White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Opinion writer

The Post reports:

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Tuesday contradicted the White House’s account of when the bureau informed officials about the status of a senior aide’s security-clearance investigation.

White House officials said that they were first contacted in the summer by the FBI about senior aide Rob Porter’s clearance. They also said that the investigation was never completed and that they did not know the extent of the allegations against Porter. He stepped down last week after accusations of spousal abuse by his two ex-wives.

But Wray, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the FBI submitted a partial report on his clearance in March and that the investigation was completed in July.

In other words, it looks like the cover story the White House has concocted is false.

We, along with most of the media, have observed an unusual degree of incoherence and inconsistency in the White House explanation for Rob Porter’s continued access to confidential material and his eventual termination. Now it appears that for days Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and his subordinates misled the American people, and perhaps the president, in making it appear that Porter still had the potential to be granted a final clearance. This is false, raising the question as to why, knowing that he could not qualify for such a clearance, Porter would be kept on and given continued access (we presume) to top classified material.

If not outright lying, Kelly’s handling of this smacks of sheer incompetence. Was he covering up for his unwise decision to keep around an accused wife abuser? Did Kelly defy the normal security clearance process to protect not only Porter but also Jared Kushner and others who cannot qualify for the necessary clearance? We don’t know, but it is hard to argue that Kelly at this point, particularly if he intentionally misled the country, should be permitted to remain.

In a normal administration, Kelly likely would have been fired by now. In this White House, we don’t know if Trump had approved Porter remaining on and therefore consented to the Kelly cover-up or whether the president was bamboozled along with the rest of the country. If Kelly remains, the former explanation becomes more plausible — and more reprehensible.

At this point, Congress should take the unusual step of requiring Kelly to come testify, whether or not Trump fires him. He needs to answer, behind closed doors if need be:

  • How did Porter keep his job without the appropriate clearance?
  • Did they understand the security risk (e.g., blackmail) in allowing Porter to remain?
  • How many others denied permanent clearance in the White House have closed files but retain access to classified material?
  • Did Trump approve these security arrangements?
  • Why was Kushner denied clearance? Was it related to his inexplicable failures to disclose Russia-related financial material and meetings?

Hillary Clinton sure has reason to wonder why her home email server was such a to-do while this White House allows, presumably, a slew of characters with questionable backgrounds access to our nation’s secrets. Isn’t it time for Trump to come clean and then justify why his White House plays fast and loose with our nation’s secrets?