Last Thursday, just two days after the controversy surrounding former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter first broke, an Axios analysis said, “The West Wing couldn’t have handled it worse.”
That was premature – because Trump World’s handling of the controversy has clearly deteriorated since.
As of yesterday, the official line from Donald Trump’s team included three key points: (1) White House officials weren’t fully aware of the extent of the allegations against Porter; (2) the FBI hadn’t yet completed its review of Porter’s security clearance; and (3) the FBI first notified the White House about concerns related to Porter’s clearance last summer.
According to FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, the White House’s version of events simply isn’t true. The New York Times reported that Wray “contradicted … the White House timeline.”
Mr. Wray said that the bureau delivered to the White House a partial report on problems in Mr. Porter’s background in March, months earlier than the White House has admitted receiving the information. […]
[Wray added] that after the partial report in March, the F.B.I. gave the White House “a completed background investigation” in late July. He said the bureau received a request for a “follow-up inquiry” and provided more information about Mr. Porter’s background to the White House in November.
The bureau’s director went on to say that the investigation was “administratively closed” in January, which further contradicts the White House’s claim that the examination was “ongoing” when domestic-abuse allegations forced Porter’s ouster – a claim Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated twice yesterday.
It also raises further doubts about Trump World’s claims that officials in the West Wing didn’t know the extent of Porter’s alleged misdeeds. Wray said the FBI compiled information about the staff secretary and the bureau “passed that on” to the White House.
So, unless Wray just perjured himself for no reason – an unlikely scenario – Trump’s handpicked FBI director effectively contradicted all of the key defenses the White House has presented in the Porter matter, which comes on the heels of various members of the president’s team contradicting each other.
It now seems clear that White House knew about the staff secretary’s alleged violence and did nothing – except give him daily access to highly sensitive, classified materials, despite lacking a permanent security clearance. It’s equally clear that Trump World has repeatedly made claims about its handling of the Porter matter that have now been discredited.
The question is no longer whether the White House lied, but why.
Under normal political circumstances, developments like these cost high-ranking officials their jobs.
Postscript: I’d note for context that this is the second time in the last three weeks the FBI’s Chris Wray has publicly contradicted the White House’s line on high-profile issues.