White House aide Rob Porter resigns amid spousal abuse allegations

UPDATE 2 — 2/10, 10:20 a.m. EST: A second White House staff member, speechwriter David Sorensen, has resigned his position after revelations that he physically and mentally abused his ex-wife.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Jessica Corbett accused Sorensen of physically assaulting her on two separate occasions.  Responding, the former top aide to Maine Gov. Paul LePage denied the allegations and accused his former spouse of committing acts of domestic violence which he documented with photographic evidence.

 

UPDATE — 4:29 p.m. EST: ABC News has reported sources saying White House Chief of Staff John Kelly may resign due to his shaky handling of the Rob Porter domestic violence case and President Trump’s dissatisfaction over the matter. 

According to the media outlet, candidates to replace Gen. Kelly include OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn and North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows.

Tom Barrack, who chaired Trump’s inauguration committee and is one of the president’s strongest allies in the business world, reportedly turned down the job.

 

White House aide Rob Porter resigned his post as staff secretary Wednesday as revelations of inflicting both physical and emotional abuse on two former wives emerged in the Daily Mail.

Porter, 40, had served in the White House since the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017.

Despite a robust defense of Porter mounted by White House personnel, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, media reports are now suggesting senior officials were aware of the allegations prior to his acceptance of a role in the administration.

Early in the week, Kelly described Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor” in response the Daily Mail story.  As evidence against Porter mounted, Kelly expressed shock and accepted Porter’s resignation.

The Washington Post reported Friday afternoon that Kelly told staff members earlier in the day to publicly say he moved to fire Porter less than an hour after learning about the credibility of the domestic violence allegations — contradicting previous accounts of what happened behind-the-scenes.

Allegations against Porter revolve around his first wife, Colbie Holderness, who reported spousal abuse was routine and began almost immediately after their marriage. The allegations are believed to have delayed Porter’s security clearance allowance.

“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.

Interviewed by the FBI, Holderness reportedly informed the Bureau about the incidents and provided photographic evidence.

Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, recounted an incident in which Porter, in a fit of rage, dragged her naked from the shower and assaulted her.

Prior to the dissolution of the marriage, Willoughby contends Porter entered the apartment they shared in violation of terms of separation, forcing Willoughby to seek a restraining order.  She later told CNN that her now ex-husband asked her to “downplay” the turbulent nature of their marriage “asking me to emphasize more the relationship he and I have now”.

Porter has denied the allegations in a statement:

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

Rob Porter & Hope Hicks in Washington, DC, last week (courtesy Daily Mail)

Although White House aides defended Porter, Wednesday’s report appeared to seal his fate.  Responding to inquiries, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Porter had been exemplary in his role at the White House, but would be leaving.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, Porter served as an aide to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch for three years before joining the Trump administration, during which time he apparently started dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

 

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