WASHINGTON (Reuters) – FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday contradicted the White House version of events surrounding the background check for a former top aide accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives, triggering more disarray around the controversy.
Wray, in testimony on Capitol Hill, said the agency in late July completed a background check for security clearance for former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned a week ago amid allegations of abuse from two former wives.
Wray’s comments conflict with the White House assertion that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence agencies had not completed investigations into Porter. White House officials had no immediate explanation.
“I’m quite confident that in this particular instance, the FBI followed established protocols,” Wray told Senate Intelligence Committee as the White House faces questions over when it learned about the allegations against Porter.
Questions have arisen about how security clearance investigations are handled as the White House grapples with the fallout over the accusations against Porter, who resigned under pressure last week.
Porter had been operating under a temporary clearance that gave him access to some sensitive information without a final security clearance.
Wray said a partial report on Porter was issued in March and a completed report was submitted in late July. The FBI received a request for a follow-up inquiry, provided it in November and passed along additional information earlier this month.
“Soon thereafter we received a request for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November and administratively closed the file in January,” he said. “Earlier this month, we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”
Asked if the White House had been informed of the allegations against Porter, Wray said, “I can’t get into the content.”
The White House has yet to outline a specific timeline on who knew what when in the Porter case.
One official said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had wondered last autumn why Porter’s clearance was taking so long – along with those of other top officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The extent of what he was told about Porter at the time is unclear. The White House has said Kelly became “fully aware” of the accusations last Wednesday and promptly obtained Porter’s resignation.
On that day, photos were published in a Daily Mail article, showing one ex-wife with a black eye that she said was a result of an altercation with Porter, 40.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jeffrey Benkoe)