Feb 13, 2018, 12:28 PM ET

FBI director gives new details that contradict White House timeline of Rob Porter's departure

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FBI Director Chris Wray offered new details on Tuesday that directly contradict the White House’s account of the timeline leading to former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s departure following allegations of domestic abuse from two of his ex-wives.

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Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI completed its background investigation of Porter "in late July." The FBI then responded to requests for follow up information in November, and finally "administratively closed the file in January ... earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that along as well," Wray said.

The timeline laid out in Wray’s testimony before Congress sharply departs from the narrative offered by the White House last week.

As the allegations of violence came to light — including graphic photos of one ex-wife with facial bruising and a black eye and a haunting description of violence from a second ex-wife — the White House repeatedly claimed the background investigation needed for Porter's security clearance was ongoing as of last week when he resigned.

The FBI, Wray said on Tuesday, had concluded months earlier that Porter's past made him ineligible for a full (multi-year) security clearance. Porter then continued to work at the White House under a temporary security clearance.

In Tuesday's press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders maintained that the investigation was "ongoing" and the White House personnel security office did not make a final recommendation on Porter for the administration.

"The White House Personnel Security Office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation in November. But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House, because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned," Sanders said.

On Monday, Sanders said the process for clearance "doesn't operate within the White House."

In Tuesday's press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders maintained that the investigation was "ongoing" and the White House personnel security office did not make a final recommendation on Porter for the administration.

"The White House Personnel Security Office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation in November. But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House, because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned," Sanders said.

"In the view of the personnel security office, the FBI's July report required significant additional investigatory field work before the personnel security office could begin to evaluate the information for adjudication," Sanders said. "As Director Wray said, information was still coming to the White House Personnel Security Office in February."

On Monday, Sanders said "This is a process that doesn't operate within the White House. It's handled by our law enforcement and intelligence community and we support that process. it's the same process that's been used for decades and for previous administrations and we're relying on that process at this point."

The messaging on who knew what — and when — about Porter's background investigation has now embroiled the White House for over a week.

Wray’s testimony undermines the White House's central defense of Porter, first offered by Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah last Thursday, that it would have been premature to issue a final verdict on his security clearance while an investigation was ongoing.

PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter in Washington, Nov. 29, 2017.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter in Washington, Nov. 29, 2017.

"We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made, unless they could compromise national security or interfere with operations at the White House. The truth must be determined. And that was what was going on with Rob Porter. His background investigation was ongoing. He was operating on an interim security clearance. His clearance was never denied, and he resigned," Shah said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders repeated the messaging in her briefing yesterday.

"As I know Raj addressed last week, we let the process play out. It was ongoing, hadn't been completed,” she said. “ And beyond that, and the statement I just gave you, I don't have anything else to add."

On Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, Shah continued to use the defense that the background check process was still ongoing.

ABC is still trying to determine the number of individuals still operating under temporary security clearances in the White House as of Tuesday.

One such figure with that type of clearance is the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

However, according to sources familiar with the matter, it's not uncommon for some clearances to take several months, nor is it uncommon to have a backlog of individuals seeking clearances.

What remains unclear is whether there are additional staffers employed by the White House who failed to secure full security clearances.

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CComments

  • Thomas

    Trump administration: The gang that could not even lie straight.

  • Ron Fuller

    Like a well oiled lying machine!

  • IT-Worker-Since-1990

    I have learned a valuable lesson when dealing with the information that the White House gives out. If it is a story like this one, you believe the opposite of what they say. If it is a #, you move the decimal place two spaces to the left if it is something "good" for them and move it to the right two spaces if it is something "bad" for them. It is quite simple.

  • DuelingDogmas

    Stupid facts.

    Always challenging the Trump world view with actual information, the FBI is WAY out of line.

  • Siestasis42

    I do not believe a word that comes out of the White House. I understand Sanders has children, she is teaching them a great lesson, lie, lie, and lie more.

  • chooch

    Gee, a real dilemma, who should we believe, the FBI or the White House?

  • c0reDump

    Narcissistic. Pathological. Liars.

    You can't believe a single thing that comes from the clowns in the White House, without outside third party corroboration.

  • Linhster

    Trump and his administration has turned the WHITE HOUSE into the LIE HOUSE. They are the most FILTHY SCUM of the earth.

  • Kevin from Wa.

    Flipping to Faux Nooz to see what the First Tweet from Trump will be....Or the way THE SPIN WILL GO TODAY....

  • Hank R

    It's obvious we weren't told the truth about this by many in the Trump Administration but there is a bigger issue. Should we can people due solely to accusations or should there be some proof first?

  • Andy1

    Monday Sanders says the investigation is ongoing, not in the White House, still with the FBI. Tuesday she says, yes, FBI had finished investigation and the "ongoing" part was in the White House, the Office of Personnel Security. Won't talk about the discrepancy from one day to the next, no explanation. How are we supposed to believe anything that comes from her, or from anyone in the White House.

