The Rob Porter domestic violence story that claimed the former White House staff secretary's job last week has now morphed into the "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is a massive liar" story, which has somehow even shocked our complacent media into action. I pointed out last Friday why Kelly should have been fired months ago, and it looks like his tenure in the Trump regime may soon be coming to an end.
The White House struggled Tuesday to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against a senior official, as it reeled after sworn testimony by the FBI chief directly contradicted what President Trump’s aides had presented as the official version of events.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had completed a background report on then-staff secretary Rob Porter last July and closed out the case entirely last month. Wray’s account is at odds with White House claims that the investigation required for Porter’s security clearance was “ongoing” until he left his job last week, after his two ex-wives publicly alleged physical and emotional abuse.
The latest bout of turbulence is exacerbated by the administration’s reputation, earned over 13 chaotic months, for flouting institutional norms and misrepresenting facts to the public — a culture set by the president himself.
The public relations fallout is further compounded by Trump’s own history of alleged sexual assault and his seeming reluctance to publicly condemn violence against women and give voice to the national #MeToo reckoning.
The president has said little publicly about the Porter issue other than to praise the former aide for doing “a very good job.” But he has privately expressed frustration with the week-long fallout, peppering advisers and confidants with questions about the media coverage and how the controversy is playing for him personally.
The Porter drama has become all-consuming, creating an atmosphere of chaos and infighting reminiscent of the “Game of Thrones” stage early in Trump’s presidency — and distracting from the administration’s budget and infrastructure agenda.
Not that the FBI isn't relishing the chance to drive in the knife. Donald Trump has left his entire operation high and dry by basically defending the guy who allegedly beat both of his ex-wives as the "real victim", a subject where even Trump's supporters aren't going to go to bat for him.
And as countless other ex-Trump staffers have discovered (and John Kelly is finding out now) your usefulness to Trump ends as soon as you can be sacrificed to take the fall for Trump's endless awful behavior.
Inside the West Wing, a growing number of aides blamed Trump’s second White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, for the bungled handling of the allegations against Porter. Trump in recent days has begun musing about possible replacements, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.
Asked by a reporter to assess Kelly’s standing with Trump after a week of troubling revelations, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “the president has confidence in his chief of staff.”
But Kelly does not enjoy the confidence of an increasing number of his subordinates, some of whom said they believe that the retired four-star Marine Corps general has misled them.
Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”
This portrait of the West Wing in turmoil is based on interviews with more than a dozen top White House officials and outside advisers and confidants, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution.
Kelly’s attempts at explaining his role, according to some aides, have included telling senior staff members last Friday to communicate a version of events many believed to be false, as well as telling at least one confidant that he has “a good bulls--- detector” and had long detected troubling characteristics in Porter.
But Kelly initially defended Porter last week as “a man of true integrity and honor.” And in recent weeks, Kelly was even considering giving Porter an expanded role in policy development, a potential promotion first reported by CNN.
Rob Porter is the bad guy here of course. But so is Trump, himself a serial abuser of women who has put his staff in the impossible position to defend a guy who allegedly gave his now ex-wife a black eye on their honeymoon. Somebody has to burn over this, and the remaining White House staff wants to make sure it's Kelly.
And Kelly is the beating heart of Trump's post-Bannon manure factory. As he's under fire, the rest of the White House is suddenly having extreme "message discipline" problems with people's stories on all the other current scandals this week: the ongoing Russia investigation, EPA chief Scott Pruitt flying first-class on the taxpayer dime, Trump lawyer lawyer Michael Cohen now saying he paid off Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket, ICE attorneys apparently stealing case files of immigrants under review, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner having his own continuing money issues and lack of security clearance, and keep in mind it's only Wednesday.
The goal of the White House staff is to protect Trump, and Kelly is the keystone of the Keystone Kops operation. The media is now openly asking what else the White House is lying to them about (finally, guys the answer has been "everything" for over a year now) and the shield protecting Trump is starting to wear very, very thin.
For the first time in a while it's looking like the shield might break.