Women's advocacy groups and other critics are calling on President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, John Kelly, to resign in response to his defense of White House staff secretary Rob Porter—who stepped down Wednesday amid allegations that he abused two ex-wives—and reports that Kelly knew about the alleged abuse but ignored it.
"John Kelly is not reining in Trump's worst and dangerous tendencies—he is enabling, encouraging, and amplifying them."
—Nita Chaudhary, Ultraviolet
"It is time for John Kelly to go. It is now clear that he is not part of the solution, but rather a large part of the problem in this White House," declared Ultraviolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary, decrying not only Kelly's position on Porter's employment, but also his recent remarks about Dreamers and other past behavior.
She challenged the popular narrative that, when it comes to managing the president's antics, Kelly is one of the "adults in the room," charging that "John Kelly is not reining in Trump's worst and dangerous tendencies—he is enabling, encouraging, and amplifying them."
Also demanding Kelly's immediate resignation was Toni Van Pelt, the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), who noted that "as chief of staff, it is his duty to protect the people who serve in the White House," but "women who work for John Kelly" now know that "clearly, they can't" trust him.
"His pathetic defense of staff secretary Rob Porter reveals his true nature—an enabler of sexual abusers, a betrayer of trust and an avoider of responsibility," Van Pelt added. "He's on Team 'Grab Them By The Pussy,' leaving women who are victimized by sexual violence to fend for themselves."
"His pathetic defense of staff secretary Rob Porter reveals his true nature—an enabler of sexual abusers, a betrayer of trust and an avoider of responsibility."
—Toni Van Pelt, NOW
The inital reports about the abuse allegations levied against Porter featured a comment from Kelly, who called him "a man of true integrity and honor" as well as" a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional."
Late Wednesday, Kelly added: "I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation."
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However, Wednesday evening, multiple White House sources revealed to CNN and other news outlets that by last fall, "it was widely known among Trump's top aides—including chief of staff John Kelly—both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining [security] clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them."
So Kelly lied in his latest statement?— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) February 8, 2018
Not only was "no action was taken to remove him from the staff" after aides were informed about the alleged pattern of abuse, but the sources also said "Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter's standing," enabling him to contribute to drafting the president's first State of the Union address and to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, noted that because FBI investigators who conducted a background check on Porter for security clearance and interviewed both women about the alleged abuse, "there's just no way" Kelly didn't know about the allegations.
"I doubt Kelly went out and interviewed those women [himself] and decided they were liars," Shaub added, deriding the chief of staff's comments. "He just decided that the white male employee working for him couldn't possibly beat his former wives because he said he didn’t. Well, that’s ridiculous. And shame on John Kelly."
So John Kelly, often touted as the White House's adult, falsely smeared a congresswoman, tells us a failure to compromise on slavery caused the civil war, called dreamers lazy, and protected a wife beater. Tell us again, @PressSec, how we're never allowed to criticize a general. https://t.co/v6NNsIHcys— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 8, 2018
Kelly's public comments, coupled with reports that he and others at the White House knew about the abuse allegations but still enabled Porter to ascend the ranks within the Trump administration, have led to strong demands that the chief of staff immediately resign from his post, with some critics on using the hashtag #KellyKnew.