White House chief of staff John Kelly issued a memo to White House staff that said "resources are available" to those looking for counseling services, following allegations that White House staff secretary Rob Porter abused both of his ex-wives.
“While we are all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against a former White House staffer, I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence very seriously,” Kelly said in the memo, a picture of which was shared by CNN's Jim Acosta. “Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society.”
“We understand the shock, pain and confusion that these allegations have caused in our workplace,” he added. “It is important for me to tell you — you are not alone. Resources are available here at the White House for anyone who is seeking counseling.”
Kelly was the target of backlash this week over his statement praising Porter’s character in response to a report from the Daily Mail claiming Porter abused his ex-wives. According to the Daily Mail, Porter called his second wife a “fucking bitch” while they were on their honeymoon and grabbed her out the shower on one occasion. The report also highlighted a protective order that she obtained against Porter in 2010.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
Porter’s first wife then told the Daily Mail in a separate report that the former White House aide had punched her face and choked her, among other abuses. The second report featured a photo of his first wife with a black eye.
In a follow-up statement, amid growing controversy, Kelly said there is “no place for domestic violence,” but he defended his prior comments he had made praising Porter’s character.
“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” Kelly said in a statement late Wednesday. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.”
A senior Trump administration official said Kelly knew about the 2010 protective order and that it restricted Porter from obtaining full security clearance, according to Politico. Additionally, Kelly weighed removing Porter but did not.
Porter announced Wednesday he would be stepping down from his post, but denied the credibility of the abuse allegations.