FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency alerted
the White House of a top aide’s background check issues in
March, July, November, and January.
That information could complicate the timeline of
events being promoted by the White House.
FBI Director Christopher Wray just tossed a wrench into the White
House’s narrative about how it handled the Rob Porter scandal.
Wray said Tuesday during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing
that the FBI alerted the White House to problems with Porter’s
background check months ago, complicating the Trump
administration’s narrative that it was unaware of allegations
against the White House aide until recently.
Porter, a White House staff secretary
with an important behind-the-scenes job, resigned last week
after abuse allegations from two ex-wives surfaced. Porter’s
ex-wives alleged that he physically and mentally abused them in
their marriages. Both ex-wives, Colbie
Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, provided the Daily Mail with
photographic evidence of the alleged abuse, which Porter denies.
The White House, meanwhile, first sought to defend Porter from
the allegations when first made aware of the soon-to-be-published
Daily Mail story. White House chief of staff John Kelly and press
secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released statements strongly
Just hours after the Daily Mail story was published, Sanders
arranged an off-the-record meeting with four top White House
reporters, during which Porter told his version of events and
took questions from the group, multiple outlets reported
Sanders repeated the statements defending Porter from the White
House briefing room on Wednesday, which followed both the Daily
Mail story’s publication and reports that Porter resigned from
Kelly then issued a second statement hours later expressing shock
at the allegations and saying there is “no place for domestic
violence in our society,” but saying he still stood by his
previous comments of the Porter he had “come to know.”
By the end of the week, Kelly was saying that he moved to oust
Porter from the administration within 40 minutes of first hearing
about the credible allegations, though it was reported that he
learned weeks earlier of the claims against Porter, as did other
senior officials, including White House counsel Donald McGahn,
because the allegations were holding up a background check
process related to Porter’s security clearance. It still is not
clear, however, if Kelly or McGahn knew the full extent of the
allegations prior to the Daily Mail story being published.
Wray noted Tuesday that the FBI submitted a partial report on the
investigation into Porter in March, completing its background
check in late July. Wray said the FBI soon received a request for
a follow-up inquiry and provided the White House with that
information in November. The case was “administratively closed”
in January, he added, noting that “earlier this month, we
received some additional information, and we passed that along as
Wray, during an exchange with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of
Oregon, said he could not answer questions such as who in the
administration was informed of the allegations, only noting that
he was “quite confident” the FBI “followed the established
protocols” for a background check investigation.
Wray’s timeline does not necessarily mean that Kelly was
personally made aware of the allegations and photos in either
November or January, but it does complicate the timeline that he
has promoted to staff and others.
In July, when the investigation was first completed, former chief
of staff Reince Priebus was still at the helm.
Priebus expressed shock at the allegations during a Saturday
interview with MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt.
“It was one of those sort of moments where people just said that
‘you’re kidding me,'” he said. “‘It can’t, it can’t, we’re not
talking about Rob Porter, are we? The Eagle Scout, Rhodes
scholar, Harvard undergrad?'”
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted following Wray’s comments
that Priebus has told associates he was unaware of the
She said it’s “amazing how many people claim not to have known
about a completed FBI report.”
Additionally, Wray’s comments make “the Kelly timeline, already
contradictory, harder to fathom,” she said.
Watch Wray’s remarks:
FBI Director Christopher Wray says the FBI completed Rob Porter’s background investigation in July and submitted the results of a “follow-up inquiry” to the White House in November and administratively closed the file in January https://t.co/YAjkuUVpnu
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 13, 2018