The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s full comments essentially defending Rob Porter, annotated

President Trump wished former White House aide Rob Porter “a wonderful career” on Feb. 9, saying Porter “says he's innocent.” (Video: The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

President Trump weighed in Friday for the first time on his now-former staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned Wednesday amid accusations that he abused two ex-wives. And perhaps predictably, Trump all but outwardly defended Porter against the accusations.

As he did with Roy Moore, the U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama,Trump emphasized that Porter maintains his innocence. Trump didn’t make any statements against domestic violence in general, as others in his administration have, but instead commiserated with Porter and expressed a desire for his continued prosperity.

It was, in one way, completely unsurprising from a president who has called women who accused him of misconduct “liars.” As Philip Bump notes, Trump seems to view any comments suggesting women's accusations against powerful men might be credible as a slippery slope toward people believing his own accusers.

But even against that backdrop, it was a remarkable reaction to a burgeoning scandal in his administration. Even as White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly sought to assure staff that he takes domestic violence seriously, Trump provided the kind of defense of Porter for which Kelly has drawn criticism.

Below are Trump’s full comments, with our annotations:

Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well.
It’s a, obviously, tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it.  And, certainly, he’s also very sad.
Now he also — as you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent.  So you’ll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.
Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.