI Director Christopher Wray challenged the White House assertion that Rob Porter's background "investigation was ongoing" and officials first learned the extent of accusations against him only last week, just before he abruptly resigned.

Wray's testimony marked the latest development in a incident that has called into question the judgment of senior members of the White House staff, put new stress on the administration's already strained credibility with the public, and drawn accusations of tone-deaf handling of abuse allegations.

Privately, officials acknowledge that the public timeline offered last week — that the administration first learned of the ex-wives' charges against Porter on Feb. 6 — was flawed at best.

Several senior officials, including chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn, were aware of the broad allegations against Porter for months, officials said.

Kelly found out after requesting an update on the large number of senior staff members operating without full security clearances, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions. McGahn told Kelly last fall there was concern about information in the background investigation involving Porter's ex-wives, the official said, and Kelly expressed surprise that Porter had previously been married.

Despite that, Porter took on an increasingly central role in the West Wing and was under consideration to serve as Trump's deputy chief of staff, two officials said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday: "The White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check." Yet Wray testified that the FBI sent the White House its preliminary report in March 2017 and its completed investigation in late July. Soon after that, the agency received a request for a follow-up inquiry, and it provided that information in November. Porter was interviewed about the allegations in September, an official said.

"And then we administratively closed the file in January, and then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well," Wray added in his congressional testimony Tuesday, without elaboration.

The FBI does not make recommendations about whether to grant or deny a security clearance, officials said, leaving the determination up to the employee's agency, in Porter's case, the White House.

Sanders maintained Tuesday that her statement about an ongoing investigation was accurate because Porter's clearance hadn't received a final sign-off from the White House Office of Personnel Security.

"We find those statements to be consistent with one another," she said.

The White House has refused to divulge the number of staff members who still do not have full clearances, though the list includes Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law. Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that "there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner's level" who are working without full security clearances.

Separately, Trump's intelligence chief called for top-to-bottom change of the security clearance process, which allowed Porter to operate in his job for more than a year with only an interim clearance.

"We have a broken system and I think everybody's come to agree with that now," Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told The Associated Press. He called for limits on the information made accessible to those with temporary clearances — a practice that is currently not followed in the West Wing, an official said.

Meanwhile, Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, pushed back against comments made by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway that seemed to suggest strong women can't be victims of domestic violence.

Conway, in a weekend interview on CNN, said she had no reason to disbelieve accounts by Holderness and another ex-wife that Porter had abused them. But when asked if she was concerned for top White House aide Hope Hicks, who reportedly was dating Porter, Conway said no because "I've rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts."

Conway went on to say that "there's no question" that domestic violence "knows no demographic or geographic bounds" and she understands there is a stigma that surrounds these issues.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Holderness wrote that Conway's first statement "implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ."

Porter resigned after Holderness and his second ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, came forward with allegations of emotional and physical abuse. Porter has denied harming his former partners.

The White House approach has drawn criticism even from Trump's own party.

"I think you can't justify it," Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst told CNN about a report that the White House arranged for Porter to defend himself privately to reporters after the allegations surfaced. "You can't justify that."

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Comments

BOLTAR says...

Imagine that! Multiple White House sources have been telling us a series of transparent lies.

Posted 13 February 2018, 12:35 p.m. Suggest removal

3WorldState1 says...

This WH lying?

Posted 13 February 2018, 1:05 p.m. Suggest removal

mrcharles says...

Dont be surprised ladies and gentlemen, this is a day that ends in Y. What is expected, but same old same old from the Ship of Fools.

Hold on to your planet, here comes the fox and fraud crew, and Sean hannity...... Look squirell or car chase !, and most sad of all the usual suspects from the right here who still believe that Elvis didnt do no drugs.

Posted 13 February 2018, 2:33 p.m. Suggest removal

TimberTopper says...

LOL! Don't you folks know that if you are one of today's Republicans, lying is not counted against you. It's part and parcel of today's Republican Party, as long as you thump the Bible on a half way regular basis.

Posted 13 February 2018, 3:04 p.m. Suggest removal

Packman says...

Looks like somebody dropped the ball big time on Porter and then others refused to fess up to their mistakes. Was Porter also a Russian agent?

Posted 13 February 2018, 3:52 p.m. Suggest removal

wildblueyonder says...

Apparently the FBI is selective on how they "report" anything. I wouldn't trust Wray's replies any more than I would Vladamir's. He's as big a liar as Comey.

Posted 13 February 2018, 4:18 p.m. Suggest removal

DoubleBlind says...

Bye bye, John Kelly.

Posted 13 February 2018, 4:22 p.m. Suggest removal

DoubleBlind says...

Kushner also doesn’t have clearance. Can’t wait to see what the FBI has on him.

Posted 13 February 2018, 4:50 p.m. Suggest removal

BirdDogsRock says...

The only news would be if this White House DIDN'T lie.

Posted 13 February 2018, 5:26 p.m. Suggest removal

mozarky2 says...

I have no pity whatsoever for any man who abuses his wife, or anybody, for that matter. My wife and I have a very close friend who was brutally beaten by her new husband recently. I've been working with her on defending herself should he show back up.
Example: if ANY man beats his wife, said wife should have been able to defend herself. UNLESS, she was in one of those vaunted, perfectly safe Gun-Free Zones that "progs" advocate...
Those exes of Porters could have taken matters into their own hands. I expect more of a woman.

Posted 13 February 2018, 5:51 p.m. Suggest removal

JakeTidmore says...

I'll trust just about anybody over Donald "Pathological Liar" Trump. Anyone dumb enough to believe Trump is a fool. Fooled once, fooled twice......fooled hundreds of times and still getting fooled. Dupes under Donald - DUDs for short.

Posted 13 February 2018, 6:15 p.m. Suggest removal

RBear says...

OMFG. moz says, "Those exes of Porters could have taken matters into their own hands. I expect more of a woman."
...
You've got to be kidding me. moz you start the comment out rationally, but end with that stupidity. You are blaming the ex-wives for this issue? Disgusting.

Posted 13 February 2018, 6:18 p.m. Suggest removal

ARMNAR says...

Way to blame the victims, moz. I pity any and every woman unlucky enough to have to spend any time at all with you. Your wife deserves better than an apologist for abusive men.

Posted 13 February 2018, 6:54 p.m. Suggest removal

JakeTidmore says...

Late news: White House Is Agreeing with FBI version & playing shift the blame game (in other words, "playing dumb")
**
WASHINGTON — The White House's explanation of how allegations of domestic abuse against a top aide failed to significantly affect his security clearance evolved again Tuesday as it shifted blame to an internal personnel security office.
The move came hours after the head of the FBI appeared to publicly contradict the administration's previous defense.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday the "White House personnel security office" — the administration's first reference to that office — did not fully pass FBI reports about those allegations to top West Wing aides because staffers had not yet made a final recommendation on Porter's security clearance.
**
Is this confusing our DUDs? Will they backtrack, shift tactics, give another version of the "truth", and then stick their brain back into DT's rump once again??
DT farts and DUDs tell everyone that he's playing a symphony.

Posted 13 February 2018, 7:12 p.m. Suggest removal

ARMNAR says...

moz? Hello? moz?

Ah well, maybe he's too busy raping his wife to reply.

Posted 13 February 2018, 10:22 p.m. Suggest removal

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