The FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, said on Tuesday that the bureau delivered final results in January of its background investigation into Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned in disgrace amid spousal abuse allegations. But the White House allowed Porter to continue serving in his post until the accusations surfaced publicly in press reports last week.
In testimony on Capitol Hill, Wray upended the White House’s timeline of the events that led to Porter’s departure, contradicting the contention of top officials that his background investigation was “ongoing” at the time of his resignation.
Wray also told lawmakers that the bureau delivered its first report on Porter to the White House in March, months earlier than White House officials said they learned of the problems with his background check. Wray did not disclose the contents of that initial report, but Porter’s two ex-wives have said they told FBI agents of the abuse in interviews conducted in January 2017.
Porter, who as staff secretary handled all of the documents that made their way to the president, was forced to resign last week after allegations of abuse by his two ex-wives surfaced, sparking a week of shifting explanations by White House officials about who knew about Porter’s history and when they knew it. In the weeks before, according to people familiar with the situation, he had been jockeying for an expanded portfolio in the West Wing, where experienced aides who can bring order to a chaotic operation are in short supply.
President Donald Trump’s aides initially said they had no inkling of the accusations against Porter until press reports that first appeared in The Daily Mail last week, and acted swiftly to terminate him when they discovered them. In fact, the White House spent the first hours after learning of the accusations – including the publication of photographs of one of his ex-wives with a black eye she said he gave her – defending Porter against the allegations and insisting that he was not being dismissed.
Since then, multiple people familiar with the situation have said that top officials – including John F. Kelly, the chief of staff; Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations; and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel – learned in November that there were problems with Porter’s background investigation.
Porter’s two former wives, who accuse him of physically and emotionally abusing them during their marriages, both say they informed FBI investigators conducting his background check of the incidents in January of last year.