Just to be clear, we’re talking here about David Sorensen, not Rob Porter. Sorensen is, or was, a speechwriter in Stephen Miller’s office. He quit yesterday when word got around that WaPo was planning a story based on his ex-wife’s tales of spousal abuse. Like Porter, Sorensen claims he’s innocent. Unlike Porter, he claims that he, not his ex, was the one getting knocked about. And he’s published a statement online, featuring photos and screenshots of texts, to support his story.
Is Sorensen whom POTUS had in mind this morning when he tweeted the following?
There’s truth in that. But the point would be more convincing if Trump’s analysis of which allegations are true and which are false didn’t seem to depend entirely on whether they’re leveled at one of his allies or one of his enemies.
Why should you care one way or another about the personal life of a White House staffer whom you hadn’t heard of until yesterday? Two reasons. One is that, according to Sorensen’s ex-wife, the FBI interviewed her about their marriage back in October as part of his background check. Sorensen’s job didn’t require a security clearance (another way in which he’s unlike Porter) but presumably any red flags having to do with spousal abuse would have been relayed to John Kelly and Don McGahn. It’s potential blackmail material and, needless to say, it was an embarrassment waiting to happen for the White House once the media found out. Did Kelly or McGahn do anything about it?
The second reason is that Sorensen’s case is an unusually difficult one in the #MeToo moment because the evidence against him is thinner than it usually is against prominent people who are accused. There’s only one woman accusing him of misconduct, his ex-wife, and everyone knows how bitter divorces can be. Exes have been known to lie about each other to take revenge. That was less of a concern in Porter’s case since he had multiple ex-wives plus an ex-girlfriend all alleging a pattern, but it’s a real concern here. Sorensen has character witnesses too, most notably his first wife, who claims he was never violent with her in their years of marriage. As Donald J. Trump once said, years before becoming a politician, “A beater is always a beater.” (Someone should have reminded him of that when he was questioning the credibility of three different women who’ve accused Porter of abuse.) According to the first Mrs. Sorensen, David wasn’t always a beater. How likely is it that he became one later in middle age?
Oh, and one more thing: Sorensen’s ex admitted to the Post that she slapped him a few times after he insulted her. Sorensen claims it went much further than that, but both parties agree that she got physical with him to some degree more than once.
Before you pronounce him not guilty, though, read the WaPo piece. His ex-wife told multiple people he was abusing her years ago, while it was allegedly happening.
[Jessica] Corbett first contacted The Post a week before Porter’s case became public. She said that during her marriage to Sorensen, he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall and grasped her menacingly by her hair while they were alone on their boat in remote waters off Maine’s coast, an incident she said left her fearing for her life. During part of their marriage, he was a top policy adviser to Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage…
Two friends and associates of Corbett said she confided in them during the marriage that her husband was abusive. Corbett also provided records of text messages and emails in which Sorensen berated her with vulgar language and she discussed the deteriorating marriage with others. She gave The Post a photo of her hand bearing a scar she said was from the cigarette burn…
“She was in a situation where everyone was on David’s side because of who he was and who he worked for,” said John Bremer, a close friend and Washington, D.C., resident who Corbett confided in about the abuse. Bremer said Corbett told him that Sorensen ran over her foot and yanked her hair on their boat around the time of the alleged episodes…
Another friend, a female lawmaker from South Carolina who roomed with Corbett at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, said that she had confided in her about the state of her marriage. Later that year, she spent months unable to reach Corbett, which left her fearing the worst.
The Post claims that Corbett showed them a text she sent her mother in 2015 that read, “He’s killing me.” Case closed? Well, not yet. You need to read Sorensen’s statement now. Here’s just a taste; there’s much more at the link.
She once grabbed the steering wheel as I drove down the highway and punched me in the face as I drove because I called to make sure our destination served brunch and not just lunch. She was threatened because a female coworker of mine had suggested we double check.
She hit me with a flurry of punches on three separate occasions on a single day because I asked if she’d mind if I go to the gym before breakfast. I spent that night in a hotel room.
During one fight, when I tried to leave the house to give us some space, she blocked my way at the door, hit me, and grabbed my crotch, falling to the floor as I wrested my way to the door. I managed to escape to a hotel.
He has multiple photographs of himself with small bruises and scrapes, all of which have different dates. Assuming the dates weren’t manipulated, the fact that he thought to take photos in the first place is solid evidence that he’s telling the truth. Do you normally photograph your own bruises? That’s something you’d think to do only if you were documenting abuse.
So, bottom line: What do you do as an employer in a case like Sorensen’s? He swears he’s innocent; there’s reason to believe he himself was abused; there’s some corroboration of his ex’s claims, but there’s only one accuser, their relationship is acrimonious, and he has at least one former intimate willing to vouch that he’s never been physically abusive to them. What if they’re both telling the truth, a “mutual combat” situation in which violence gradually became part of the toxic dynamic of the marriage? The political answer is “Doesn’t matter. His continued presence at the White House will put another cloud over Trump so he needs to go.” But that’s a worrisome standard to set, as it really would make a single accusation the touchstone of whether someone should keep his job. (Why shouldn’t any private employer react the same, letting Sorensen walk away rather than deal with the headache of what did and didn’t happen between him and his ex?) And more importantly, it’s a standard that Trump himself seems to despise. If POTUS doesn’t want to see someone lose his job over mere suspicion from a single accuser, why did he let Sorensen resign?
In lieu of an exit question, go read BuzzFeed’s account of what it’s like to work with Rob Porter. The line on him this week from his second ex-wife is that he’s a menace in private but “measured,” intelligent, and professional on the job. Maybe not always, though: “Two former colleagues said he would often get irritated in meetings when things didn’t go his way, and one recalled a particular incident in which he described Porter as ‘unhinged’ — visibly red and shaking with anger — when he was not included in an event.” Visibly shaking with anger?