White House resignation after abuse claims

Another example of abuse claims in the US escalating into a big story, with potentially disproportionate consequences. Rob Porter, a high ranking staff member in the White House, has resigned after two ex-wives publicly accused him of abuse. I don’t think there’s any indication that Trump is involved in this to any extent.

AXIOS: White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigns amid abuse allegations

White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned today after his two ex-wives came forward with abuse allegations.

The allegations:

  • Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, alleged in an interview published Wednesday by the Daily Mail that he kicked her on their honeymoon, progressing to choking and punching her in the face. She provided pictures that were published with the story.
  • Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Daily Mail earlier this weekthat he pulled her naked from the shower shortly after their first anniversary, and that he was verbally abusive. The Daily Mail also obtained a police complaint from 2010 of Porter allegedly punching the glass on a door at their home, which led to her filing a temporary protective order.
  • Willoughby told the Daily Mail that the FBI had interviewed her, along with Holderness. The Daily Mail claimed sources told them that Porter’s “dark past” was the reason for his failure to secure security clearances.

Porter’s statement:

“These outrageous allegations are simply false. 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. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

I think that it’s generally unwise to take sides in domestic disputes when you don’t know exactly what has happened, but the White House is strongly backing Porter.

Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Porter on Tuesday:

Kelly on 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.”

Sanders on Porter: “someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character.”

It’s possible for someone to be professional and effective in a public position, but an arsehole in private.

Does what Porter has been accused of deserve this level of attention? We are in an era when the consequences of past abuse can be huge, and possibly disproportionate to the alleged abuse.

And of course we should have concerns about the possible use of abuse claims to unfairly attack people that have not been found guilty.

Against that abuse had been swept under too many carpets for too long and it was overdue for proper exposure and redress – as long as that redress is based on proven guilt and is reasonably proportionate to the offences.

In this case the claims against Porter look authentic enough. He has a right to defend himself, but denial has long been a part of the cover up of abuses, so he has a problem.

The White House has clearly taken sides. This may or may not be unwise and misguided, but it’s fair to ask questions of White House staff, as Chris Cillizza does: 6 questions about Rob Porter the White House needs to answer

  1. Who knew about this? We know from CNN reporting that “senior White House officials” — including chief of staff John Kelly — knew the basic outlines of the allegations against Porter. Who other than Kelly knew? And what, if anything, did they say or do?
  2. What did Kelly know — and when? It’s clear that Kelly was aware of the accusations against Porter as far back as last fall. But what, exactly, did he know? And when did he learn the severity of what Porter is alleged to have done? Kelly loyalists sought to cover for the chief of staff on Wednesday night, insisting that he was taken aback by the picture of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a black eye — and that no one, Kelly, included, knew the extent of what was being alleged until the past 24 hours.
  3. Did the FBI alert the White House to Porter’s issues? And when? Both of Porter’s ex-wives talked to the FBI about the alleged abuse as part of his background check. Did the FBI alert Kelly — or anyone else in the White House — to the seriousness of the allegations? Is that how Kelly and the other senior White House staffers knew about it? If not, why not?
  4. How was Porter doing his job without a full security clearance? …how can someone in that senior a position not have a full security clearance? It’s been a year. Wouldn’t that raise some red flags for Kelly and others in the White House? And how, logistically speaking, could Porter do his job without a security clearance?
  5. Why was Hope Hicks involved in crafting the Kelly statement? Hicks and Porter are romantically involved. Which makes it very odd that she was part of a small group tasked with writing a statement from Kelly that offered a full-throated defense of Porter.
    This is that statement: “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.”
    It’s that statement that Kelly kind of, sort of walked back on Wednesday night. But couldn’t anyone see how Hicks writing it might be sort of a conflict?
  6. How much did Trump know and how did he react? According to CNN reporting, Trump was informed of the allegations around Porter earlier this week when the Daily Mail story broke. But, what, exactly was he told? And, what was his reaction? Did he support the full-throated defense of Porter from Kelly? Did he even know about it? Did he urge Kelly to have that response? Or did Trump want Porter out? If he did, why didn’t it happen? (Remember that Porter resigned. He wasn’t fired.)

While this is a serious issue for Porter and his two ex-wives, it hardly warrants becoming a serious national issue. Unless the White House are trying to cover up for and defend Porter, if he is guilty? Their support of Porter is somewhat complicated by Hicks’ romantic involvement.

It’s also fair to ask why this has become an issue now, when the alleged offences happened many years ago.

Is anyone guilty of some sort of past abuse, or perceived or alleged abuse, fair game if they are in a prominent position?

In some ways I think that disproportionate consequences are necessary to bring an insidious problem out in the open and deal to it. Many people have suffered more than they should have through suppression of proper redress.

But there’s a difficult line between dealing with the problem belatedly but fairly, and unfairly, and complicated by widely different circumstances of each case.

The brutal way politics is done in the US complicates things even further.

Addressing abuses is long overdue, and some victims will be vindicated and feel that at last justice is done, but there’s likely to be some casualties along the way.

Leave a comment


  1. PDB

     /  9th February 2018

    We have come to an era where allegations are considered fact without going through due process and where guilt is presumed in the first instance rather than innocence.

    Sad days indeed.

    • Pickled Possum

       /  9th February 2018

      ” We have come to an era where allegations are considered fact without going through due process and where guilt is presumed in the first instance rather than innocence “.
      Said Maori of today.
      Sad days indeed

      • PDB

         /  9th February 2018

        “Said Maori of today”

        What do they say? “Everybody else’s fault”?

    • Gezza

       /  9th February 2018

      Obama’s birth certifcate
      McCarthy era
      The Bible talks about it
      Gone on since forever

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  9th February 2018

    I really hate the way that if someone wants to ruin someone else’s career, all they have to do is make an allegation. No proof needed.

    • Pickled Possum

       /  9th February 2018

      Bout time you got here! Miss the boyz are allegedly misbehaving today with gramma and punches all over the show. Go sort them out Miss, please. It will/could turn into a blood bath all over allegations. Thank you oh sane one in advance of you correcting this shambles the boyz have allegedly started.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  9th February 2018

        Possum, did I tell you about the gecko who was standing on the doorstep waiting for me to open it so that he could come in ? He did, but was guided out again. If I knew that they could find their way out again, I’d love to see them walking around the house.


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