A week after allegations of domestic abuse against a now-former top aide ensnared the White House in scandal, President Trump condemned domestic violence Wednesday.
“I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind, and everybody here knows that,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a photo op for an event related to the recently enacted tax law. “I’m totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that. And it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So, now you hear it, but you all know.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted earlier this week that Trump had been very clear in condemning domestic violence in the past, after the White House came under fire for its slow and muddled response to allegations of abuse from two ex-wives against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
However, following Porter’s resignation and the timeline of events that led up to it — including questions about when exactly the White House knew of the allegations of domestic violence and that such accusations had slowed down approval of his security clearance — Trump had earlier offered comments that appeared to sympathize with Porter.
Last Friday, Trump praised the work Porter had done as part of his staff, said he hoped he still had a successful career ahead of him, and pointed out to reporters that, “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Then on Saturday, Trump tweeted that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
A second aide, White House speechwriter David Sorensen, also resigned Friday amid allegations of domestic violence. Both Porter and Sorensen have denied the allegations against them.
The president’s initial comments about Porter fall in line with Trump’s past reflexes to defend many powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, such as former Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore. Trump himself has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, which he has denied.
There have also been mounting questions about when the White House knew about the allegations against Porter and why it didn’t act sooner to remove him. The daily press briefing on Wednesday, where Sanders was sure to face more questions about Porter and the timeline of events, was canceled after being postponed several times.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the policies and processes surrounding the granting of interim security clearances by the executive branch and, more specifically, seeking information from the White House about the granting of an interim clearance to Porter.
“I’m troubled by almost every aspect of this,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the committee, told CNN on Wednesday. “How in the hell was he still employed?”
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress on Tuesday that the FBI had wrapped up its background investigation into Porter last July, but Porter did not resign until the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, published reports about the allegations of his ex-wives, including a story that included an image of Porter’s first ex-wife with a black eye. (Porter told senior staff at the White House that the black eye had been accidental, according to a recent report by ABC News.)