FBI director Chris Wray contradicted the White House on Tuesday about when the bureau had completed a background investigation of former Donald Trump aide Rob Porter, who resigned last week following allegations of domestic violence.
To this point, the White House has claimed ignorance of allegations of spousal abuse against Porter, who was promoted to become a close aide to the president, until the moment photos of one of his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness, were published last week showing her with a badly bruised eye.
A White House spokesman blamed that ignorance on a failure by the FBI to wrap up a background check on Porter. White House chief of staff John Kelly said last Wednesday that he was “shocked” to hear of the allegations.
But Wray testified before Congress that the FBI had submitted a completed background investigation on Porter to the White House in July 2017 and later supplied two followup reports.
“We administratively closed the file in January” of 2018, Wray said, setting a date months before the White House officials said they knew about the allegations.
The contradictory and changing explanations from White House officials, especially Kelly, have raised questions about furthered shake-ups in the top tiers of the government. Over the weekend one senior aide to the president, Kellyanne Conway, insisted Trump continues to have confidence in Kelly.
The White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, last week blamed what he said was an incomplete FBI inquiry for the failure to identify the alleged abuser.
“In the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process,” Shah said on 8 February, in his first-ever turn at the Brady briefing room lectern. “That process hadn’t been completed, so we were relying on the information that we had.”
Wray contradicted that account Tuesday.
On Saturday the president sent a tweet that some read as a defense of Porter.
“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump tweeted. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
At least 20 such women have accused Trump personally of sexual misconduct. He has said they are lying.
Wray was also asked about the president’s assertion on Twitter that the reputation of the FBI is in tatters.
“There’s no shortage of opinions about our agency,” Wray said. He encouraged “folks not to get to hung up” on what he called social media “noise.”