Long before he made headlines as the embattled White House staff secretary, Rob Porter was a rising star in Republican political circles.
Porter, a top White House staffer, resigned from his position Wednesday after allegations of domestic abuse were made public by his two ex-wives. Porter has denied their allegations.
A top aide to White House chief of staff John Kelly, Porter was initially defended by glowing White House statements in spite of his resignation.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” Kelly said in a statement sent out earlier Wednesday.
But Wednesday evening, Kelly issued a new statement.
“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” Kelly said. “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. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.”
Porter had told people in the West Wing, including Kelly, that his exes were trying to smear him, according to the official. The official disputed the assertion that Kelly knew all of these details for months, though other sources told CNN he was aware. It wasn’t until last week that Kelly knew he had been twice married, this official said.
“Rob misled everyone,” the official said.
In 2005, one of his ex-wives said Porter punched her in the face. Porter took photographs of the physical mark that was left on her face from the incident, which she shared with CNN.
A senior White House official said the photos circulating of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a bruised eye came after the initial statements were drafted.
But according to CNN reporting, the allegations of domestic abuse were known among senior aides to President Donald Trump for months, even as his stock in the West Wing continued to rise.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has said earlier Wednesday that Porter’s last day at the White House has not yet been set, and added that Porter will stay on to ensure a smooth transition to his successor. But that previous transition plan is no longer the case, the official said.
Porter’s defenders say Kelly didn’t know the full details because Porter’s background check was never completed. It remains an open question whether the White House counsel’s office knew.
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.