After a disastrous week for White House chief of staff John Kelly, who is under fire for, among other things, having defended Staff Secretary Rob Porter amid domestic-abuse allegations, Trump administration talking heads were in cleanup mode on Sunday morning.
Amid reports that President Trump was considering getting rid of his chief of staff, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper to claim otherwise.
(Judging by past events, this assurance does not indicate that Kelly’s job is completely secure.)
Conway also said that Porter, who announced his resignation on Wednesday after the Intercept published disturbing photos that depicted his alleged abuse, was right to go. She defended President Trump’s unwillingness to sympathize with Porter’s accusers by … pointing to job gains among women in the last year. And she dodged a question about the timeline of what Kelly and White House chief counsel Donald McGahn knew about Porter’s behavior.
Mick Mulvaney, the president’s chief budget officer, who was reported to be in the mix for the chief-of-staff job himself, said on Fox News Sunday that such rumors were “much ado about nothing.” He defended the speed at which Porter was dispatched from the White House, claiming that as soon as it was proven that Rob Porter was wrong and “not telling the truth, when the photos came out on Wednesday, he was gone almost immediately.”
Kelly himself has not yet given a full accounting of his version of what, exactly, he knew about Porter’s behavior before this week, though Politico reported that he was aware of a protective order obtained by Porter’s second wife in 2010, and did nothing about it.
Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported on Sunday morning on the contradictory accounts now making the rounds. In Porter’s telling, he had not misrepresented anything about his past, and was initially told to “stay and fight” even after the Daily Mail published an initial story about his alleged domestic abuse. In Kelly’s version of events — as relayed to Axios by a congressman — Porter was asked point blank about physical violence and denied that it had ever taken place, leaving Kelly blindsided.
Kelly may still enjoy the confidence of the president, but he has increasingly become known for a loose relationship with the truth, so his credibility is not exactly airtight on this or any other matter.