White House communications director Hope Hicks did not participate in many of the discussions surrounding the departure of an embattled former aide with whom she had a romantic relationship, press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday.
"She was not part of a lot of the conversations that took place," Sanders told reporters at the White House on Tuesday about Hicks, whose relationship with former staff secretary Rob Porter has come under scrutiny amid controversy over the White House handled his resignation last week.
Porter left his position after his two ex-wives raised allegations of domestic abuse against him in the media.
White House aides have struggled to explain when senior staffers — particularly chief of staff John Kelly — learned of the allegations against Porter. Kelly initially defended Porter before the emergence of a photograph showing one of Porter's ex-wives with a black eye she said he gave her.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the bureau had made West Wing aides aware of the red flags preventing him from obtaining a permanent security clearance on four occasions. Sanders said the White House's vetting process was still ongoing at the time of Porter's departure, even if the FBI had ruled Porter unfit for a security clearance.
The press secretary defended Hicks as an "important and valuable member of the staff" despite her reported involvement in shaping the controversial White House defense of Porter, whom she was dating at the time.
Deputy press secretary Raj Shah had said Friday that Hicks partially "recused" herself from matters related to the Porter scandal, but declined to elaborate on the areas in which Hicks remained involved.