Amid reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly was fully aware of the domestic violence accusations against Trump staff secretary Rob Porter months ago but opted to do nothing about them, officials told the Washington Post on Friday that Kelly is now pressuring aides to claim he “took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes” of learning about the disturbing accounts of physical abuse.
“John Kelly knew about Rob Porter for months and did nothing. Enablers of abuse must be held accountable. John Kelly must go.”
“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one anonymous White House official told the Post, an account that conflicts with news reports of Kelly’s private maneuvers—such as imploring Porter to “stay and fight”—as well as his public statements.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, which first reported on the domestic violence accusations brought by Porter’s two ex-wives, Kelly defended the staff secretary as a “man of true integrity and honor.”
Kelly would later say in a memo sent Thursday that the allegations against Porter are “shocking and troubling,” though he continued to stand by his previous endorsement of Porter’s character.
Increasingly under fire not only for failing to remove Porter but also for continuing to hand him even more responsibilities, Kelly is now reportedly engaged in an attempt to rewrite history that has left some White House officials in “disbelief.”
Kelly—who, as a detailed report by The Intercept on Friday notes, is just one of the many “powerful men” who worked hard to save Porter’s job—is also instructing his subordinates to “convey to other White House aides he cares about domestic violence,” according to the Post.
News of Kelly’s apparent disinformation push comes as women’s rights groups are ramping up calls for him to resign.
According to The Intercept, President Donald Trump has also grown “incensed” with the way Kelly has handled the entire episode and has begun to seriously consider replacing him.
“A source close to Trump, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak, said Kelly decided not to tell Trump about Porter’s clearance issues,” The Intercept reported on Friday.
If Trump is angry about the abuse accusations themselves—and not merely about being kept out of the loop—he isn’t showing it.
“We wish him well,” Trump told reporters on Friday, not once mentioning the women Porter allegedly assaulted. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and 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.”