White House officials on Sunday said President Donald Trump retains full confidence in chief of staff John Kelly amid blowback from the handling of abuse allegations against top White House aide Rob Porter.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, appearing on CNN’s “This Week”, said she spoke to Trump Saturday night and he told her “I have full faith in chief of staff John Kelly.” She added that Kelly “is doing a great job.”
Porter is accused by two ex-wives of physical and verbal abuse. His resignation on Wednesday was followed on Friday by the resignation of White House speechwriter David Sorenson amid domestic violence allegations by his ex-wife, who said he ran over her foot with a car. Both men denied their respective allegations before stepping down.
Kelly initially defended Porter last week before the White House aide resigned. Kelly, along with other senior officials, had known about the accusations against Porter for months, according to news reports.
Trump on Saturday appeared to weigh in on the controversy and push back on the #MeToo movement, which urges women to speak out about sexual misconduct toward them, tweeting that “lives are being shattered” by “mere allegations.”
In his tweet, Trump referred to women’s allegations about men’s unwanted behavior generally and said, “Some are true and some are false.” He added, “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, asked on “Fox News Sunday” about being a rumored replacement for Kelly, dismissed the speculation as coming from those who’ve lost access to Trump under Kelly’s regime. He said the White House is “very stable, very quiet. All the media hype about disarray is just that.”
Conway, also appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said Trump told her to “reemphasize to everyone . . . that he has full confidence” in Kelly, who directly supervised Porter, and White House communication director Hope Hicks, who according to news reports is romantically involved with Porter.
“The president believes you have to consider all sides,” Conway said when asked if Trump believed Porter was falsely accused of spousal abuse. Porter’s ex-wives have made public photos and a protective order filed with police they said documents the alleged abuse.
Trump’s Twitter missive on Saturday prompted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to respond, tweeting that if Trump “wants due process for the over dozen sexual assault allegations against him, let’s have Congressional hearings tomorrow.”
Asked about Gillibrand’s tweet, Conway said “those accusers have had their day on your network and elsewhere for a long time.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who served in Porter’s former role as White House staff secretary under President Bill Clinton, questioned how Porter was allowed to remain in his post without full national-security clearance. White House officials have said Porter had received an interim clearance as his background check dragged on for months.
“What’s the plan?” Maloney asked on “This Week.” “The guy’s never going to get a national security clearance and yet every day he’s reading our nation’s top secrets and could’ve been blackmailed.”
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short defended the Trump administration’s response to Porter’s abuse allegations, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “Rob is a friend to many of us in the administration,” but “there is no tolerance for violence against women.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a frequent Trump critic, said the president’s response to the Porter scandal could impact “how we are viewed as Republicans in the next election.”
“It’s a big problem not to show any concern or empathy for the potential victims of these incidents,” Flake said on “Meet the Press.”