  • Steve in CT

    I looked for this story over on Fox. It wasn't there. It was mentioned in one line in an article about Ex-wives.

  • Realpshep

    Sarah Huckabee will say that the WH uses the Mayan Calendar so it wasn't being misleading. The FBI is wrong again

  • jsb

    tHE vIEW people are a bunch of cackling geese.

  • Guest

    New White House statement:

    We knew what we knew about Porter when we decided we wanted to know. And even when we did know, we didn't know because we didn't want to. If you don't want to know, you don't know. But now that everybody knows, we still don't want to know, but we have to know because, like I said, everybody now knows.

    It's the perfect spin for Raj and Sarah.

  • SMRT

    I mean, what fly-over state, rust-belt, real American HASN’T had their millionire lawyer fall on his sword after paying $130,000 to buy the (ultimately failed) silence of a porn star they were having an affair with instead of being home with their wife and newborn child?

    Can you even believe how MEAN the fake MSM is being!?
    It’s clearly all just a deep state conspiracy that involves anyone who talks about it. It’s the libruls! You know how deviant and immoral they are!!

  • SMRT

    Classic Donald.

    It’s the one thread that no one saw coming, that’s going to start unraveling the whole circus.

  • virgillionhere

    The White House lied again.
    In other news, the sun came up...

  • yetanother1

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... I just don't know who to believe. Trump is known for his honesty, isn't he?

  • Cagey-B

    "We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made..."
    ____________________________________________________________
    Righto, Sarah: just as we shouldn't short-circuit the Russia investigation just because Devin "Midnight Run" Nunes cobbled together a fictitious memo.
    The Porter flap is just another self-inflicted wound for Trump & Company. The Donald could've defused the whole thing by impersonating a decent human being. Instead, we're treated to the queer spectacle of Sarah Sanders insisting, all evidence to the contrary, that Trump really cares about women, and takes allegations of abuse seriously. Seriously?

  • bpai99

    Step by step, seat by seat, we move closer to seeing justice be done: Trump proven guilty of colluding with Russia, then being convicted and executed for treason as he deserves.

    The GOP will not be able to obstruct justice forever. The death penalty should be meted out to all convicted traitors, including those whose treasonous acts got them into the White House.

  • jetmagnet

    Trump can get away with anything... obama couldn't

  • jetmagnet

    It's a playpen , with all the toddlers running around in diapers.

    12 people in the WH have no security clearance and either handle or are privy to classified information , and the GOP was worried about Hillary's server.

  • Derelict Donald

    lies to cover the lies told by serial liars all loyal the the greatest liar of all times. and his drones still have the ignorance to blindly follow his words.

  • Hugo Diedericks

    All this winning.....lie after lie...

  • Resurrected Smile

    What are some of the possible reasons to rule against Kushner's security clearance? I know he has no real qualifications for leading Middle East peace talks but what might disqualify him?

  • GoodCoffee

    I am sure the Trump team was overjoyed he was a wife beater.

  • GorillaMyDreams

    What's going on here? Over the last couple of hours there have been as many ABCNewsmoderator1 "stop"s as comments!

  • Laney D.

    We have a President that has zero respect for women and stands by men who abuse them, but then he's also an abuser.. I'm surprised any woman would vote for him or believes what he says.

  • I AM INSPIRED

    On a sinking ship, follow the rats.

  • Educated

    ...Facts normally contradict what comes out of this WH.

  • mollydtt

    Once again,

    There are very, VERY few people willing to work for Trump that can pass an FBI background check. Those that could—those potential aides can’t be hired, because Trump’s number one requirement for employment is loyalty, and if that person ever said anything negative against Trump during the past 10years—that would disqualify them.

    Hence the unqualified and security clearance challenged. And easily run over by the Trump bus eventually.

  • mollydtt

    The White House lies faster and faster, and ratchets up war with the FBI with every passing moment.

    Moron in chief. Again.

  • otm861

    Any debate about Trump is useless. He is without a doubt a scourge on our democracy and everyday in every way he proves it over and over again and if you defend him you are a traitor just like he is.

  • Kajsa Williams

    "...due process"? He deserves to follow the rules of our country. Porter applied for a job that required security clearance. He knew the job depended on getting security clearance. After a year of trying, he hasn't been able to get it. He needs to leave.

    Trump needs to realize that he can't have every violent corporate scumbag in his acquaintance handling top secret documents. Force Trump to obey the law.

  • Concerned Citzen

    Now, according to Sarah, it's the White House Security Office's fault that White House staff didn't know about Rob Porter. Everyone is to blame except of course, Trump, CofS Kelly, White House lawyers, etc. What a tangled web we weave. It seems the West wing of the White House can't do anything wrong and if something is wrong, it's someone else's fault.