White House responds to Rob Porter resignation

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responds to the resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who has decided to leave the Trump administration following allegations of abuse from his two ex-wives.

Posted: Feb 8, 2018 11:52 AM
Updated: Feb 8, 2018 11:52 AM

Rob Porter, a top White House aide with regular access to President Donald Trump abruptly resigned on Wednesday amid abuse allegations from two ex-wives, who each detailed to CNN what they said were years of consistent abuse from Porter, including incidents of physical violence.

Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, and Jennifer Willoughby, Porter's second wife, both said their ex-husband's consistent abuse was the reason for their respective divorces.

Porter denied the allegations in a statement issued in the wake of his resignation.

The allegations were first reported earlier this week by the Daily Mail.

"These outrageous allegations are simply false," he said in his statement. "I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."

White House chief of staff John Kelly called Porter "a man of true integrity and honor and I can't say enough good things about him."

"He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him," Kelly said in a statement.

Colbie Holderness

In a lengthy interview, Holdnerness, who married Porter in 2003, told CNN on Wednesday that the physical abuse began almost immediately after their wedding. The couple went to the Canary Islands for their honeymoon in the summer of 2003, when Holderness said Porter kicked her thigh during a fight.

"I didn't quite know how to take it," Holderness said. "I had just tied the knot with him."

She said that Porter's repeated physically abusive behavior also included throwing her on the bed and forcefully pushing one of his limbs into her body in anger and choking her.

"The thing he would do most frequently is he would throw me down on a bed and he would just put his body weight on me and he'd be yelling at me but as he was yelling he'd me grinding an elbow or knee into my body to emphasize his anger," she said. The choking, she said, "was just very scary and dehumanizing," and she said she didn't realize the severity of the situation until she spoke with a counselor.

In the summer of 2005, the couple was in Florence, Italy, when Holderness said he punched her in the face -- the only time, Holdnerness says, when she remembers her ex-husband leaving a physical mark on her body.

"I think it shocked him and it shocked me. It never happened again, it was a one-time thing," she said.

Holderness shared photos Porter took of her with CNN. Porter said in a statement that he had taken the photographs.

"I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described," he said.

Holderness said though Porter did take them, she stands by her account.

"He's wrong in that the circumstances are exactly what I described. In contrition I made them take the photos. In his contrition, I had him take photos of what he did," she told CNN.

Her brother, Trevor Paulson, and a close girlfriend who declined to be named, both told CNN on Wednesday that Holderness had confided in them over the years about Porter's abuse.

Jennifer Willoughby

Willoughby, who married Porter in 2009, told CNN that she also endured deeply disturbing emotional abuse from her ex-husband. During their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, the bursts of anger that she had already become familiar with were "more intense," she said.

"He started calling me names, calling me a 'f---ing bitch,' how I behaved was 'f---ing ridiculous' and most of that was instigated around my not having sex with him often enough on our honeymoon," Willoughby said.

Similar to Holderness and Porter, Willoughby said she and Porter also sought therapy and eventually separated.

Around the spring of 2010, Willoughby said Porter came looking for her at their previously shared home and it appeared that he had punched a glass pane on the front door.

"The window on the door was broken and his hand was bleeding and he was requesting to be able to come in and seek medical attention. At that point, I was scared, and he also wasn't supposed to be there to begin with," she said.

The police eventually came and recommended that she take out a temporary protective order. CNN reviewed a copy of the order dated June 2010.

The only incident, Willoughby said, in which Porter physically abused her was in December of 2010.

"We were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me," she said. "He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right."

She said the two divorced in 2013.

A third woman

Both Holderness and Willoughby were contacted by a woman claiming to be Porter's girlfriend in 2016. In Facebook and text messages reviewed by CNN, the woman, described "repeated abuse" from Porter and sought help from the ex-wives on how to leave him.

"I work in politics, and despite Rob's repeated abuse, some of which I think many know about, he continues to rise and I'm afraid to go against him," the woman wrote to Holderness in December 2016. "I'm sorry to bother you. I wanted to reach out and hear your story if you are willing to share -- as well as how you broke out of it with him and mostly, how you recovered."

"Rob was abusive, degrading, a liar and a cheater and during the course of my relationship with him, I found out that he was to others, too," the woman wrote to Willoughby in February 2016. "I am just searching for someone who might be able to relate to the hell I have gone through."

The woman currently works in the federal government. CNN has repeatedly attempted to reach her and is not naming her.

White House role

Both Holderness and Willoughby said they were contacted by the FBI last year and interviewed regarding Porter's security clearance. Both women told CNN that they were honest with the FBI about their respective troubled marriages.

A source familiar with the matter said Porter ran into trouble obtaining a security clearance for working at the White House when one of his ex-wives raised the issue of domestic violence with investigators.

Porter has been dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, one of the most influential figures in the West Wing, several people familiar with their relationship say.

A former chief of staff to Sen. Orrin Hatch, Porter joined the White House at the beginning of Trump's administration, though he wasn't well-known to the President like other top West Wing staffers.

