President Trump was asked to respond Friday to the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned in the midst of the furor over accusations of spousal abuse by his two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby. Both women went on record with the FBI a year ago detailing the physical violence as Porter was trying to obtain a security clearance. Holderness, his first ex-wife, even had photographs of her black eyes, which she shared with CNN as evidence.
Still, Porter has denied the accusations, calling them "outrageous."
"As you probably know, he says he's innocent," Trump told the press corps Friday, adding that he was "surprised" by the allegations.
"He did a very good job when he was in the White House," the president continued. "We hope he has a wonderful career."
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah addressed the allegations at Thursday's press briefing, telling reporters that the charges were "serious and disturbing." He went on to explain that while Porter had an interim security clearance, the accusations against him were part of an ongoing investigation being done by federal authorities. He acknowledged the White House could have done a better job handling the situation.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is facing much of the heat for Porter's hire after some media reported that he knew about the allegations since the fall. Kelly had previously referred to Porter as a “man of true integrity and honor.” Since the new reports, he has expressed his "shock," with other White House officials insisting Porter misled them about the severity of the allegations.
"I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter," Kelly said in a 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."
Kelly added that he accepted Porter's resignation and will ensure "a swift and orderly transition."