House Oversight Panel Investigating Alleged Abuser Rob Porter

“How in the hell was he still employed?” chairman Trey Gowdy asked.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched an investigation into the White House’s handling of Rob Porter’s employment late Tuesday, Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

Asked whether his committee would begin looking into the timeline of physical abuse accusations against Porter, Gowdy responded, “We did last night.”

Porter resigned his position as staff secretary in the Trump administration last week after news outlets surfaced domestic violence allegations by both of his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby. Porter has denied the abuse.

President Donald Trump and other top officials have said they did not know about the accusations until they became headlines in the news. But FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicted that claim Tuesday during a Senate intelligence committee hearing when he said the agency passed along information on Porter several times over the last year. 

The now-former staffer worked in the White House for a year despite not qualifying for permanent security clearance, likely due to the reports by his ex-wives. 

“Who knew what when, and to what extent? Those are the questions that I think ought to be asked,” Gowdy said. “Congress has a role to play, but so does the public and so does the media.”

He added: “How in the hell was he still employed?” 

In a letter dated Wednesday addressed to chief of staff John Kelly, Gowdy requested information on Porter’s employment by Feb. 28 and suggested the committee’s investigation would cover security clearances more broadly.

The oversight committee chairman has faced criticism himself by top Democrats, who say Republicans have not been transparent on security clearance protocol. Top White House officials with access to classified government information must apply for security clearances that involve an FBI background check. The White House claimed Porter was issued an interim clearance while his check was ongoing.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the FBI’s reports on Porter never made it to top officials, such as Kelly and counsel Donald McGahn. 

Although he initially defended Porter, Kelly said last week that he was “shocked” at the abuse accusations after seeing photographs of the ex-wives’ battered faces. Trump has declined to speak about the women, but spoke supportively of Porter after his departure. 

“We wish him well,” Trump said. “It’s obviously a tough time for him.”

The White House’s struggle to recruit and retain qualified staffers may have contributed to top officials’ reluctance to lose Porter, who helped implement order in an administration marked by chaos.