When it comes to the allegations of domestic violence dogging former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, we still haven't definitively established who knew what and when they knew it. What we do know, however, is that rumblings of abuse allegations (physical or otherwise) leveled by his ex-wives had reached certain officials more than once over the course of the past year.
According to the Washington Post, White House Counsel Don McGahn had been told by a former girlfriend of Porter's in November "that he should investigate the abuse alleged by the ex-wives." The Post also reported that "[a] White House official said McGahn was only aware that ex-wives were prepared to make damaging accusations about him but did not ask what the accusations were because Porter said they were not true."
Sources have further told media outlets McGahn and chief of staff John Kelly felt Porter misrepresented the allegations to them by downplaying the seriousness of his ex-wives' claims, as though that's a reasonable explanation for why he was given the benefit of the doubt.
It's not, and therein lies the White House's ultimate problem when it comes to Porter.
To be perfectly fair, if one is alerted to abuse allegations against a trusted staffer, knows the FBI is conducting an investigation into the matter, and the staffer vehemently denies any wrongdoing, allowing investigators to do their work isn't a crazy decision. But FBI Director Christopher Wray testified under oath on Tuesday that his department closed Porter's file in January, before the allegations leaked into the press, and had periodically provided the White House with reports on the investigation over the course of 2017. There is no evidence White House officials used the time that elapsed between the FBI closing its case and the earliest media reports to take any action in regards to Porter's employment.
Either McGahn and other officials who had heard the rumors and had access to that information did not seek it out (betraying a sense of disinterest), brushed it aside, or the reports did not fully detail the allegations that have since surfaced in the media.
Given that both of Porter's ex-wives have said they described the alleged abuse to the FBI, that last possibility seems unlikely, meaning the reports on the investigation provided to White House officials were either not prioritized, or Porter was given the benefit of the doubt in the face of credible allegations of abuse. Kelly has claimed he became "fully aware" of the allegations after the media reported on them – so were those allegations left out of the FBI's reports to the White House, or did nobody read those reports and flag them for the chief of staff?
No matter how decent McGahn and Kelly thought Porter to be, and no matter how convincing they found his denials, pursuing the truth about someone with so much responsibility in the White House should have been a top priority, if even to dismiss the allegations and take steps to ensure he wasn't susceptible to blackmail, or wasn't a threat to any of their female staff.
We need more information, but what we already know is disappointing enough.