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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

"I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence very seriously," Kelly said in the letter. "We understand the shock, pain and confusion that these allegations have caused in our workplace."

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.

A president's staff secretary typically would be cleared for a level of security called Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information, allowing him or her 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.

"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."

While Kelly has earned plaudits from many in the West Wing for imposing structure onto the presidential decision-making process, the president and his closest advisers have bristled at his attempts to limit the access of the sprawling diaspora of friends, business leaders, media figures and former advisers with whom Trump regularly consorted.

Trump also appeared angered by Kelly's handing of immigration negotiations on Capitol Hill. According to reports, he told congressional Democrats that the president was "uninformed" during the campaign when he promised a physical barrier spanning the entirety of the Southern border paid for by Mexico.

In a subsequent television interview, Kelly, the former Department of Homeland Security secretary, said the president had "evolved in the way he looks at things" -- drawing a rebuke from Trump on Twitter, who said his plan had "never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."

Kelly went on to infuriate immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers on Feb. 6 when he said some young immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had failed to apply for the legal protections because they were too afraid -- or "too lazy to get off their asses."

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