A key component of the White House's defense messaging amid questions about former staffer Rob Porter has been to fall back on the FBI investigation into his background, stating it was still ongoing at the time of his resignation last week.
FBI Director Christopher Wray seemed to contradict that claim in Senate testimony on Tuesday, revealing Porter's file had been closed by his department in January, though additional information had been passed along to the White House earlier this month. Two of Porter's ex-wives have said they detailed their allegations to the FBI, making it likely that information was available in whatever documents were given to the White House.
Hours before Wray's testimony on Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah again fell back on the defense that FBI investigators had not yet completed their probe into Porter, saying in a "Fox & Friends" interview that "his background check investigation had not been completed yet."
"It was still in the investigative process and had yet to be adjudicated," Shah contended. "So prior to an adjudication, the White House is not going to step into the middle of a process and short-circuit it. These investigations are complex. They’re lengthy for a reason. We need to get it right."
Contrast that with Wray's testimony under oath later that same morning, in which he clearly stated the FBI "administratively closed the file in January."
When Shah conducted the press briefing last week, his defense of the White House again was predicated on the claim that officials were waiting for the FBI to complete its investigation into Porter before taking any action. "The truth must be determined, and that was what was going on with Rob Porter," Shah said. "His background investigation was ongoing."
The argument, then, is that before kicking Porter out of the White House, officials were allowing the FBI to finish its investigation in order to make an informed judgment on the allegations.
The FBI director has now testified under oath that Porter's file had been closed in January. Not only has Shah claimed repeatedly in February the case was ongoing, but he has made that claim the cornerstone of the White House's defense.
Either the FBI director lied under oath, or the White House mislead the public, which raises the question of why White House officials would try to get away with pushing a claim that could be so easily refuted by the FBI.