Ex-wife says Rob Porter's then-girlfriend reached out for help in 2016

Robert Porter, White House Staffer, Photo Date: 8/14/2015
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By: Laura Strickler, Kathryn Watson | CBS News
February 7, 2018

The second ex-wife of outgoing White House staff secretary Rob Porter says a woman reached out to her in February 2016 to say she was in an abusive relationship with Porter and wanted to know whether the ex-wife's experience had been similar.

Jenny Willoughby, Porter's second wife, told CBS News about the interaction in an interview Wednesday. Porter's ex-girlfriend could not immediately be reached for comment.

The now-former girlfriend is the third woman -- along with Willoughby and Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness -- to have claimed Porter abused them. CBS News has reached out to the former girlfriend. The White House announced Porter's resignation on Wednesday.

In 2010, Willoughby filed an emergency protective order against Porter after an altercation at her home. The Daily Mail first reported the allegations by Porter's ex-wives on Tuesday night. Holderness told the paper that Porter had kicked and punched her in the past, providing a photo of her with a black eye in the early 2000s.

Porter denies the allegations, which he called part of a "coordinated smear campaign" in a statement Wednesday.

The White House issued statements supportive of Porter and said he made the decision to resign on his own. White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is dating Porter, played a significant role in drafting the initial statements by press secretary Sarah Sanders and chief of staff John Kelly. Sanders said Porter's impending resignation would not take effect immediately.

Late Wednesday, Kelly told reporters he stood by his earlier comments that Porter is "a man of integrity and honor."

"I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter," Kelly said. "There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition."

Both Willoughby and Holderness disclosed Porter's alleged abuse during interviews with FBI agents who were conducting a background check on Porter as part of his application to obtain a security clearance. The FBI informed the White House about the allegations in November, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. Porter was never granted a full security clearance, but could have been issued an interim clearance or received a waiver from President Trump.

Porter was married to Willoughby from November 2009 until 2013, and to Holderness from 2003 to 2008.

Willoughby said Porter's ex-girlfriend reached out to her in February 2016 -- when Porter was chief of staff to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch -- to tell Willoughby she was in an emotionally abusive relationship with Porter and ask her about him. Willoughby told her she had the same experience.

Willoughby said she did not go to the media with her story but was approached by reporters. She said she "has no intention of tearing down Rob."

In January 2017, Willoughby said she was contacted by the FBI and told agents her story. In February 2017, according to Willoughby, Holderness contacted her after her own interview with the FBI. The two spoke and found they had similar experiences. Willoughby told CBS News she did not know about Holderness' experience until they met.

In April of last year, Willoughby posted her story on Instagram, without mentioning Porter's name. She said she did so to help other victims of abuse.



 
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