Recently, yet another new type of scandal rocked the Trump White House, with serious and credible allegations of domestic violence against staff secretary Rob Porter being revealed to the public. Porter resigned in the face of those allegations, which included photos of a black eye that one of his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness, says she suffered at his hands.
The scandal, however, is not over, and not just because the president took to defending credibly alleged abusers on Twitter soon after the news broke.
Porter, during his time at the White House, was never granted a permanent security clearance. Instead, he was only granted an interim one, after the FBI’s background check on him included testimony about the abuse his former wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby, say that they suffered at his hands.
Now, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, who took over the leadership of the committee after Rep. Jason Chaffetz stepped down from the chairmanship, wants answers.
On Wednesday, he sent a formal letter to the White House’s chief of staff, John Kelly, requesting specific information about the process that allowed for Porter to keep working in the White House as a close confidante of the president with only an interim security clearance. Gowdy wants the information by February 28, and also sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
JUST IN: House Oversight Committee says it “is investigating the policies and processes by which interim security clearances are investigated and adjudicated within the Executive Branch” in letter to Chief of Staff Kelly. pic.twitter.com/89Bn43Acbx
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 14, 2018
The White House has claimed to have had essentially no knowledge of the allegations against Porter until after reports were published in the media about them, but during recent testimony to Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray directly contradicted those claims. He told Congress that the FBI, contrary to the claims of the White House, had already concluded its investigations of Porter at the time of the reports about the abuse and had notified the White House of the domestic violence allegations.
As Gowdy put it:
‘When you have the head of the FBI saying we told you three times in 2017 and once more in 2018 for good measure, then I think the really fair questions are what were you told, by whom were you told it, did you have some reason to question what the bureau told you and if none of that is true, why did you keep him on?’
The White House is often the final arbiter on the question of who gets a security clearance and who doesn’t, although D.C. lawyer Mark Zaid said that he understands the office of the White House responsible for clearances to be staffed by individuals who are not political appointees, thus meaning that they have less of an allegiance to the president’s agenda.
Porter isn’t the only one to have faced troubles in his FBI background check which led to troubles in obtaining a permanent security clearance while being kept on at the White House through the whole ordeal. Perhaps most prominently, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner currently works in the White House under similar circumstances, although there are reported to be numerous individuals currently working in the White House with only an interim security clearance.
Kushner has faced troubles obtaining a full clearance after it came out that he had omitted numerous contacts with relevant foreign government officials on his paperwork.
Among those omissions are meetings with the now former Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak, who has figured prominently in the Trump-Russia scandal for his repeated meetings with Trump officials.
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