A senior White House official announced Wednesday he is resigning following allegations by his two ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse.
The official, Rob Porter, served as the staff secretary and often controlled the paper flow to President Trump’s desk, along with his daily schedule. Porter also oversaw the White House’s policy implementation process and worked closely with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to try to instill discipline in the chaotic West Wing. He spent hours of the day with Trump and frequently traveled with him on Air Force One.
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, said in an interview with the DailyMail.com that he was abusive during their marriage and alleged he punched in her the face during a trip to Florence in the early 2000s and provided photos to the publication showing her with a black eye.
“He was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive, and that is why I left,” she told the news site.
In a statement, Porter denied the allegations.
“These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described,” he said. “I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign. My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”
It remains unclear when Porter will officially leave the White House.
Senior West Wing aides spent part of Wednesday morning preparing for the fallout from his departure. Many senior officials, including Kelly, urged Porter to stay, according to White House advisers.
Asked Wednesday if Trump had any concerns about the allegations against Porter or with the photos of Holderness, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “I don’t know.”
Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughy, told the DailyMail.com that she filed and received an emergency protective order against Porter. The newspaper published what appeared to be a copy of the order, which included a Virginia magistrate’s signature.
The White House scrambled Tuesday, after the story was first published, and Wednesday, after the photo of Holderness’s bruised right eye were posted, to deal with the allegations.
The White House issued statements of support late Tuesday from Kelly, Sanders and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Porter’s previous boss in the Senate.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” Kelly said Tuesday night, hours before pictures appeared that included Holderness’s blackened eye.
On Tuesday night, Hatch released a statement supportive of Porter.
“It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man,” he said. “Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name. I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal advisor. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.”
Following the release of the photos of Holderness’s bruised eye Wednesday, Hatch released a new statement.
“I am heartbroken by today’s allegations. In every interaction I’ve had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful,” he said. “My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”
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