Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Nation & World

FBI director contradicts White House account on investigation of aide accused of spousal abuse

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday contradicted the White House’s account of when the bureau informed officials about the status of a senior aide’s security-clearance investigation.

White House officials said that they were first contacted in the summer by the FBI about senior aide Rob Porter’s clearance. They also said that the investigation was never completed and that they did not know the extent of the allegations against Porter. He stepped down last week after accusations of spousal abuse by his two ex-wives.

But Wray, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the FBI submitted a partial report on his clearance in March and that the investigation was completed in July. Soon after, he said, the FBI received a request for a follow-up, which the bureau completed and provided in November. The FBI closed the file in January and then earlier this month, Wray said, the bureau received additional information and "we passed that on as well."

"I am quite confident that in this instance, the FBI followed established" protocols, Wray said, speaking at the committee’s annual worldwide-threats hearing.

RELATED COVERAGE: Rob Porter is my ex-husband. Here’swhat you should know about abuse

His remarks come as the White House has sought to deflect criticism over its handling of Porter’s clearance, saying it relies on law enforcement and intelligence agencies to run the process.

Wray’s comments stand in stark contrast to how the White House has in recent days portrayed the status of the background check and when senior officials knew about the allegations of abuse against Porter.

At the White House briefing Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood by the White House’s previous explanation of the matter, saying that the presidential personnel office was still reviewing Porter’s case when the aide resigned last week.

Sanders said that while the "FBI portion was closed, the White House personnel security office, who is the one to make the recommendation for adjudication, was not finished their process; therefore, they did not make a recommendation to the White House."

Last week, Sanders’s deputy, Raj Shah, said the background check had not been finished and that the White House saw it as the appropriate forum for the allegations of abuse and Porter’s denials to be investigated.

"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," Shah said on Feb. 8. "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."

That message was reiterated by Sanders Monday.

"As I know Raj addressed last week, we let the process play out," she told reporters. "It was ongoing, hadn’t been completed."

Before Wray’s testimony, the White House was facing a number of questions about how Porter’s dismissal was handled, including the role played by Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

Kelly has said that he took action against Porter within 40 minutes of learning on Feb. 8, when the accusations against were first reported by The Daily Mail, that the allegations against him were true. But he issued a public statement lauding Porter that same night and, according to people familiar with the matter, urged Porter to say in his job. Porter did not resign until the next morning after the publication of photos showing his first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye, which she says was the result of a punch from Porter. He denies the allegations against him.

The day Porter resigned, Sanders portrayed it as his decision alone.

"I think that was a personal decision that Rob made, and one that he was not pressured to do, but one that he made on his own," she told reporters.

Sanders also said "the president and chief of staff have had full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance."

The Porter incident has also led to renewed scrutiny of how many White House officials who may have access to classified information continue to work in the West Wing without a permanent security clearance.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, declined to comment on Porter’s case or those of other White House officials, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who have temporary security clearance but still have access to classified information.

But in general, Coats said, people with temporary clearance should have limited access to classified information.

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

Comments
Months of inaction led 20 Republicans in Congress to take a stand on immigration

Months of inaction led 20 Republicans in Congress to take a stand on immigration

WASHINGTON — Before they were "dreamers," they were just neighbors to California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham.They played basketball with his kids. They were the pride of the immigrant families upon which the Central Valley’s agricultural economy reli...
Published: 05/21/18
France takes a step forward in fighting catcallers but falls short on setting age of consent

France takes a step forward in fighting catcallers but falls short on setting age of consent

Men who whistle and catcall women on the streets of France may soon face stiff punishment.On Wednesday, lawmakers in the National Assembly - France’s lower house of Parliament - passed measures to curb sexual violence. Among them: People caught haras...
Published: 05/20/18
Clare Waight Keller designs Markle’s sleek wedding dress

Clare Waight Keller designs Markle’s sleek wedding dress

WINDSOR, England — Clare Waight Keller is the master British designer behind the silk boat-necked gown and long billowing veil worn by Meghan Markle as she walked down the flower-bedecked nave of St. George’s Chapel for her wedding to Prince Harry.Th...
Published: 05/19/18
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wed in Windsor as millions watch

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wed in Windsor as millions watch

WINDSOR, England — Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gazed into each other’s eyes and pledged their eternal love Saturday as they married at St. George’s Chapel in front of hundreds of celebrity guests and millions of viewers around the world.The Americ...
Published: 05/19/18
Teen held in Texas attack is said to have used father’s guns

Teen held in Texas attack is said to have used father’s guns

SANTA FE, Texas — The Texas student charged in the school shooting at Santa Fe High School described planning the attack in private journals, including a plan to kill himself, posted an image on Facebook of a "Born to Kill" shirt and used his father’...
Published: 05/18/18

‘DO SOMETHING:’ Parkland students angry after Texas shooting

PARKLAND — Survivors of the school shooting in Parkland took to social media to express outrage and heartbreak after the Friday school shooting in Texas, where authorities say a gunman opened fire, killing 10 people.The shooting at Santa Fe High Sch...
Published: 05/18/18
Airliner with at least 110 aboard crashes in Cuba

Airliner with at least 110 aboard crashes in Cuba

HAVANA — A Cuban-operated airliner with at least 110 people aboard crashed and burned in a cassava field just after takeoff from the Havana airport Friday. Cuban media reported three survivors.The Boeing 737 went down just after noon a short distance...
Published: 05/18/18
Florida man says he knows who ‘D.B. Cooper’ was: His best friend.

Florida man says he knows who ‘D.B. Cooper’ was: His best friend.

The quest to reveal the identity of "D.B. Cooper" - the alias of the daredevil who hijacked a Northwest Orient flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle in 1971 and parachuted out of the plane with $200,000 - has come up empty for almost 50 years.But t...
Published: 05/18/18
Ranting gunman arrested after police shootout at Trump resort

Ranting gunman arrested after police shootout at Trump resort

DORAL — Gunfire erupted early Friday at President Donald Trump’s golf resort, as a man shouting anti-Trump rhetoric draped a flag over a lobby counter and exchanged fire with officers in what one official called an "ambush" before being arrested, pol...
Published: 05/18/18
Suspect confessed to rampage at Texas high school, authorities say

Suspect confessed to rampage at Texas high school, authorities say

SANTA FE, Texas — A 17-year-old student confessed to opening fire at his Texas high school Friday, killing 10 people, and told investigators after a protracted gunbattle that he had spared certain students "so he could have his story told," authoriti...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/19/18