Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah addressed the allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter Thursday during the press briefing, calling them both "serious and disturbing."
"The allegations made against Rob Porter, as we understand them, involved incidents long before he joined the White House," he said, explaining that Porter had an interim security clearance and that the accusations against him--as well as his denials--were part of an ongoing investigation being done by federal authorities to determine his eligibility.
"It's important to remember that Rob Porter has repeatedly denied these allegations and has done so publicly," Shah said Thursday. "That doesn't change how serious and disturbing these allegations are."
"His background investigation was ongoing," he said of Porter. "The investigation does not stop when allegations come to light, it continues to determine the truth."
He added: "We should not short circuit an investigation just because allegations are made unless they compromise national security or interfere with operations of the White House. The truth must be determined."
He said both White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and President Trump were not fully aware of the details but acknowledged the White House could've handled the situation better.
"I think it's fair to say that we all could have done better in the last few hours, the last few days, to deal with this situation," he told reporters.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he was “shocked” Wednesday by the allegations of domestic abuse against former staff secretary Rob Porter by two of his ex-wives. Porter had resigned earlier in the day.
"I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” Kelly said in a statement. “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,” he added. “I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition."
Both of his ex-wives spoke to the Daily Mail about Porter’s verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse, which included choking and punching, during their respective marriages.
The White House has come under fire for releasing statements praising Porter's character before the allegations came out.
Kelly had previously called him a “man of true integrity and honor,” while White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he’s "someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character."
Some media outlets are even calling into question what top White House officials already knew about the accusations against Porter.
CNN, for example, reported that Kelly and other top Trump aides were aware of the domestic abuse allegations in early fall, which made it hard to obtain a security clearance for him.
But according to The New York Times, White House officials said Porter misled Kelly and other aides about the severity of the allegations. "[Porter] had portrayed the women as making up stories to cause trouble, and few, if any, aides in the White House considered conducting their own investigations to discover what might have taken place, the officials said," the Times reports.
Porter has denied the allegations, calling them “outrageous” and “simply false.”
"These outrageous allegations are simply false. 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. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign,” he said.
“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”