Based on what we heard on Saturday from Judge Jeanine Pirro and Sebastian Gorka, the official line in Deplorable Land is that the scandal surrounding former White House staff secretary Rob Porter is all the fault of Barack Obama and the deep state. As this alternative fact goes, the FBI deliberately dragged its feet in vetting Porter, knowing full well that reports that he abused both of his wives were going to blow wide open.
Well, House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy must have missed the memo. He announced an investigation into how the White House handled the Porter affair–and believes that a lot of people in the current White House have some explaining to do.
Gowdy dropped by CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday morning. The South Carolina Republican that he wants some answers about this latest dumpster fire from the Donald Trump administration. Watch here.
Gowdy told host Allisyn Camerota that from his perspective as a former federal prosecutor and as the former solicitor, or district attorney, of Spartanburg County, he tends to be biased in favor of domestic violence victims. For that reason, he has “real questions” about why a person who was credibly accused of domestic violence could be anywhere near the White House. And that’s before we even discuss the fact that he was serving on an interim security clearance.
Camerota recalled that during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed that his team had given the White House “four different installments” of its report on Porter–three times in 2017, and again earlier this year. Those reports included statements from Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, about their ordeals. It led Camerota to ask the same question Gowdy asked–“how could he still have a job at the White House?”
Gowdy replied that he intends to get those answers. As he sees it, this situation is firmly in “what did they know and when did they know it?” territory.
“If you knew it in 2017 and the bureau briefed them three times, then how in the hell was he still employed? The security clearance is a separate issue. It’s an important issue, but it’s separate. How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?”
Camerota replied that based on CNN’s reporting, White House counsel Don McGahn and chief of staff John Kelly knew this was a ticking time bomb. Gowdy replied that he definitely wants to know how much McGahn, Kelly, and anyone else knew and how they handled it–and based on what we know, “the chronology is not favorable to the White House.” Gowdy wants to know what the FBI learned during its investigation, and when and with whom it shared that information–and to that end, his committee has launched an investigation into the Porter matter.
This development would have likely been the week’s major story if not for the horrific shooting at a high school near Fort Lauderdale. One of the most conservative members of the House appears to be willing to push back against Trump.
As a preliminary step in his committee’s review, Gowdy sent a letter to Kelly requesting details on how Porter’s clearance was handled.
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) February 14, 2018
That’s all good and well so far, Trey–or should I say, Harold Woodson? But you’ll have to pardon us if we’re a little skeptical. After all, your investigation into the Benghazi attack degenerated into a two-year witch hunt at taxpayer expense–one that continued even when you admitted that there was no way any troops in the area could have relieved the embassy in time.
You started to atone for that shameful display by calling BS on Trump’s claim that the Nunes memo exonerated him. But if we’re to believe that this isn’t just political grandstanding as you head out the door next year, you shouldn’t just be asking how Porter was able to keep his job. You should also be asking why Kelly is still in his.
It initially looked like there might have been an innocent explanation for Porter being in a job that normally carries access to some of the most sensitive classified information. At first glance, while it looked like Kelly simply let Porter view this information without a clearance or waived the process, it’s plausible that he simply created a system to work around Porter. But there is literally no innocent explanation for being told four times about this issue and apparently not taking action.
On Thursday, Willoughby told CNN that Porter told her at least twice in September that his vetting was being delayed due to concerns about his violent past. It’s very likely that this concern was noted in the FBI’s formal reports.
Gowdy is right–a person who is credibly accused of domestic violence has no business cleaning the White House, let alone serving in it. But those who turn a blind eye to those concerns despite being warned about them in capital letters have no business in the White House either. If Gowdy is as strong a champion for victims as he claims to be, he needs to tell Kelly that unless he has a good explanation for his passive reaction to the FBI’s warnings about Porter, he should resign.
(featured image courtesy Gowdy’s Twitter)