The White House's evolving explanations in the Rob Porter scandal are making less and less sense
February 14 at 7:00 AM Email the author White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Feb. 13 faced repeated questions from reporters about the White House's response to allegations of abuse against Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary. (Reuters)
The White House is flailing with the Rob Porter scandal right now. And Tuesday afternoon laid that bare.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was peppered with questions after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray earlier in the day seemed to contradict the White Houseâs timeline. But while her answers might have explained what Wray said, they conflict with what the White House said previously.
In Wrayâs testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said the FBI had closed its handling of Porterâs background investigation for a security clearance in J anuary. Wray said: âWhat I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July; that, soon thereafter, we received request for follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November; and that we administratively closed the file in January.â
That seemed problematic, given the White House had suggested Porterâs security clearance process had been ongoing. In response, Sanders said at Tuesday afternoonâs briefing that the FBIâs process was indeed done, but that it was the White House personnel security office that âhad not completed their processâ and had still been deciding what to recommend about Porter. In other words, the FBIâs process was done, but the overall process was not. Hence, he was still employed at a high level in the White House with a temporary clearance. The Washington Post reported last week that doze ns of White House employees are awaiting permanent clearances, including President Trumpâs son-in-law, Jared Kushner.The White House faced questions about former staff secretary Rob Porter's Feb. 7 resignation, after two of his ex-wives accused him of abuse. (Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)
There are two big problems regarding Sandersâs statement:
- Itâs completely different from the White Houseâs previous explanations, and
- It suggests the White House personnel security office is somehow ... not in the White House?
Ever since the Porter debacle became a scandal, with the Trump aide resigning in the face of multiple accusations of spousal abuse, the White House has suggested that it was basically hamstrung by the fact that the security clearance process hadnât concluded.
âThis is a process that doesnât operate within the White House,â Sanders said Monday. âItâs handled by our law enforcement and intell igence community. And we support that process.â
Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said much the same thing last week while standing in for Sanders at a briefing.
âIâm not going to get into the specifics of the investigation itself,â Shah said. âI think thatâs a question for the FBI and others. But, you know, this is not our process.â Shah added at another point that Porterâs âbackground investigation was ongoing.â
Except now the word is that background investigation wasnât ongoing and that that process had moved inside the White House â" or at least within a section of the White House that deals with such matters.
But even now, the argument seems to be that whatever the personnel security office knew didnât make its way to top officials like Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. Sanders said Monday, after all, that âwe learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday eveningâ â" Feb . 6.
At the time, it seemed Sanders was leaning pretty hard on the meaning of the word âextent.â Did she mean they knew everything but hadnât seen the pictures of Porterâs alleged abuse? Is she suggesting the personnel security office didnât share all its information with senior officials? The White House hasnât elaborated.
What we know now, though, is that someone inside the White House had lots of information about Porter â" all the information the FBI had â" before Feb. 6. Which is a far cry from how the White House has explained this over the past week.Source: Google News