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A timeline of the White House's head-scratching responses to the Rob Porter debacle

One week ago, The Daily Mail ran an article with...

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 10:23 PM
Updated: Feb 13, 2018 10:23 PM

One week ago, The Daily Mail ran an article with this headline: "EXCLUSIVE: 'He pulled me, naked and dripping from the shower to yell at me.' Ex-wife of Trump aide Rob Porter, who's dating Hope Hicks, tells how he called her a 'f***ing b***h' on their honeymoon and she filed a protective order against him."

Within 48 hours, Porter had resigned amid a series of allegations from both of his ex-wives about how he physically and mentally abused them as well as a photograph of his first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye.

The Trump White House -- led by President Donald Trump himself -- continues struggling to settle on a timeline of events over when they found out about the accusations against Porter and what they did about it. Trump has said and tweeted sentiments seemingly sympathetic to Porter even as his White House -- via press secretary Sarah Sanders -- insisted that he "take(s) domestic violence very seriously."

It's been a remarkable series of poor decisions, miscalculations and mixed messages. Below, I've documented what the White House said -- and what facts we learned -- over each of the eight days of the Porter scandal. It's a wild ride.

Tuesday, February 6

The Daily Mail story posts just after 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 7

Chief of staff John Kelly releases a statement that reads: "Rob Porter is 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." (We later learn that communications director Hope Hicks, who is romantically involved with Porter, was involved in the crafting of Kelly's hugely supportive statement.)

At 1:53 a.m. Wednesday morning, Ryan Grim, the DC bureau chief of The Intercept, tweets a picture of Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye. "Senior White House aide Rob Porter physically assaulted two ex-wives, they tell @theintercept," reads the tweet. "Full story to come in the morning. His first wife, Colbie Holderness, provided these photos from a vacation they took together in Florence, Italy."

The Intercept publishes a story at 1:33 p.m. that reports that both of Porter's ex-wives told the FBI during a routine background check that he abused them.

Sanders and Porter huddle with a small group of reporters in an off-the-record setting in an attempt to push back on the allegations and get Porter's side of the story heard. That meeting was first reported by Politico.

By Wednesday afternoon, Porter has resigned, although he insists he is innocent. "These outrageous allegations are simply false," he says. "I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."

Sanders, in the daily press briefing, insists that Porter was not forced to resign: "I think that was a personal decision that Rob made, and one that he was not pressured to do, but one that he made on his own."

Kelly stands by his initial supportive statement until almost 9:30 p.m., when the White House issues a new statement from Kelly. "There is no place for domestic violence in our society," he says in the new statement. "I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation."

Thursday, February 8

CNN reports that Kelly -- as well as other senior White House staffers (but not the President) -- knew that Porter's permanent security clearance was on hold and that both of his ex-wives had made allegations against him.

"By early fall, it was widely known among Trump's top aides -- including chief of staff John Kelly -- both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them," CNN reported. "No action was taken to remove him from the staff."

Not only that, but Kelly repeatedly urged Porter to hunker down and try to weather the stories in hopes of keeping someone he has increasingly leaned on to manage Trump on staff.

White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah issues a statement before the start of the daily press briefing that reads in part:

"It is important to remember that Rob Porter has repeatedly denied these allegations, and done so publicly. That doesn't change how serious and disturbing these allegations are. They are upsetting. And the background check investigates both the allegations and the denials. The investigation does not stop when allegations comes to light. It continues to determine the truth.

"We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made, unless they could compromise national security or interfere with operations at the White House. The truth must be determined."

Under questioning, Shah says that Porter was "terminated" shortly after the "full nature" of the allegations became clear. That stands in direct contrast to the reporting froM CNN and others that Kelly knew of the basic parameters of the allegations last fall.

Shah also acknowledges that "we all could have done better over the last few hours - or last few days in dealing with this situation."

Friday, February 9

For the first time, Trump himself addresses Porter's resignation and the accusations against his former staff secretary. Here it is in full:

"Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well.It's obviously a tough time for him.

"He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him, but it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad now.

"Now he also - as you probably know, he says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House."

CNN reports that Trump has grown frustrated with Hicks, who has been, to date, one of his most trusted and loyal advisers.

Saturday, February 10

At 10:33 a.m., Trump tweets this: "Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

Sunday, February 11

Trump allies span out across the Sunday talk shows in an attempt to reframe his comments Friday and his tweet on Saturday.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says that Trump was "very disturbed" by the allegations against Porter. White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short says Trump was "saddened."

Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney suggests that the Trump Saturday tweet wasn't even about Porter at all. "When I saw the tweet -- I know Rob Porter wasn't mentioned -- I wondered if the President was talking about his friend Steve Wynn, who has been accused and essentially condemned without any due process," Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday."

On Sunday night, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports that Trump's attitude in private toward Porter is far different than his public stance. Swan reports that Trump has referred to Porter as a "sick" and lambasted him and his behavior behind closed doors.

Monday, February 12

Reporting out of the White House suggests that aides are perplexed at Trump's public statements versus his private sentiments.

Sanders, under fierce questioning about the still-unclear timeline of who knew what when and the seeming sympathy for Porter in Trump's statements, says this in the daily press briefing:

"The President and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. Above all, the President supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process."

Sanders refuses to address why Trump himself offered no statement clarifying his tweet from Saturday. Of her statement, Sanders says that Trump "literally dictated that statement" to her.

On Monday night, Holderness, Porter's first wife, publishes an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she takes issue with the idea, put forward, she argues, by Conway, that she and Jennifer Willoughby, Porter's second wife, are not strong women.

Tuesday, February 13

In a briefing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, FBI Director Chris Wray says that the bureau reported a completed background investigation on Porter in July 2017 and then responded to a follow-up request in November. The FBI closed its file on Porter in January, according to Wray.

That directly contradicts what Shah said last Thursday. "In this instance, in the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process," said Shah. "That process hadn't been completed."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115407

Reported Deaths: 3566
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21196765
Lake10493323
Elkhart6528110
St. Joseph6392106
Allen6178202
Hamilton4848109
Vanderburgh360930
Hendricks2715123
Monroe256036
Tippecanoe239113
Johnson2305123
Clark221457
Porter213647
Delaware194262
Cass19419
Vigo182526
Madison164375
LaPorte142340
Floyd135862
Howard130563
Warrick128038
Kosciusko121617
Bartholomew116457
Marshall100824
Dubois96919
Boone96846
Hancock92143
Grant91934
Noble90832
Henry79826
Wayne75414
Jackson7499
Morgan71638
Shelby67229
Daviess66328
Dearborn66028
LaGrange63411
Clinton59914
Harrison57624
Putnam56412
Knox5159
Gibson5114
Lawrence51129
Montgomery50821
White48514
DeKalb47611
Decatur45839
Miami4353
Greene42435
Fayette42113
Jasper3942
Steuben3807
Scott37311
Sullivan33712
Posey3240
Jennings31312
Franklin30725
Clay3005
Ripley2968
Orange28824
Carroll27413
Whitley2707
Washington2651
Wabash2648
Starke2637
Adams2613
Wells2614
Jefferson2483
Spencer2413
Fulton2382
Huntington2363
Tipton22622
Perry22113
Randolph2167
Jay1800
Newton17311
Owen1681
Martin1640
Rush1554
Pike1471
Vermillion1280
Fountain1232
Blackford1193
Pulaski1131
Crawford1050
Brown1043
Parke962
Benton880
Ohio787
Union780
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 148894

Reported Deaths: 4734
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26704607
Cuyahoga17375656
Hamilton13036315
Montgomery7755162
Lucas7280364
Butler5933111
Summit5265252
Marion308847
Mahoning3053281
Warren302349
Stark2838175
Pickaway264344
Lorain230786
Delaware223120
Fairfield208753
Columbiana192980
Licking191063
Trumbull1883132
Wood184172
Clark179440
Clermont170723
Lake161951
Medina146039
Greene144432
Allen143069
Miami142851
Portage113266
Mercer111918
Erie93546
Tuscarawas93020
Wayne92767
Ross87924
Richland86119
Madison81512
Darke79942
Belmont71827
Geauga71349
Hancock69510
Athens6692
Ashtabula65748
Lawrence65322
Shelby62510
Auglaize5979
Putnam58523
Sandusky56320
Huron5427
Union5292
Scioto4986
Seneca47014
Ottawa46830
Preble43315
Muskingum4012
Holmes3859
Jefferson3364
Henry31213
Logan3093
Champaign3043
Perry2969
Clinton29413
Defiance28911
Brown2882
Knox28415
Washington26023
Morrow2572
Hardin25213
Jackson2506
Fulton2411
Ashland2374
Crawford2366
Coshocton23411
Fayette2306
Highland2273
Wyandot21012
Williams2073
Gallia18913
Pike1840
Meigs17410
Guernsey1698
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