Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah got pounded with questions about President Donald Trump’s White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned Wednesday after domestic abuse allegations against him became public. Trump, he claimed, was in the dark about the abuse allegations until they became public on Wednesday, though he was under investigation and operating without top security clearance after two ex-wives alleged abuse.
Shah likewise insisted White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, only became “fully” aware of all of the accusations against Porter on Wednesday, though Shah would only cite the photo of an ex wife with a black eye when asked to explain.
Despite Kelly knowing about a protective order filed against Porter, and that he did not have full security clearance while under investigation, Kelly reportedly elevated Porter’s position in the White House and was ferocious in his defense of Porter on Wednesday, speaking of his “integrity and honor. ”
The allegations, Shah insisted, are “deeply troubling” and “shocking,” whereas initial White House reaction to defend Porter against abuse claims “reflected the Rob Porter we have known.” He acknowledged the White House could have done a better job handling the situation.
The investigation of the allegations was still ongoing more than a year after Porter took the position, in which he had access to classified material; that probe is now ended with Porter’s resignation. Shah said his last day was Thursday and that he cleaned out his desk Thursday morning.
But first, Omarosa.
One White House correspondent asked Shah how seriously the White House takes remarks made by former White House
aid/current Celebrity Big Brother competitor, that she is “haunted” by President Trump’s tweets, that things are “bad” inside the White House and that it’s “not going to be okay” there going forward.
“Not very seriously,” Shah shot back.
“Omarosa was fired three times on The Apprentice, and this is the fourth time we let her go. She had little contact with the president while here, and she has no contact now,” he added, smiling.
Shah repeatedly insisted Porter’s alleged history of abuse did not sync up with the much-pedigreed Porter they knew at the White House. Porter, a Harvard grad and Rhodes Scholar, is a former chief of staff for multiple senators, whose father worked in Reagan and the HW Bush White Houses.
Standing up for him in a statement issued Wednesday, Kelly called 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.”
Porter still claims the allegations to be “false” and “slanderous.”
Thursday morning, Kelly released a reluctant-reading do-over statement:
“There is no place for domestic violence in our society. 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. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.”
At today’s press briefing, Shah insisted Porter managed to hold his high-profile White House position despite his sordid past because they could not “short circuit” the security check process, noting “this is not our process.”
“His investigation was ongoing,” Shah said, again and again, noting Porter was “operating on an interim security clearance; his clearance was not denied.”
Asked what so shocked the White House it changed its position on Porter, Shah responded, “the full nature of the allegations, particularly the images.”