“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” said Rob Porter in a statement. “I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”
Have a look at the evidence. It’s a pretty convincing smear!
Senior White House aide Rob Porter physically assaulted two ex-wives, they tell @theintercept. Full story to come in the morning.
His first wife, Colbie Holderness, provided these photos from a vacation they took together in Florence, Italy: pic.twitter.com/tl3TbyGA8Y
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) February 7, 2018
Porter said in his statement that he took those photos of his ex’s eye himself and that “the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.” Read The Intercept’s interview with his two former wives and judge for yourself what the likelihood of that is. Theory one: Both women are vindictive liars conspiring to destroy Porter’s career years after having moved on from their relationships with him, even though his second wife openly admits, “I have the utmost respect for him professionally. If there was to be a staff secretary in the Trump administration I hope to God it is Rob.” It’s all part of a very long con aimed at taking him down, with his first wife having confided in her brother and her friend years ago about the abuse in hopes of … framing Porter a decade later, I guess?
Theory two: He abused both of them.
“He only punched me once, in the eye,” [first wife Colbie] Holderness said. It was during a vacation in Florence in 2005. She said, “He threw me down on the bed and punched me in the face. I think he was shocked that he had lost control to that extent.”…
“Up until then, he had always done it in a way that didn’t leave marks,” Holderness said. “I don’t know if that was conscious or not. He would get angry and throw me down on a soft surface — to his credit, it was always a soft surface like a couch or a bed — and he would lay on top of me shaking me, or rubbing an elbow or a knee into me. He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out, or frankly to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing.”…
[A] blogpost [written by second wife Jennifer Willoughby] detailed what Willoughby said was Porter’s abuse. “The first time he called me a ‘fucking bitch’ was on our honeymoon,” Willoughby wrote. “A month later he physically prevented me from leaving the house. Less than two months after that, I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside.”
Willoughby says she was regularly emotionally abused by Porter (“I can think of several times where I was collapsing on the ground in tears and saying, ‘just leave me alone, just stop’ because the anger and the insults were too much”) but was never struck, although he did once allegedly grab her and physically pull her out of the shower to continue an argument they’d been having. She was sufficiently afraid of him to have obtained a protective order in 2010; the Daily Mail published photos of the document yesterday.
Ugly stuff, you may be thinking, but now that Porter’s resigned it’s a personal matter going forward. Maybe so — if not for two things.
1. According to the Intercept, Porter’s ex-wives told the FBI about the abuse when they did a background check on him as part of the hiring process. They saw the photo of his first wife with a black eye. She shared copies of her correspondence with the FBI with the Intercept. So how did he get hired? Even if no one in the West Wing had a moral issue with Porter’s behavior, which would be disgusting, the reason background checks are done is to identify potential blackmail exposure by high-ranking personnel. A foreign actor, having dug up evidence of domestic abuse, could have tried to extort Porter. Someone approved his hiring anyway. Who?
2. Porter was John Kelly’s right-hand man in the White House, responsible for gate-keeping with respect to information that made it to Trump’s desk. Less Infowars, more Wall Street Journal. Kelly came to rely on and respect him, evidently to the point where he developed his own moral blind spot about what Porter was accused of. Kelly, among others, was reportedly urging Porter to “stay and fight” the allegations against him. Fight what, exactly? Testimony from not one but two exes that he was a thug, replete with photo evidence?
Some White House deputies have already started whispering to Vanity Fair that they’re not thrilled with Kelly for going into the tank for an accused abuser, replete with lavish praise for him to the Daily Mail yesterday when the paper asked for comment about the abuse allegations. A simple “I’m troubled, but he’s innocent until proven guilty” would have sufficed but instead Kelly opted for “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” That’s the quote that was circulating online last night at the same time as the pic of Colbie Holderness’s blackeneyed eye. From Vanity Fair:
Kelly’s decision to go to bat for Porter deeply frustrated White House staffers, sources told me. He was supposed to be the West Wing’s resident grown-up, but staffers are increasingly questioning Kelly’s judgment, four Republicans close to the White House told me. “It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him,” one former West Wing official said. Another Republican said: “How many times has Kelly put out a statement defending Trump?”
“Kelly supported Porter even after the F.B.I. delayed granting Porter’s security clearance because they uncovered his alleged history of spousal abuse,” claims VF. Now his boss is saddled with terrible headlines about a wife-beater in the West Wing. The first duty of a chief of staff is to solve problems for the president, not create new ones, and yet here we are. There was no one else beside a credibly accused domestic abuser who Kelly could have found for the very difficult job of keeping Alex Jones transcripts off POTUS’s desk? He should answer for this, if not to the public than to Trump.
Oh, one other not-so-fun fact about the Porter saga: According to the Daily Mail, Porter’s current love interest is … Hope Hicks. Ironically, that may have been his big mistake. Once the DM discovered a week ago who Hicks’s new boyfriend was, it probably went digging on his background and struck gold. Now he’s out of a job, and maybe a girlfriend. What does Hicks do now?
This isn’t an encouraging sign:
CNN: White House communications director Hope Hicks, who has been in a romantic relationship with Rob Porter, was involved in crafting the response to the allegations of domestic abuse leveled against Porter on Tuesday.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) February 7, 2018
Exit quotation, for what it’s worth, from Capitol Hill veteran April Ponnuru:
Let's just say that Rob Porter's reputation as a sleaze and a thug was not exactly a secret on Capitol Hill.
— April Ponnuru (@AprilPonnuru) February 7, 2018
Update: A disgrace.
.@jaketapper: I just wanted to once again note a further erosion of standards for what I thought we had agreed was not okay, not acceptable, and not moral.
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) February 7, 2018
Update: God almighty. Run, Hope:
Both Holderness and Willoughby were contacted by a woman claiming to be Porter’s girlfriend in 2016. In Facebook and text messages reviewed by CNN, the woman, described “repeated abuse” from Porter and sought help from the ex-wives on how to leave him.
“I work in politics, and despite Rob’s repeated abuse, some of which I think many know about, he continues to rise and I’m afraid to go against him,” the woman wrote to Holderness in December 2016. “I’m sorry to bother you. I wanted to reach out and hear your story if you are willing to share — as well as how you broke out of it with him and mostly, how you recovered.”
“Rob was abusive, degrading, a liar and a cheater and during the course of my relationship with him, I found out that he was to others, too,” the woman wrote to Willoughby in February 2016. “I am just searching for someone who might be able to relate to the hell I have gone through.”