White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday after two ex-wives this week publicly accused him of verbal and physical abuse.
Porter denied the allegations in a statement read by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders at the daily press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
Sanders said the White House had not pressured Porter to resign.
“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” Porter, 40, said in his statement. “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.
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“I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”
The Daily Mail, a British publication, reported the allegations against Porter, who is not a marquee name in the administration and has effectively avoided both the spotlight and White House drama.
But he’s been there since day one and is said to have one of the most important behind-the-scenes jobs in the White House because he controls the flow of information that makes it to the president’s desk.
Last year, Business Insider called him “vetter-in-chief.”
“I have worked directly with Rob Porter nearly every day for the last year and the person I know is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character,” Sanders told the Daily Mail in its story, published Tuesday.
“Those of us who have the privilege of knowing him are better people because of it.”
Here are eight things to know about Rob Porter.
1. He is a Harvard Law School graduate. He attended Harvard with White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Porter was president of Harvard’s Republican Club, according to his LinkedIn bio.
2. He is a Rhodes Scholar. According to CNN, Trump was impressed by Porter’s educational resume.
3. He was Orrin Hatch’s chief of staff. Porter previously worked for the Utah senator and two other Republican senators, Rob Portman and Mike Lee. He “has enough behind-the-scenes GOP experience to easily pass as Karl Rove’s debonair alter ego,” the Deseret News in Salt Lake City wrote in an opinion piece last year.
On Tuesday, Hatch issued a statement strongly supporting Porter, calling the reports a “vile attack” and a “cynical campaign to discredit his character.”
But after Porter resigned on Wednesday, Hatch issued a new statement. One of his aides told CNN the original statement no longer applied.
Hatch’s new statement: “I am heartbroken by today’s allegations. In every interaction I’ve had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted adviser. I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”
4. He is Mormon and reportedly spent two years as a missionary in London. He “comes from a strong Latter-day Saint pedigree with a predilection for serving U.S. presidents,” Hal Boyd wrote in the News.
“Porter’s father, Roger, worked under three of the past eight administrations before landing at Harvard. Combining both their tenures, the father-son duo has advised nearly every Republican administration since Gerald Ford.
“Having sat down with Porter in the months prior to his appointment, I can vouch for his intellectual acuity, professional comportment and policy prowess. And as far as integrity is concerned, anyone who wrote a doctoral-length dissertation on C.S. Lewis — as Porter did at Oxford — should be presumed ethical until proven otherwise.”
5. Chief of Staff John Kelly is a big Porter fan — and still is. Media reports about the job Porter did behind the scenes note how his job expanded and became more important after Kelly joined the administration.
As part of Kelly’s stricter system of controlling information to Trump, Porter not only controlled the flow of news clippings, briefing books and documents onto Trump’s desk, but as a lawyer he helped in the legal vetting of documents the president signed, CNN reported.
Porter had also begun traveling more frequently in the Trump entourage, accompanying the president to the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said in a statement after the abuse allegations became public. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
6. He is reportedly dating Hope Hicks, the White House communications director. The Daily Mail ran photos of them together last week before it reported the abuse allegations. They are both single. Hicks has been described as a “Trump whisperer.”
7. There are questions about his White House security clearance. Mainly, did he ever get security clearance? Sanders would not comment when asked at Wednesday’s press briefing. But the Daily Mail and other news outlets have reported that Porter was never given security clearance.
The Intercept news website reported that the FBI learned of the domestic abuse allegations last year when it conducted a background check on Porter. His first wife is said to have shared with the FBI a photo she took of herself after Porter allegedly hit her while they were vacationing in Florence, Italy.
A senior administration official told Politico that Kelly knew that one of Porter’s wives had secured a protective order in 2010, which might have prevented him from getting security clearance.
8. Both ex-wives accused him of abuse. The Daily Mail on Tuesday ran a highly detailed interview with Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, 39, who accused him of abusing her during their marriage from 2009 to 2013.
She told the publication she was always “walking on eggshells” because of his explosive anger, which she allegedly once discussed with a Mormon bishop.
Among the many allegations she leveled, Willoughby described one incident, three days before Christmas in 2010, in which Porter allegedly pulled her naked from the shower by her shoulders to yell at her.
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, also told the Daily Mail that Porter “was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive and that is why I left.” She shared more details about their marriage with the Intercept, which published the details on Wednesday.
Willoughby vouched for her ex-husband’s professional skills.
“I want to be very clear when I say this,” Willoughby told the Daily Mail. “I don’t want to be married to him. I would not recommend anyone to date him or marry him. But I definitely want him in the White House and the position he is in.
“I think his integrity and ability to do his job is impeccable. And the majority of the issues he suffers from are very personal and intimate.”
Porter would not address the allegations, telling the Daily Mail, “I will not comment about these matters, beyond stating that many of these allegations are slanderous and simply false.”
Sanders said Porter’s last day at the White House has not been set yet and he will stay on to ensure a smooth transition for his replacement.