WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Wednesday he was “totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind,” a week after a former top aide resigned amid allegations that he physically and verbally abused his two ex-wives.
Trump, who has faced criticism for not explicitly denouncing domestic violence after the resignation of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter last Wednesday, told reporters in the Oval Office “everyone knows” he is opposed to spousal abuse.
“I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that,” Trump said when asked why he hadn’t spoken out on the issue. “It almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So now you hear it, but you all know it.”
In the days after news reports about Porter’s alleged abuse, Trump struck an empathetic tone toward his aide. He told reporters it was a “very tough time” for Porter without mentioning his alleged victims. On Twitter, Trump lamented that “mere allegations” were destroying people’s lives.
“There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” Trump tweeted Saturday.
The White House has faced questions about its handling of the allegations against Porter, including why the administration allowed him to remain in his post months after the FBI shared concerns with White House officials about Porter’s background probe.
On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), said the committee had launched an investigation into how the White House responded to the assault allegations against Porter.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, in sworn testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, said the bureau provided the White House with a completed background check in July.
That contradicted the administration’s initial statements that officials were unaware of the gravity of the allegations because Porter’s background investigation was ongoing.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back Tuesday, saying that while the FBI had concluded its probe, an internal White House personnel investigation was still going on before Porter resigned.
Sanders has said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and other officials were unaware of the severity of the allegations against Porter until Feb. 7 when a photo showing his first ex-wife with a bruised eye was made public.
His first ex-wife told reporters Porter caused the bruise after an altercation in 2005. His other ex-wife provided reporters with a 2010 protective order she had filed with authorities.
Porter denied the allegations.
In comments on CNN Wednesday, Gowdy asked, “How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse? Again, I am biased toward the victim.”
Gowdy said his committee wanted to determine how early Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn knew about the allegations against Porter. Porter remained in his job — a position that required him to handle classified material — with only an interim security clearance as his background check continued.
“I would want to know from Don McGahn and General Kelly and anyone else: What did you know, from whom did you hear it, to what extent did you hear it and then what actions, if any, did you take? The chronology is not favorable from the White House,” Gowdy said.
Gowdy said the committee also would examine the interim security clearance process that has come under scrutiny. On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates told the Senate Intelligence Committee that employees with interim clearances should have limited access to classified information.
On Wednesday, George David Banks, a special assistant to the president for international energy and environmental policy, resigned after learning his permanent security clearance would be denied. Banks told Politico his clearance was blocked over his past marijuana use.