House panel to investigate White House’s handling of Rob Porter’s spousal abuse and security clearance
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said on Wednesday that the committee is investigating the White House’s employment of senior aide Rob Porter, after allegations emerged that Porter abused his two ex-wives.
The Committee also launched an investigation into the security clearance for Porter on Wednesday, escalating a growing controversy into what the White House knew about allegations against President Donald Trump’s senior aide.
Porter resigned last week as White House staff secretary, but Trump administration officials have been dogged by claims that they kept Porter on even after they were informed of the accusations.
Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina sent letters to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and FBI Director Christopher Wray, demanding answers about who in the White House knew of the accusations by the two ex-wives.
“The committee is investigating the policies and processes by which interim security
clearances are investigated and adjudicated within the executive branch, and the extent to which any security clearance issued to Porter comported with those policies and processes,” Gowdy said in the letters.
Porter, whose job as staff secretary gave him access to some of the most sensitive documents the president sees, was allowed to work on an interim security clearance until he resigned last week when the accusations came to light. Two of Porter’s ex-wives accused him of physical abuse, and told FBI agents that he could be susceptible to blackmail.
“You can call it official, you can call it unofficial,” Gowdy said. “I’m going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer. And if they don’t answer them, then they’re going to need to give me a really good reason.”
The White House has struggled to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against Porter. Sworn testimony by FBI Director Christopher Wray directly contradicted what President Trump’s aides have said publicly about when the bureau informed White House officials about the status of Porter’s security-clearance investigation.
The Post reported that White House officials said they were first contacted in the summer by the FBI about Porter’s clearance. Officials also claimed that the investigation was never completed and that they did not know the extent of the allegations against Porter.
Gowdy pointed to conflicting accounts of the timeline of Porter’s clearance from Wray, who testified to the Senate on Tuesday that the background investigation was completed in July, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said the process was “ongoing” and “hadn’t been completed” when Porter left his job.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Wednesday that Gowdy was “doing his job” by looking into the process by which Porter was given an interim clearance.
“They clearly have work to do to fix their vetting system,” he said. “There’s a break down in the system.”
Ryan also suggested that Trump should be more forceful in directly condemning abuse.
“I mean come on, clearly we should all be condemning domestic violence,” he said.