FBI says it warned White House about Rob Porter in March ’17

John Kelly, Rob Porter
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI first flagged “derogatory information” about Rob Porter, one of President Donald Trump’s closest aides, to the White House counsel’s office in March 2017, according to a new timeline provided by the FBI to Congress and publicly released Thursday.

The timeline raises new questions about the White House’s handling of spousal abuse allegations against Porter, the former staff secretary. The administration has offered several contradictory accounts of who knew what and when about the allegations.

Porter was forced to resign in February after the allegations by his ex-wives were made public by the Daily Mail. He has denied them.

According to the timeline, outlined in a letter to the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, the FBI provided a “partial report” about Porter to White House counsel Don McGahn on March 3, 2017. That report included “derogatory information” about Porter, but the letter does not specify exactly what it said. A White House official suggested Thursday that McGahn had not read it.

The FBI says that it then submitted a completed background investigation to the White House personnel security division in July.

A month later, the FBI said, it received a request for additional information from the personal security office, including requests to re-interview Porter, his ex-wives and his girlfriend at the time. The FBI submitted that report, which it says “contained additional derogatory information,” in November.

The White House has said Porter told McGahn after his second interview that there were allegations of emotional and verbal abuse against him but that he did not disclose allegations of physical assault.

The FBI also provided additional information to the office, after it had closed the investigation, in February 2018.

White House officials have long insisted that they were not aware of the specific allegations against Porter until they were published, along with photographs, in the Daily Mail.

The episode prompted changes in how the White House handles security clearances, and a number of staffers’ clearances were downgraded as a result.

The White House official noted Thursday that a memorandum released by chief of staff John Kelly in the scandal’s aftermath included a new requirement that derogatory information uncovered during background checks now be provided in-person, directly to the appropriate person.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss specifics about Porter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said that was not the case in 2017.

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Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

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