As staff secretary, Porter's responsibility was mainly in the flow of paper that crossed Trump's desk, including the wave of executive orders and actions that Trump inked during the first months of his tenure. A lawyer, Porter also participated in the process of legal vetting the myriad documents that require the President's signature.

Porter's role was under-the-radar, and Trump himself remained largely unfamiliar with him for weeks before his role was explained. The President was impressed by Porter's educational credentials — including degrees from Harvard and Oxford — a person familiar with the matter said.

When John Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, Porter's role expanded. Kelly imposed a strict system of information flow to the President, elevating the importance of Porter's task in managing the documents, news clipping, and briefing books that entered the Oval Office.

He was also seen as a neutral arbiter between warring West Wing factions, helping bridge gaps between those who worked on Trump's campaign and the faction of aides who came from other Republican circles. Kelly in particular viewed Porter as a right-hand man who would impose his system of order even in his absence.

Porter began traveling more frequently in Trump's entourage, including during last month's trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Kelly himself remained behind in Washington, as did the top policy adviser Stephen Miller.

A person familiar with West Wing dynamics said Porter has expressed interest in an elevated policy role over the past weeks, beyond the position he currently holds. He's been approached by private sector firms over the past several months with offers to leave the administration, and has considered them, but told colleagues earlier this year that he wasn't planning on leaving the White House, the person said.

White House staff secretaries play an important role in the West Wing, though the position has varied in stature. Under President Barack Obama, the role was downgraded to a "deputy assistant to the president" title. Trump restored the job as an "assistant to the president."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 324537

Reported Deaths: 5594
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion44186858
Lake28094462
Allen18660301
Elkhart17663230
St. Joseph17256234
Hamilton13612170
Vanderburgh10028121
Tippecanoe896729
Porter855386
Johnson6718169
Hendricks6412158
Vigo625889
Monroe550450
Clark531078
Madison5239122
Delaware5075103
LaPorte481196
Kosciusko475941
Howard364177
Bartholomew335365
Warrick335372
Floyd329478
Wayne325678
Marshall311846
Cass303931
Grant287150
Hancock272957
Noble264946
Henry256437
Boone255054
Dubois245631
Dearborn228231
Jackson226334
Morgan221243
Gibson194926
Knox193021
Shelby192656
Clinton185421
DeKalb183932
Lawrence183849
Wabash172821
Adams172422
Miami170815
Daviess163145
Fayette153734
Steuben153414
Jasper151713
Montgomery149327
Harrison147624
LaGrange146131
Ripley145815
Whitley142314
Huntington133510
Decatur132543
Putnam131128
White131022
Wells130130
Clay130023
Randolph128121
Posey125816
Jefferson124116
Scott114520
Greene106053
Sullivan102716
Jay101913
Starke95022
Jennings90414
Spencer8908
Fulton87519
Perry85121
Fountain8228
Washington8127
Franklin73427
Carroll71913
Orange70028
Vermillion6607
Owen6468
Tipton60327
Parke6026
Newton57812
Rush5708
Blackford56612
Pike52719
Pulaski41815
Martin3705
Benton3643
Brown3574
Crawford3081
Union2782
Switzerland2655
Warren2562
Ohio2387
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 399808

Reported Deaths: 6346
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin52652672
Cuyahoga39132746
Hamilton31491372
Montgomery21355242
Butler15768149
Lucas15301420
Summit14667330
Stark9780209
Warren878777
Mahoning7985301
Lake752566
Lorain7149106
Clermont622953
Delaware597337
Licking589977
Trumbull5867148
Fairfield576464
Greene559568
Clark5438129
Allen518389
Medina496557
Marion489359
Wood4861108
Miami456268
Pickaway410548
Portage385574
Columbiana376599
Tuscarawas360567
Richland349639
Wayne340894
Mercer299248
Muskingum262510
Hancock257240
Ross251259
Darke246160
Auglaize243935
Erie240868
Ashtabula240454
Putnam234549
Geauga227051
Union20838
Scioto204316
Lawrence201139
Shelby199917
Athens19984
Seneca192919
Belmont176729
Madison172019
Sandusky166429
Huron163022
Preble162521
Defiance149923
Holmes146939
Knox139719
Logan139018
Jefferson138113
Fulton135826
Crawford134417
Washington133427
Ottawa128830
Ashland117328
Williams11479
Clinton113115
Highland108118
Brown10755
Hardin107019
Henry105423
Champaign10535
Jackson102012
Van Wert99918
Fayette97317
Guernsey96814
Morrow9682
Coshocton91015
Perry86613
Adams83813
Gallia81615
Pike7921
Wyandot76118
Paulding70012
Hocking68516
Noble65124
Carroll53210
Meigs41712
Monroe34921
Morgan2925
Harrison2433
Vinton2326
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 33°
Angola
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 29°
Huntington
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 33°
Decatur
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 32°
Van Wert
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 32°
Warm Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events