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White House chief said to have been alerted on Trump aide's past

Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly knew that President Donald Trump's staff secretary had issues in his past possibly impeding a permanent security clearance before news reports this week on domestic violence allegations against the aide, people familiar with the matter said.

A deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin, was concerned that Rob Porter hadn't yet passed a background check more than a year into his tenure and briefed his boss, Kelly, the people said. Porter continued in his high-level job while his bosses waited for the conclusion of the staff secretary's security clearance investigation, the people said.

Kelly and Hagin didn't know the specific allegations against the staff secretary, the people said. Kelly asked Hagin a few weeks ago to dig deeper into why there had been delays in background checks of certain key staff, including Porter. Meanwhile, the Porter that Kelly and other top staff saw every day at the White House was excellent at his job and cordial to his colleagues.

The episode is another staffing embarrassment for Trump and may threaten Kelly's standing in the White House. Several aides and White House advisers expressed disgust and said Kelly had failed the president if he knew about Porter's history with his ex-wives and didn't inform Trump.

After issuing a complimentary statement on Porter earlier on Wednesday, Kelly said in the evening that he "was shocked by the new allegations released today. There is no place for domestic violence in our society."

Trump didn't know about Porter's history with the two ex-wives before Tuesday, when the approached the White House with details of an interview with one of the women, two White House officials said.

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Porter announced on Wednesday he would resign but without leaving the White House immediately. Realization about the seriousness of the abuse allegations grew within the White House after The Intercept published an interview with a second ex-wife and a photo of what she said was a black eye inflicted by Porter.

He denied both of the ex-wives' allegations. His last day at the White House is now today.

Porter's title understates his significance in the White House. He served as a clearinghouse for paperwork coming in or out of the Oval Office, and he was an important influence on policy in his own right. Few aides enjoyed greater access to the Oval Office, or spent more time in the president's company. He also played a vital role in helping Kelly try to bring order to the White House.

Trump didn't mention Porter when he gathered with lawmakers, members of the military and former Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House on Tuesday evening to watch the movie "12 Strong." Porter's situation wasn't discussed in the White House's senior staff meeting on Wednesday led by Kelly, but it was addressed in smaller groups, aides said.


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