December 09, 2019
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Senior White House official resigns after ex-wives’ allegations of abuse

Evan Vucci | AP
Evan Vucci | AP
In this Jan. 20, 2017 file photo, White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, center, hands President Donald Trump a confirmation order for James Mattis as defense secretary, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, as White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, watches. Porter is stepping down following allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives.

WASHINGTON – A senior White House official announced Wednesday he is resigning after 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 that he was abusive during their marriage. She 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 outlet.

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.

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 whether Trump had any concerns about the allegations against Porter or with the photos of Holderness, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I don’t know.”

One of Porter’s ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby, received a temporary emergency protective order in June 2010 after saying he refused to leave her residence, in violation of their separation agreement.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, concludes that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that [Porter] has committed family abuse and there is probable danger of a further such offense.”

According to Willoughby’s account in the document, Porter “punched in the glass” on her door during the incident. “I called the police, afraid he would break in,” she said in the account. “. . . When he heard me give my name and address to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, he drove off.”

The White House scrambled Tuesday, after the report was first published, and Wednesday after the photos of Holderness’ 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,” Kelly said Tuesday night, hours before pictures appeared that included Holderness’ blackened eye. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,”

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’ 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.”

Elise Viebeck, Tom Jackman and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.


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