Calling the White House's version of events further into question, FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday appeared to contradict the timeline put forth by the administration regarding domestic abuse allegations against Trump's staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned last week.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Wray told lawmakers that the FBI's background investigation into Porter—standard for White House employees—had been initially completed last July and that follow-up information requested by the administration was provided in November. According to Wray, the investigation was closed in January, though subsequent information was again provided earlier this month.
FBI Director Wray on Rob Porter background check:
• Submitted partial report in March
• Completed background investigation in late July
• Received request for follow up, provided info in Nov.
• Closed the file in Jan.
• Received and passed on new info earlier this month pic.twitter.com/ucNcgge4vz
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 13, 2018
The FBI had briefed the White House on the investigation, which uncovered the allegations that Porter's two ex-wives made against him, four times by the time the Daily Mail publicized the accusations of abuse on February 6.
Wray's version of events ran counter to the White House's repeated statements that the background investigation was still ongoing when the story was published, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' claim on Monday that the White House "learned of this situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening."
In a press briefing after Wray gave his testimony, Huckabee Sanders told reporters that while the FBI had completed its investigation of Porter, the White House Personnel Security Office had not yet made a recommendation on how to proceed when the story broke.
So on day 7 of the Porter scandal, the WH has now found a new scapegoat: the White House Personnel Security Office.
— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) February 13, 2018
Sanders seems now to be suggesting -- and this is the most charitable interpretation -- that when she said the White House hadn't received info she wasn't including the White House personnel security office. So WH security office had it -- but not senior staff within WH?
— Matthew Nussbaum (@MatthewNussbaum) February 13, 2018
The press conference marked the first time the Personnel Security Office had been mentioned by the White House since the allegations surfaced.
Following the Daily Mail's report last week, Huckabee Sanders and Kelly both spoke highly of Porter's integrity and character, only to call the abuse allegations "shocking" the following day, after the newspaper published photos of Porter's ex-wife's bruised face.
Kelly said last Friday that he fired Porter directly after seeing the photos, contradicting the White House's earlier statement that the staff secretary had resigned. Hours before Huckabee Sanders told the press that the senior staff had been waiting for a recommendation on Porter from the Personnel Security Office, Kelly told the Wall Street Journal that the White House's handling of the Porter controversy "was all done right.”
While Wray's testimony and Huckabee Sanders' response left the political press with more questions about the White House's version of events, Trump critics said the FBI director's story was cause for the chief of staff to step aside.
One reason @FBI has a rigorous security clearance investigation is to prevent people who could be blackmailed from accessing classified info.
Rob Porter was susceptible to blackmail. White House knew about this since last March/July and did nothing. John Kelly needs to resign. https://t.co/avVNCadtTL
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 13, 2018
"Absolutely, I do," Sen. Martin Heinrich said just now when asked if White House Chief of Staff John Kelly should resign over the Rob Porter situation.
— Emma Loop (@LoopEmma) February 13, 2018
White House is actively lying—are we surprised?—re what they knew about Rob Porter’s abusive background. FBI did its job & gave WH the info. John Kelly chose to ignore it & keep an alleged domestic abuser in top position. Disgusting. Women are watching. https://t.co/L4ysH5Qg1z
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 13, 2018