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Aide's departure casts a harsh light on Trump's chief of staff

Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The sudden resignation of one of President Donald Trump's top aides amid allegations of domestic abuse raised fresh questions about chief of staff John Kelly's ability to bring a tumultuous White House under control.

The episode risked tarnishing Kelly's reputation for running a tight ship and possibly weakened his political clout in Washington at a time when Trump is looking to build support on both sides of the aisle over contentious issues like immigration.

Kelly's ability to lead is also being questioned within the West Wing: several White House aides said that he had failed Trump if he had known about the allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter and not informed the president.

Kelly came further criticism for his response. When Porter resigned on Wednesday, Kelly offered only a glowing statement of the senior aide. Later that evening, he released a second statement, saying that he "was shocked by the new allegations" and that "there is no place for domestic violence in our society."

People familiar with the matter said Kelly was aware there were issues in Porter's past impeding his permanent security clearance more than a year into his tenure. White House officials declined to go into more detail about how much Kelly knew about them and when he had first been informed.

Porter has denied the allegations.

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When asked in a briefing on Thursday why the White House and Kelly had stood behind Porter amid the allegations, Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah acknowledged that communications had reflected their positive views of Porter as a colleague.

"I think it's fair to say that we all could have done better over the last few hours -- or last few days -- in dealing with this situation," Shah said. "The emerging reports were not reflective of the individual who we had come to know."

Shah said that Kelly only became "fully aware" of the allegations this week. He declined to give details about how much the chief of staff had known before that. Shah added that Kelly retained the president's confidence.

On Thursday night, a White House official released a letter that Kelly had written to White House employees seeking to allay their concerns over the accusations against Porter.

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