White House reels as FBI director contradicts official claims about alleged abuser – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON – The White House struggled Tuesday to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against a senior official, as it reeled from sworn testimony by the FBI chief that directly contradicted what President Donald Trump’s aides had presented as the official version of events.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the agency completed a background report on then-staff secretary Rob Porter last July and closed out the case entirely last month. Wray’s account is at odds with White House claims that the investigation required for Porter’s security clearance was “ongoing” until he left his job last week after his two ex-wives publicly alleged physical and emotional abuse.

The latest bout of turbulence is exacaberated by the administration’s reputation, earned over 13 chaotic months, for both flouting institutional norms and misrepresenting facts to the public – a culture set by the president himself.

The public relations fallout is further compounded by Trump’s own history of alleged sexual assault and his seeming reluctance to publicly condemn violence against women and give voice to the national #MeToo reckoning.

Trump has said little publicly about the Porter issue other than to praise the former aide for doing “a very good job.” But he has privately expressed frustration with the week-long fallout, peppering aides and confidants with questions about the media coverage and how the controversy is playing for him personally.

The Porter drama has become all-consuming, creating an atmosphere of chaos and infighting reminiscent of the “Games of Thrones” stage early in Trump’s presidency – and distracting from the administration’s budget and infrastructure agenda.

Inside the West Wing, a growing number of aides blamed Trump’s second White House chief of staff, John Kelly, for the bungled handling of allegations against Porter, who left his job last week. Trump in recent days has begun musing about possible replacements, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.

Asked by a reporter to assess Kelly’s standing with Trump after a week of troubling revelations, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “the president has confidence in his chief of staff.”

But Kelly does not enjoy the confidence of an increasing number of his subordinates, some of whom said they believe the retired four-star Marine Corps general has misled them.

Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official, who demanded anonymity to share a candid opinion. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”

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