Rob Porter, a senior White House official who is close to Donald Trump, resigned Wednesday after his two ex-wives went public with allegations that he was physically and emotionally abusive to them during their respective marriages, reports The Washington Post.
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, 37, alleged to The Daily Mail that he choked and punched her. The Daily Mail, which originally published the story, included photos 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.
His second ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, tells the site she filed an emergency protective order against Porter following threats.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders read a statement from Porter at a press conference Wednesday. “These outrageous allegations are simply false. 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,” he said.
“I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign,” the statement continued. “My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”
Holderness and Willoughby told CNN they were both contacted by a woman who claimed to be Porter’s girlfriend in 2016.
In messages sent to them on Facebook and through text, the women claims she had endured “repeated abuse” by Porter and sought their help on how to leave him.
“I work in politics, and despite Rob’s repeated abuse, some of which I think many know about, he continues to rise and I’m afraid to go against him,” she wrote to Holderness. “I’m sorry to bother you. I wanted to reach out and hear your story if you are willing to share — as well as how you broke out of it with him and mostly, how you recovered.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told PEOPLE in a statement, “I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.”
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Holderness, a senior analyst for the U.S. government, alleged that during her five-year marriage to Porter, in addition to verbal abuse, “He would throw me down on the bed, then put his full body weight on top of me, then grind a knee or elbow into my body, expressing rage.”
When Porter allegedly choked her, Holderness tells The Daily Mail, “It was not hard enough for me to pass out but it was scary, humiliating and dehumanizing.”
Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, alleged to The Daily Mail that he verbally abused her with put-downs and called her a “f–king bitch” on their honeymoon. She also alleged he once dragged her wet and naked out of the shower.
Willoughby filed and received a protective order against Porter after he violated their separation agreement when he refused to leave their apartment and punched the glass on the door, cutting his hand, according to The Daily Mail.
Hours before the photos of Holderness’s black eye were published, John Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, told The Washington Post: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
But Porter’s first wife tells The Daily Mail that Porter is “a bit of a monster.”
Both ex-wives tell The Daily Mail they were interviewed by the FBI last year after Porter was chosen as White House staff secretary and needed security clearance for his job. He never received permanent security clearance, according to The Daily Mail.
Porter’s job entailed spending hours a day with Trump, controlling the paper flow to his desk and Trump’s schedule, The Washington Post reports.