(CNN)John Kelly hasn't been chief of staff to President Donald Trump for even a year yet, but he appears to have learned one of the real estate tycoon's most central life lessons: Never, ever apologize.
Sorry not sorry: John Kelly doesn't think he has anything to apologize for
"I have absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over," Kelly told reporters at the White House on Friday in response to questions over his botched handling of the allegations of domestic abuse against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
Kelly's defense -- and defensiveness -- simply doesn't jibe with what we know of the timeline of events surrounding Porter's firing.
Kelly told reporters that the first time he heard of the "serious accusation" against Porter came on February 6 -- the same day Porter resigned. But we know from CNN's own reporting that Kelly had some knowledge of the allegations against Porter long before that -- as far back as the fall of 2017.
And according to the Daily Mail's David Martosko, whose publication broke the news about abuse allegations against Porter, the first accusation against Porter that the Daily Mail took to the White House was from Jennifer Willoughby, one of Porter's ex-wives, who claimed Porter "physically dragged her, naked, out of a shower."
Added Martosko via Twitter: "John Kelly is defending his inaction on Rob Porter by claiming that the first accusation brought to the White House was of only 'emotional abuse.' Untrue."
Then there is the fact that Kelly -- with the help of communications director Hope Hicks, who was romantically involved with Porter at the time -- issued a strong statement defending Porter on February 6, even as a picture of another of Porter's ex-wives with a black eye was circulating the internet. Kelly defended that statement on Friday by noting that he was unaware of the allegations made by Porter's second ex-wife until 6 p.m. that day.
Even if you totally buy Kelly's timeline -- and you shouldn't because a bunch of facts contradict it -- you are still left with this question: Why didn't the chief of staff investigate the circumstances surrounding Porter's marriages? Those allegations were serious enough that they were keeping the staff secretary from receiving a permanent security clearance. Kelly did nothing about them from last fall to February.
That facts become all the more damning when you consider that Kelly specifically focused on management of the staff when he was first hired for the job. He told anyone who would listen that he didn't view his job as managing Trump. Instead, he said, he would ensure that the White House staff was serving Trump in the best way possible.
It's impossible to reconcile that pledge with Kelly's blind eye to what he knew about Porter.
Why didn't Kelly act sooner? No one really knows. But, here's my two-pronged educated guess: 1) He liked Porter and 2) He felt Porter was a useful piece of his grander efforts to manage Trump and the White House.
Now, it's also possible that Kelly was just *really* clueless about the issues going on under his nose. But he shouldn't have been. He at least knew something was off about Porter's marriages, and didn't think or didn't care to ask any questions.
Remember that Kelly took it as his mission to limit the staff's access to Trump and Trump's access to a wide variety of news sources. Prior to Kelly's arrival, the door to the Oval Office was regularly open and almost anyone on staff could wander in for a bull session with the President. Those people would often pass along a blog post or a poll or some other news tidbit -- often from barely credible (or not-at-all credible) sources -- to the President.
Kelly needed to stop it. And Porter was an ally in that effort. As staff secretary, Porter was not only almost always with Trump but the person who literally handed Trump most of what he saw and read. Porter became a key Kelly ally -- a second set of eyes and a gatekeeper.
Which is why -- I think -- when Kelly heard the accusations (or a part of the accusations) against Porter, he was inclined to ignore them. Porter seemed like a great guy! And he was doing such a good job! And making Kelly's life (and the President's life) better!
I get that. But it's hard in retrospect to see Kelly's opinion of Porter as anything more than as a misjudgment. Porter might have seemed great to Kelly, but the allegations made by his ex-wives, which Porter has denied but offered no proof for that denial, are extremely serious.
"My only comment is the sadness I felt when Kelly defended his first statement of defense of Rob saying they thought it was 'only emotional abuse,'" Willoughby told CNN Friday. "He changed the statement after realizing it was 'physical abuse.' That is insulting to anyone suffering in an abusive situation now. Emotional and psychological abuse is abuse!"
At a minimum, Kelly could apologize for misjudging Porter and, in so doing, denigrating the allegations made by both of Porter's ex-wives.
But, in Trumpworld, apologizing equals weakness. And weakness equals death. So John Kelly isn't sorry. Not one bit.