The White House was informed early last year about potential problems concerning the background investigation of former aide Rob Porter, according to the FBI, casting doubt on the Trump administration’s timeline of events.
According to the FBI account provided this month to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, White House Counsel Donald McGahn first received “derogatory information” about Porter in March 2017. The letter did not say what the information included, but “derogatory information” often prevents individuals from receiving security clearances.
Porter, the former staff secretary, was dismissed in February after his two ex-wives accused him of abuse — and pictures emerged of one with a black eye. The women had said they were interviewed by the FBI months earlier.
The White House has given several shifting timelines for how it handled the allegations, and top aides, including McGahn, have come under scrutiny for what they did and why Porter was allowed to continue seeing sensitive material.
Porter frequently spent hours a day with President Trump and gave him some of his most sensitive documents.
White House aides have said they were caught off-guard by the allegations — originally published in the Daily Mail — and took swift action. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has said Porter was dismissed within 40 minutes of Kelly learning of the accusations, a claim that other aides have disputed.
McGahn has said he was not aware of the allegations about Porter until just before they became public. A White House official has previously said the allegations did not reach McGahn, even though the FBI says the letter was addressed to him.
A White House official said Chief of Staff John Kelly “issued a memorandum on February 16, 2018 to improve the security clearance process, including requiring that derogatory information is now provided in-person directly to the appropriate person, which was not the case in 2017,”
Porter did not respond to a request for comment. He previously has denied the accusations.
In the FBI’s telling, the White House received a completed background investigation about Porter in July. It later reopened the investigation to interview Porter’s ex-wives.
By November, the FBI says, it detailed all the information to the White House, including the interviews, and closed its file in January. The White House later said the investigation into Porter was still open when he was dismissed.