John Kelly initially defended Rob Porter, accused by two ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse, but later said: ‘There is no place for domestic violence’
White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star general, said on Wednesday that he was “shocked” by allegations of domestic abuse against a senior aide whom Kelly had defended a day earlier as “a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him”.
Donald Trump’s staff secretary Rob Porter, 40, resigned from his post Wednesday after two of his ex-wives aired allegations of physical and emotional abuse in the media.
In a statement, Porter denied the allegations, which were first published on Wednesday by the Daily Mail.
“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” Porter said. “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.
Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told the Daily Mail that he was “verbally, emotionally and physically abusive, and that is why I left”. His second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, made similar allegations to the Mail, saying she had filed an emergency protective order. The article was published with photos appearing to depict Holderness with a bruised eye and a copy of the protective order.
Porter worked closely with Kelly to regulate Trump’s meetings schedule and decide which documents reached his desk.
While Kelly expressed shock at the allegations against Porter, who was promoted during Kelly’s tenure, Porter reportedly had difficulty gaining security clearances owing to the allegations against him.
“There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” Kelly said in his updated 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.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Porter’s decision was a personal one, made independently of other White House officials.
On Tueday, Kelly issued a statement of personal support for Porter.
“He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional,” Kelly said. “I am proud to serve alongside him.”