White House Chief of Staff John Kelly needs to resign on his own, or be asked to resign by President Trump.
This is true whether Kelly knew of the seriousness of domestic abuse accusations against just-resigned White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter for months – as news reports claim – or whether Kelly did not know. Kelly clearly mishandled the way he dealt with Porter and the way he issued contradictory White House statements.
Either way, Kelly is clearly in over his head. He needs to leave his post because he has become a distraction and his continued presence in the White House is hurting President Trump’s efforts to focus on policy initiatives that will benefit our nation and the American people.
Rewind the clock just a week ago. President Trump was given positive marks for his first State of the Union address. His approval ratings were ticking up above 40 percent for the first time in his presidency. Public approval of the recently signed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was ticking up as well, thanks in part to several companies granting wage raises and bonuses, the latest coming from CVS this week.
But now that’s all gone, rocked by a serious scandal surrounding Porter and credible accusations of domestic abuse involving his two ex-wives.
Porter’s resignation Thursday came after several mixed messages from the White House – primarily from Kelly.
Kelly has walked into several bear traps of his own as of late. As more details leak out from the White House about what Kelly and others may or may not have known about the accusations facing Porter, it’s clear this is a story that isn’t going away and should end with Kelly out of the White House.
When accusations and brutal, inexcusable photographs were published against Porter earlier this week, Kelly came to his aide’s defense, suggesting he fight through these accusations and releasing a statement Tuesday. A day later Kelly saw photographs of Porter’s ex-spouse Colbie Holderness with a bruised and black right eye from 2005.
Only then, apparently Kelly claims, did he realize the seriousness of the accusations. Then Jennifer Willoughby, a second wife of Porter, came forward detailing abuse at his hands in 2010. They were divorced in 2013.
If this isn’t all damning enough, it is being reported be several news outlets that White House Counsel Don McGahn was aware of accusations against Porter as far back as January 2017. Porter was granted an interim security clearance anyway.
Kelly joined the Trump White House when he took over as chief of staff in July and then learned as early as last fall that Porter’s security clearance was being held up due to background check discrepancies stemming from these allegations.
That did not stop White House officials, including Kelly, from elevating Porter through the ranks to a position with direct access to the president through Kelly, who claims he did not know of this story until earlier last week.
Whether or not the president knew of Porter’s history is something that will most likely reveal itself in time. What is apparent, based on reports direct from White House sources is that Kelly was aware of Porter’s history, and the country is not in a place where Kelly should be allowed to remain in his current position.
This all caused the White House to scramble Thursday, admitting officials could have handled themselves better with the breaking accusations. Actually, where the White House could have handled things better would be to not allow Porter anywhere near the president of the United States months ago – when the country was swept up in the #MeToo sexual abuse wave that cost several high-powered Hollywood producers their jobs, as well as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.
We have been flooded with too many stories of sexual abusers passing through the ranks of media, Hollywood and politics, reputations intact, while victims were ignored for years. This should all end in the White House.
If the White House wants to champion women’s rights in the United States, or around the world, it absolutely cannot be seen as a safe haven for alleged abusers. Accusations from adult film stars about extramarital affairs make good late night comedy. Ignoring photographs of women with black eyes and official FBI reports should rock any White House to the core.
Porter and other defenders have claimed this is all an orchestrated smear campaign. So what? That doesn’t make Porter’s history disappear, and it’s weak excuse for a White House facing far too many of these questions already as it attempts to continue to push a policy agenda forward before November midterm elections.
The alleged assaults on Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby should concern this White House and this country. And they should be the last names John Kelly hears on his way out the door.