White House still can't get story straight on Rob Porter

Robert Porter, White House Staffer, Photo Date: 8/14/2015

By: Chip Reid | CBS News
February 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) -- White House Rob Porter was forced to step down as the president's staff secretary after two former wives accused him of abuse. The FBI and the White House are giving conflicting accounts of the status of the investigation..

"We administratively closed the file in January," FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Wray said its background check of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter had been completed last month. That appeared to contradict the White House's claim that the investigation into allegations that Porter abused both of his ex-wives was still ongoing when he resigned last week.

But press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the White House portion of the investigation was still active.

"The White House Personnel Security Office, who is the one that makes the recommendation for adjudication, had not finished their process and therefore not made a recommendation to the White House," Sanders said Tuesday.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, chief of staff John Kelly was asked if the White House should have handled Mr. Porter's situation any differently.

"It was all done right," he replied.

Despite that, the White House remains on the defensive, one week after the story broke.

President Trump was asked on Tuesday if he had a message to domestic violence victims. He ignored the question, despite calls on Tuesday from two Republican senators to speak out for victims of abuse.

"I would like to hear a stronger denunciation from the White House of domestic violence," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

"I think he needs to send a stronger message, a stronger message," said Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. "We need to allow women and men that have been abused to come out, make sure their stories are heard and believed."

The FBI confirmed Tuesday that the bulk of the report on Porter was in the hands of someone at the White House all the way back in November. The question now is: Who?

Chief of staff John Kelly has been in the middle of this. But it does appear Tuesday that his job is safer than it was a couple of days ago. First, he sounded very confident when he said that the White House did everything right. And second, when this story broke, the knives were out for Kelly with his "frenemies" at the White House anonymously blaming him. That for the most part has stopped.