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Trump defends Rob Porter: 'He … says he's innocent'

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Friday praised former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House Thursday amid a domestic abuse scandal involving allegations from two ex-wives.

"We wish him well, he worked very hard. We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it's a tough time for him," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "He did a very good job when he was in the White House."

Despite images handed over to media outlets from his first wife showing her with a black eye she says Porter gave her on their honeymoon in the early-2000s, the president said White House officials "hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him."

The president, breaking his silence on the matter, said he was "very sad" when he learned about the charges, which Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly knew about months ago.

Porter also is "certainly ... also very sad now," Trump said.

The president again defended Porter near the end of his remarks about the former staffer.

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"He also, as you probably know, says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that," said the president, who has faced sexual assault charges from multiple women. "He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House."

On Thursday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah announced Porter had left the White House staff for good. "His last day was yesterday," Shah said. "I know he came in today to clean out his stuff."

Shah called the assault allegations "serious and disturbing," ramping up the White House's reaction after defending Porter much of Wednesday.

"They're upsetting," Shah said.

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