Report: Trump privately questioning the credibility of Rob Porter's ex-wives

Must be fake news. Questioning the credibility of a woman who claims she’s been abused?

That doesn’t sound like the Trump I know.

I’d feel better about what he said this afternoon if I thought that privately he was mortified by the allegations against Porter. According to the Daily Beast, if anything, he was holding back on how he really felt in today’s brief public remarks.

In fact, the president has gone as far as to express doubts to aides and friends about the assault allegations, and has asked repeatedly if there are any reasons Porter’s two ex-wives could have to make up such claims, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the conversations.

Trump’s skepticism has been apparent in discussions with confidants and officials, who tell The Daily Beast that, at least in their conversations, he has not expressed sympathy for the ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, who have gone on the record to allege physical violence.

In what conceivable circumstances would POTUS or any other Porter sympathizer conclude that there’s no reason to question a woman’s claims of abuse? What would it take to say, “Yeah, I think she’s telling the truth”? In the case of Roy Moore, the accusers were swatted away on grounds that they were either (a) Democratic plants, even though the Washington Post had to track them down instead of them coming forward voluntarily, or (b) “attention-seekers,” even though 90 percent of the fleeting attention they were likely to get after throwing a damaging accusation at Moore was invective from his fans. In most cases an accuser’s story isn’t spectacular enough to draw a payday from the tabloids either. Porter’s ex-wives went to the Daily Mail and the Intercept, not to some Enquirer-type scandal sheet. You can always spin up a hypothesis, however far-fetched, to explain why a seemingly credible accusation might be false.

In Porter’s case, believing that his exes are lying requires believing that they independently told similar stories to the FBI — and lying to the FBI, as we’re all now very aware, is a crime — or that they’ve been colluding all along on a vendetta against their ex-husband but for some reason have only now gotten around to blowing him up even though he’s been working at the White House for months. They spoke to the FBI in January of last year to describe the abuse they suffered and could have gone running to the NYT or WaPo immediately afterward (or before, of course) to embarrass Trump and Porter with a scandal at the very beginning of his presidency. But they kept quiet. In fact, Porter’s first wife works for Trump’s GAO. If not for the hold-up in Porter’s security clearance and the recent media attention to him as Hope Hicks’s new boyfriend, we might never have found out about the allegations. God knows John Kelly and Don McGahn were in no rush to tell us.

On top of all of that, there’s a third woman who’s been whispering to the White House about her experiences with Porter. All that, and POTUS thinks the credibility meter leans in Porter’s favor?

Actually, there is one thing he’s upset about in his team’s handling of this over the last few days, apart from being rightly pissed that they didn’t do more to protect him from collateral scandal damage. Quote:

In particular, sources say, Trump has mused about how awful media coverage has been lately on Porter and the White House, and “how terrible” it appeared that the administration had—in a jarringly uncharacteristic move from Trump-world—copped to an error in its handling of the matter

Those close to Trump say that he is monomaniacally committed to never admitting fault, which extends to those questioning the quality of his hires.

Remember when Raj Shah said yesterday at the briefing that the White House could have handled the Porter matter better, which everyone understands is true? (Kelly handled it so badly that he allegedly offered to resign!) That’s what’s bugging POTUS in all this, apparently. Wait until he finds out that Mike Pence agrees with Shah too.

According to CNN there are 30-40 White House staffers right now who still lack a permanent security clearance, as Porter himself did. Some are in the process of getting one and will receive one in due course but others, like Jared Kushner, are obviously being held up by the FBI for particular reasons: “[S]everal sources, including intelligence officials who have served previous Democratic and GOP administrations, describe the backlog as very unusual and make clear that the process should have been completed after a year in office.” Probably, hopefully, no one’s being held up for the specific reason that Porter was, but those experiencing a long delay must all be at some risk of blackmail. What now?

Exit quotation via Mary Katharine Ham: “I’m not saying this to belittle … the allegations, but we elected a den of reality-show villains to be in the White House and that is the show that we’re getting here.” Heck of a show, though.