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White House wasn’t fully aware of allegations against ex-aide: spokesman

Trump departs for travel to Missouri from the White House in Washington

FILE PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House was not fully aware of the extent of the domestic abuse allegations against former White House aide Rob Porter until photographs of an ex-wife with a black eye emerged on Wednesday, a White House spokesman said on Thursday.

The White House, which had backed Porter until the photo was published amid allegations of domestic abuse, said Porter’s last day as White House staff secretary was on Wednesday, when he resigned.

Porter, whose position required a security clearance and close contact with the president, had not yet been approved for a security clearance because the required background check was still ongoing, White House spokesman Raj Shah said.

Shah told reporters that President Donald Trump was not aware of any issues with Porter’s security clearance before Tuesday and “was surprised” by the abuse allegations.

“He, like many of us, did not see that in Rob Porter, did not see what these allegations have brought forward. So he was surprised by it. He was disheartened by it. He was saddened by it,” Shah said at a news briefing.

Shah also said that White House chief of staff John Kelly was not “fully aware” of the extent of the allegations when he made his initial statement supporting Porter on Tuesday.

Asked what “fully aware” meant, Shah said: “I do know, for instance, that he had not seen images prior to the statement on Tuesday night.”

Kelly released a second statement on Wednesday saying he stood by his previous comments about Porter, but adding that he was “shocked” by the allegations. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” Kelly said in the statement.

Because Porter had not yet received a security clearance, he was working with an interim clearance issued to those who have not previously undergone the full check, Shah said, adding that the White House did not have all the details on Porter that had been compiled by law enforcement.

“This is a process used throughout the U.S. government,” Shah said. “Rob Porter was never denied a security clearance. He was never given any special treatment. The process was still ongoing.”

The Daily Mail and the Intercept reported that Porter’s two former wives had accused him of domestic abuse, allegations which Porter has denied. Reuters has not independently confirmed the allegations.

Shah said the White House had not handled its response to the situation as well as it should have, adding: “A lot of us could have done better.”

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(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Eric Beech and David Alexander; Writing by Susan Heavey and David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler)

 

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