Two days after top Trump aide Rob Porter resigned amid domestic abuse allegations from his two ex-wives, President Donald Trump is weighing in for the first time and showing support for his former staff secretary.
“We wish him well. He worked very hard,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday, according to a pool report.
The president added that it is a “tough time” for Porter.
“As you probably know he says he is innocent,” Trump said, adding that Porter did “very well” in the White House.
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Porter’s ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, alleged to The Daily Mail on Wednesday that he was physically and verbally abusive to them during their respective marriages.
On Friday, Willoughby, Porter’s second ex-wife, appeared on the Today show, where she said she took out a temporary protective order against her then-husband after he pulled her wet and naked out of the shower “to continue the rage” during an argument.
She also alleged that Porter punched in the door of a home she was staying in during their separation.
In a statement read by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press conference on Wednesday, Porter denied Willoughby and Holderness’ allegations — including photos The Daily Mail published showing Holderness with a bruised right eye, which she claims was the result of Porter punching her in the face during a trip to Italy in the mid-2000s.
“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” Porter wrote. “I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.”
Porter also alleged that Willoughby and Holderness were conspiring against him.
Trump’s defense of Porter comes as chief of staff John Kelly is facing widespread criticism for his own show of support for the ousted aide. After Porter’s ex-wives came forward with their stories, Kelly defended Porter as a “man of true integrity and honor” in a statement.
Trump faced swift backlash from politicians and celebrities over his comments Friday.
“What’s ‘sad’ is having a complete moral vacuum in the Oval Office,” Sen. Tim Kaine said. “Domestic violence is evil, and there aren’t ‘both sides’ on this issue. Real leaders stand with survivors, not perpetrators.”
Sen. Bob Casey tweeted, “Seeming to offer a defense of Mr. Porter and saying nothing about the women who have come forward is wrong.”