Wed, 17 Oct 2018

Kelly under pressure, Trump offers new defense of Porter

By Sheetal Sukhija, Chicago News
11 Feb 2018, 14:01 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - Amid a controversy over his ex-aides that continued to slowly but steadily blow up, U.S. President Donald Trump further complicated the situation on Saturday after he offered another defense of his tainted aides.

In a pointed response to the uproar over charges of domestic violence against two of his top aides, Trump said in a warning tone on Saturday that lives can be shattered by a "mere allegation.” 

He also raised the question that many had been asking ever since the controversy first came to light - whatever happened to "due process?"

It all started when Trump’s former White House staff secretary Rob Porter quit this week, amid domestic abuse allegations. 

Porter is facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse by his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby - but has denied the claims. 

Trump, who had remained mum about the controversy all week, said on Friday, "We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it's a tough time for him. He did a very good job while when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”

Trump added, “But it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he's also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that."

Trump emphasized that Porter, who was forced to resign, had said "very strongly" that he was innocent.

Hour laters, adding to the problems facing the White House, the official speechwriter David Sorensen resigned similarly, over domestic abuse allegations. 

Sorensen too has denied his wife's claims.

As the fallout from the scandal engulfed Trump’s inner circle at the White House, reports revealed that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly had some knowledge about the accusations against his deputy.

Kelly initially called Porter "a man of true integrity and honour” but after visual proof of the domestic abuse cases appeared in the media, Kelly released a new statement saying he was shocked by the claims and stressed domestic violence was unacceptable.

Pressure mounted further on  Kelly, who was said to have offered to resign for the poor handling of the controversy.

The former general, who was tasked with bringing military discipline, was questioned for his judgement - especially since Porter’s second wife was said to have obtained a protective order against him in June 2010.

Questions were raised about how Porter received interim security clearance to act as gatekeeper to the U.S. president despite the allegations.

A report in the New York Times suggested that Kelly told his staff on Friday that he was willing to resign over his mishandling of the domestic violence allegations that led to Porter’s resignation.

Making matters worse, on Saturday, Trump redoubled his measured response to such charges, noting how damaging allegations can be.

Trump tweeted, "Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused -- life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

For months now, Trump has cautioned against jumping to conclusions in cases of alleged sexual misconduct, including those directed at him by more than a dozen women.

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