The Latest: FBI, White House conflict on Porter case
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on White House security clearances (all times local):
The FBI says it gave the Trump administration information on multiple occasions last year about a top aide accused of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives, and the investigation wrapped up in January.
That account by FBI Director Christopher Wray challenges the White House assertion that Rob Porter’s background “investigation was ongoing” and officials first learned the extent of accusations against him only last week, just before he abruptly resigned.
Wray’s testimony marks the latest development in a scandal that has called into question the judgment of senior members of the White House staff, put new stress on the administration’s already strained credibility with the public, and drawn accusations of tone-deaf handling of abuse allegations.
The White House says the security clearance review for a former top staffer was still ongoing when he resigned last week, despite a completed FBI background check.
FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed Tuesday that the FBI had closed its investigation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter in January.
But press secretary Sarah Sanders says the White House’s assertion that Porter’s clearance was still under review with an interim clearance is accurate — because Porter hadn’t received a final sign-off from the White House office of personnel security.
“We find those statements to be consistent with one another,” Sanders says.
Porter resigned last week amid domestic violence accusations from his ex-wives.
Wray also revealed that White House officials were provided with Porter’s background check findings last year.
FBI Director Christopher Wray is providing new details that call into question the White House timeline leading up to the departure of former staff secretary Rob Porter.
Wray tells senators that the FBI administratively closed its file on Porter, who was operating under a temporary security clearance, in January, a month before Porter departed amid domestic abuse allegations. Wray says the FBI provided information to the White House on Porter in November, “then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”
Wray is declining to elaborate on what information was passed on to the White House.
The White House has repeatedly said that Porter’s “background investigation was ongoing” when he resigned his position, and that the first the White House learned of the allegations against him was last Tuesday.
The Trump administration’s intelligence chief says the government’s background checks system is “broken” and must be completely overhauled.
Dan Coats’ assessment came in a telephone interview with The Associated Press as questions swirl about a top White House aide who maintained access to highly sensitive information and the president himself despite accusations of domestic violence.
Rob Porter, who as staff secretary handled the president’s paper flow, resigned last week.
Coats said, “We have a broken system and I think everybody’s come to agree with that now.”
Coast said the government needs to “basically start with a clean sheet,” using new technologies to weed out those who shouldn’t be in government, but in a way that “doesn’t leave us with hundreds of thousands waiting to be looked at and certified.”
The first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter is pushing back on comments by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway that seemed to suggest smart women can’t be victims of domestic violence.
Conway said in an interview on CNN that she had no reason to doubt the women making allegations of abuse against Porter. But when asked if she was concerned for top White House aide Hope Hicks, who is dating Porter, Conway said no because “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Porter’s ex-wife Colbie Holderness said Conway’s comment “implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ.”
Porter has resigned from the White House.