WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Friday that he found out about the abuse allegations against his close aide Rob Porter "recently" and was "surprised by it."
Talking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump mentioned twice that Porter says he's innocent. Porter's two ex-wives say they gave detailed accounts and documentation to FBI agents conducting a background check of Porter, claiming that he was physically and emotionally abusive. One provided a photo of her badly blackened eye. The other says Porter grabbed her in a fit of rage and pulled her out of the shower.
Porter's sudden departure Wednesday raised questions about how he could have worked so closely as the president's secretary and handled the West Wing's most sensitive documents for more than a year without senior staff knowing of allegations that could have left him open to blackmail.
Without mentioning the women, Trump said Porter "did a very good job" working in the West Wing and said he "will have a great career" ahead of him.
"He also, as you probably know, says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that," Trump said. "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."
Trump's comments about Porter echoed his defense of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teenage girls years ago and molesting two of them. Moore denied the allegations.
"He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen," Trump told reporters in November during the weeks before Moore's eventual loss to Democrat Doug Jones.
Trump also has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women. He denies the allegations.
Chief of staff John Kelly is under fire for his handling of Porter's departure. Kelly initially defended Porter's "honor" when the allegations became public earlier this week. But after a photograph of the battered face of one of Porter's ex-wives was published, Kelly issued another statement saying he stood by his earlier praise of Porter but that he was "shocked by the new allegations."
In a statement White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read to reporters on Wednesday, Porter called his ex-wives' claims "outrageous" and "simply false."
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