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John Kelly admits he knew about White House clearance problems previous year

06 March 2018

Kelly addressed a question about why the White House read a statement saying the "president and chief of staff have had full confidence and trust" in Porter's abilities, despite the accusations, on Wednesday.

"We didn't cover ourselves in glory in how we handled that", Kelly said.

He has been dealing with the ongoing fallout from a scandal involving one of his former aides, whose security clearance was held up over allegations of spousal abuse.

"I have absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over", he said.

Mr Scaramucci says he now fears general Kelly will thwart his bid to sell his stake in SkyBridge Capital to China's HNA Group Co. Those allegations were serious enough that they were keeping the staff secretary from receiving a permanent security clearance. But he didn't move until last month, after Porter resigned, to tighten White House clearance procedures and limit access to classified material for people with interim clearances.

President Donald Trump praised Porter in the days following the revelations and pointed to his claims of innocence. Porter's security clearance background on February 6.

Kelly also used that February 7 statement to defend Porter and praise his workplace demeanor.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month that a partial background check on Porter was submitted to the White House in March 2017, and the completed report was released in July - months after Porter's two ex-wives told the FBI that he was a wife beater.

"That was, I want to say, 5 o'clock in the afternoon", Kelly said. "I never saw him mad or abusive in anyway". Several outlets reported that Kelly believed Porter's denials at that point and even asked him to stay at the White House.

The lengthy delay was highly unusual, and White House veterans have said it should have raised warning signs of a problem.

In the same pool spray with reporters Friday, Kelly attempted to outline how the reports of abuse allegations against Porter surfaced, when he first learned of the accusations and when Porter resigned, but his account differs from what's been reported by TPM and many other news outlets.

Kelly said he asked Porter, who was the White House staff secretary, about the allegation and Porter denied it.

"I got back here [from a meeting at] 6, 6:30 [p.m.]".

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The first accusation brought to his attention about Porter had to do with "emotional abuse", according to Kelly.

"I talked to Rob and just, he resigned".

Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter's former wives, took issue with Kelly's explanation.

Trump associates inside and outside the White House have criticized Kelly's handling of the Porter episode. However, he added, "God punished me". As staff secretary, Porter was not only nearly always with Trump but the person who literally handed Trump most of what he saw and read.

Kelly made the comment during an impromptu press briefing, in which he addressed the issue of missing security clearances for Porter, as well as a number of other top White House aides.

"At that point in time, I thought the statement was accurate as it represented my relationship", Kelly said.

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John Kelly admits he knew about White House clearance problems previous year