Coming soon to the White House: Rob Porter 2.0?

Probably not, no. “Trump Rehires Guy Who Very Probably Gave Ex-Wife a Black Eye” would be a bad headline.

But the fact that this is being idly mulled, even if only by Trump himself, goes to show that no one ever fully leaves the West Wing in his administration. How many people have been fired or resigned under pressure only to later be the subject of whispers that POTUS wants them back? There’s Porter. There’s John McEntee, Trump’s “body man,” who was ushered out the front door on March 13 and named as a possible rehire four days later. And, most famously, there’s Mike Flynn, whom the Daily Beast claimed last May might be in line for a second act in the White House eventually.

Ten months and one guilty plea later, that’s hard to believe. But the possibility that even a political headache as large as Flynn might be welcomed back by POTUS goes to show how much he values loyalty from, and his own personal comfort with, his aides. If he trusts you, you’re never really out of the mix. Black eye or not.

President Trump has stayed in touch with Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who stepped down after allegations that he had abused his two former wives came to light, according to three people familiar with the conversations, and has told some advisers he hopes Mr. Porter returns to work in the West Wing.

The president’s calls with Mr. Porter have increased in the last few weeks, as the number of people he is close to in the White House has dwindled because of the large number of staff departures, the people familiar with the calls said…

The president has told the advisers he has talked with that he knows he probably cannot bring Mr. Porter back. But he has made clear that he misses the staff structure that Mr. Porter had helped build and implement, a White House official said, speaking on background because advisers were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

One reason why POTUS sympathizes with disgraced subordinates, the NYT speculates, is that he “often sees aides who are subject to public criticism as extensions of himself, coming under fire because critics want to attack him.” Well, true, Porter’s marital history might never have made the papers if he hadn’t taken a top job with President Trump. But the black eye and the accounts of physical and/or emotional abuse from his two ex-wives aren’t a ticky-tacky objection driven by partisan animus. Porter was a prime target for blackmail because of his past too, which is why he never managed to get the FBI’s recommendation for a full security clearance. It’s nice of POTUS to stand by aides who are under attack but maybe rethink that approach when the aide in question is a credibly accused wife-beater.

Here’s what makes the possibility of a Porter rehire interesting, though. Depending on how things go over the next several months, the constituency in favor of giving him a second chance might grow — and it might not consist entirely of Trump fans. That’s because Porter, by all accounts, really did provide value to Trump in the West Wing. Even one of his exes allowed that he was excellent at his job. And ironically, his two key functions were things that anti-Trumpers are eager to see more of in the White House. One: He was John Kelly’s right-hand man in controlling the flow of information to Trump. If you’re worried about the president assimilating conspiracy theories or other dubious factoids into his daily ruminations, having Porter there as a filter is a useful thing. Two: Porter was one of the most influential free-marketeers in Trump’s office. After Trump surprised everyone by slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, various news stories claimed that the decision was in part an unintended consequence of Porter’s departure. Without him around to play goalie against advisors like Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross, protectionists could finally exert real influence on Trump. In fact, per the Times, that’s been a key subject of conversation lately between Trump and Porter — how to carve out exemptions for friendly nations from the new tariffs.

So imagine it’s September 2018. Trump’s rattling his trade saber again, mainly at China but not just at China. John Kelly has finally departed and the West Wing is as chaotic as it’s ever been. Anti-Trumpers of all stripes are terrified that if a real crisis erupts the White House will have trouble responding effectively due to disorganization plus the fact that the least trustworthy advisors will have the president’s ear due to the lack of an effective gatekeeper. Would his critics give Porter a second chance under those circumstances? The more POTUS veers towards staffing up entirely with Fox News alumni, the more of a second look a competent if deeply flawed character like Porter will get from Trump’s critics. Naturally he’d return with a rehabilitation story of some sort — he’s been in therapy, he’s “worked on himself,” he’s horribly sorry for how he behaved with his exes, he’s going to dedicate his life to being a better person. Does he get a second chance then? No? Well, imagine that both of his exes come out and say that he deserves a second chance, something the White House would doubtless work hard to orchestrate before rehiring him. They’d also note, defensibly, that because the dark secret of his past has now been publicized the blackmail risk is effectively gone. How about then? Maybe?

I think maybe. We’ll see.

Exit question: There is one ex-aide who seems well and truly dead to Trump, isn’t there? What ever happened to that guy?