This has been such a mess. Friday Allahpundit noted that President Trump was reportedly expressing doubts about the abuse allegations made by Rob Porter’s ex-wives. That seemed to fit with what Trump said publicly, i.e. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.” Today, Jennifer Willoughby, one of Porter’s ex-wives, took exception to Trump’s statement, saying the president had called her a liar. From Time Magazine:
On Friday, a friend and I watched as the President of the United States sat in the Oval Office and praised the work of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and wished him future success. I can’t say I was surprised. But when Donald Trump repeated twice that Rob declared his innocence, I was floored. What was his intent in emphasizing that point? My friend turned to me and said, “The President of the United States just called you a liar.”
Yes. And so he did.
Willoughby doesn’t blame Trump’s response on politics. She says the discomfort with believing victims of abuse goes deeper than right or left. She writes, “Ultimately, this is not a political issue.” She continues, “This is a societal issue, and the tone has just been reset by the White House. If the most powerful people in the nation do not believe my story of abuse in the face of overwhelming evidence, then what hope do others have of being heard?”
But hours after Time published that response, Axios published a story claiming Trump actually believes the stories of abuse told by Porter’s ex-wives:
Behind closed doors: The president has told multiple people that he believes the accusations about Porter, and finds him “sick.”
Four sources who have spoken directly with Trump tell me his private comments about ex-aide Porter — whose two ex-wives accused of violent attacks — have been brutal.
So what is going on here? Two days ago, Trump was sort of defending Porter and wishing him well. Now we’re told he believes the ex-wives and finds Porter sick. Maybe this is a ham-fisted effort to clean up Trump’s previous expression of sympathy for Porter. If so the White House wasn’t very subtle about it, giving Axios four sources all telling the same story.
On the other hand, maybe this is true and the Daily Beast story got it wrong. But if that’s true, why did Trump defend Porter at all? If he really thinks domestic abuse is incurable and “sick,” why hold back when talking to the media? Why not express some disgust and tell them Porter would never work in DC again? Surely Trump must know that would have played better. It might even have helped his image a bit. I don’t know who is telling the truth but something here doesn’t add up.