John Kelly Faces Pressure Following Handling of Rob Porter’s Abuse Allegations

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is facing pressure after his handling of former Staff Secretary Rob Porter’s domestic violence allegations. Kelly has been criticized by lawmakers and the press alike for his delayed action on the allegations. Porter has been accused of emotional and physical violence by his two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby. Rob Porter resigned from his position in the White House earlier this week.

In his capacity at the White House, Porter was responsible for controlling the flow of documents to the President’s desk. Porter’s role is one that is not in the public eye often; however, with John Kelly’s ascension to Chief of Staff in July, Porter’s role escalated and he traveled with President Trump much more regularly. The accusations began to become known to some in the White House when Porter’s White House security clearance was delayed, seemingly resulting from the accounts of abuse from his ex-wives.

Chief of Staff Kelly drew public ire from the statement he made in reference to the alleged abuse, where he used the phrase “slanderous and simply false.” Kelly faced the brunt of his criticism due to his defense of Porter after his knowledge of the allegations were made known. Kelly learned of the accusations of domestic violence against Porter in the fall, when he inquired into the status of Porter’s security clearance. Kelly continued to defend Porter in solidarity, only recanting his previous statement of support hours after a graphic photo of the alleged violence became public. Rob Porter has refuted these allegations, saying, “These outrageous allegations are simply false. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

A women’s group has called for Kelly to resign from his position as chief of staff, however, there are currently no signs that President Trump is leaning that way. According to those close to the him, President Trump has expressed anger to his informal advisers that he was not told about the alleged abuse earlier. This would not be the first time John Kelly has caught the eye of the President, as President Trump was frustrated with Kelly when he seemed to suggest that the President was switching positions on his border wall plan.

President Trump released a statement himself where he reaffirmed his view that Porter did good work in the White House. “We wish him well; he worked very hard, we found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” President Trump said of the former aide. “But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

As Chief of Staff Kelly’s future in the White House is unknown, he has expressed in private his willingness to resign if President Trump wishes. Derek Lyons has since been elevated to the position of Staff Secretary, filling the absence left by Rob Porter’s resignation.

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