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Trump Aide Rob Porter Resigns Following Domestic Violence Accusations

On Wednesday, White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned from his post after both of his former wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, accused him of domestic abuse. Multiple sources told Axios that Porter resigned of his own volition, which press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed at today’s daily press briefing. One White House source told Axios that several senior aides, including chief of staff and Porter’s former boss John Kelly, encouraged Porter to “stay and fight” rather than resign.

“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said in a statement. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

At the briefing, Sanders read a statement from Porter addressing the allegations:

“These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

Sanders also described Porter as “someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character.”

The photos Porter referred to in his statement were printed in the Daily Mail on Wednesday, along with an interview with Holderness, his first wife. Holderness alleges that Porter kicked, choked, and punched her over the course of their marriage. She provided a photo of the black eye Holderness said she received as a result of Porter punching her in the face while they were on vacation in Italy.

Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, told the Mail that she felt she was always “walking on eggshells” because of her ex-husband’s “explosive anger” after their marriage in 2009. In addition to alleged verbal abuse, Willoughby says Porter physically dragged her out of the shower in 2010 and yelled at her. Willoughby was granted a protective order against Porter after he violated the terms of their separation agreement.

Despite her claims of abuse, Willoughby said she believes Porter should stay on as Trump’s staff secretary. From the Mail:

“I want to be very clear when I say this,” Willoughby said. “I don’t want to be married to him. I would not recommend anyone to date him or marry him. But I definitely want him in the White House and the position he is in. I think his integrity and ability to do his job is impeccable. And the majority of the issues he suffers from are very personal and intimate.”

A senior White House aide told Politico that Kelly knew about the protective order, which prevented Porter from receiving a full security clearance. Sanders declined to comment on Porter’s security clearance. “As has always been our policy, we do not comment on security clearances,” she said. “Rob Porter has been effective in his role as staff secretary. The president and chief of staff have full confidence in his abilities and his performance.”

Porter formerly served as chief of staff to Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT). In a statement, Hatch said he is “heartbroken by today’s allegations” and described his former employee as “courteous, professional, and respectful.” According to Wall Street Journal reporter Natalie Andrews, today’s statement is an about-face from the one Hatch issued through the White House on Tuesday night, wherein the GOP senator condemned what he called “a vile attack on such a decent man.”

Porter was rumored to have been dating White House communications director Hope Hicks. He is expected to stay at the White House for the time being to ensure a smooth transition to his successor.