Allegations of domestic violence can be grounds for the government to deny security clearances to aspiring officials. Yet Porter had sat in on meetings of the National Security Council where top secret matters were discussed, according to three people familiar with the situation. Someone in his position would have had an interim clearance while the FBI conducted a background check, according to one official.
Senior staff at the White House apply for five-year clearances, and the process can be lengthy -- some current officials are still waiting, aides said. Porter never received a permanent clearance.
"The fact that Porter might have held a senior White House position without a security clearance is troubling and merits a full investigation," said Chris Lu, former Cabinet secretary under President Barack Obama and senior fellow at the University of Virginia Miller Center. "I've lost count as to how many Trump appointees have been sidelined because of their past views or conduct... But this is further evidence of a non-existent vetting process."
Given the allegations made by his former wives, who The Intercept said were interviewed by the FBI as part of Porter's background check, some White House aides said they too were disturbed that he had access to top secret information.
All of the officials interviewed for this story requested anonymity to discuss a personnel and national security matter.
A president's staff secretary typically would be cleared at a level of security called Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information, allowing the aide to handle extremely sensitive information, according to a former White House official with knowledge of the process. The secretary would have access to two computer systems, one classified and the other unclassified, the former official said.
Staff secretaries are also typically privy to information in the classified President's Daily Briefing, a summary of intelligence on threats to the U.S., the former official said.
Porter's ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the DailyMail.com -- the U.S. web site of a U.K. tabloid -- that he had difficulty controlling his anger and at one point pulled her out of the shower and yelled at her. She took out the protective order against him in after he allegedly violated a separation agreement and punched through glass in the door of their home, cutting himself. The web site published a copy of the order.
Porter's other ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, provided a brief statement to DailyMail.com alleging Porter had abused her, but the web site didn't detail her claims. The Intercept published its interview with Holderness on Wednesday.
Some White House aides were particularly disturbed by the photo The Intercept published of Holderness with a black eye. She told the publication Porter punched her while they were on vacation.