President Trump's staff secretary, Rob Porter, quits after two ex-wives accuse him of abuse

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's staff secretary, Rob Porter, is resigning after two ex-wives accused him of physically and verbally abusing them during their marriages.
  • Porter denies the claims.
  • The White House said Porter would stay on to oversee a transition period.
Robert Porter, left, White House Staff Secretary speaks to President Donald Trump after Trump made remarks regarding the on going situation in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, N.J.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

President Donald Trump's staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned Wednesday from the White House after two ex-wives told a newspaper he had physically and verbally abused them.

One of the women said Porter, who denies the allegations, choked and punched her during their five-year marriage, according to a report published Wednesday by the Daily Mail.

The woman, Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, spoke out after Tuesday's report in the Daily Mail that quoted his second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, saying he had on one occasion dragged her wet and naked out of a shower during an argument.

Willoughby told the newspaper that Porter called her a "f---ing b---" during their honeymoon, and she months later obtained a protective order against him, she told the newspaper.

The Daily Mail ran photos of Holderness with a black eye that she said resulted from Porter hitting her.

Both women said that they were interviewed by the FBI as part of a screening process for Porter to obtain a security clearance, which he has not been granted. Holderness told the Daily Mail she shared photos of her injuries with the FBI.

In the Daily Mail's first story Tuesday, Porter's boss, White House chief of staff John Kelly, strongly defended him.

Porter, whom the newspaper says is dating White House communications chief Hope Hicks, will stay with the White House for the moment to help oversee a transition period, according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Porter's job responsibilities included vetting documents and other information that Trump sees.

"I don't know," Sanders told reporters Wednesday when asked whether Trump had concerns about Porter's alleged conduct and the photos of his bruised ex-wife.

A Business Insider article in September called Porter "a little-known White House aide who has avoided getting caught up in any of the West Wing drama that has plagued the administration for the better part of seven months."

A former aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Porter went to Harvard University with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and a senior advisor to Trump.

"It's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man," Hatch told the Washington Post on Tuesday.

"Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name," Hatch said.

However, Hatch sharply changed his tune after Porter announced his resignation Wednesday. In a tweeted statement, Hatch said he was "heartbroken by the allegations" against Porter.


Porter's resignation makes him the last of five Trump aides seen together in an iconic, "Reservoir Dogs"-like photo to leave his administration or presidential campaign before they would have preferred.

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) says hello to reporters as he and White House advisors Sebastian Gorka (from L), Omarosa Manigault and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, and staff secretary Rob Porter accompany President Trump for an event celebrating veterans at AMVETS Post 44 in Struthers, Ohio, U.S., July 25, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The others were former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former security advisor Sebastian Gorka, "Apprentice" villain and former communications director for the White House public liaison Omarosa Manigault Newman, and Anthony Scarumucci, the foul-mouthed financier who had a short-lived tenure as White House communications director.

"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. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."

"My commitment to public service speaks for itself," Porter said. "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."

In her own prepared statement, Sanders said the White House, as a matter of policy, does not comment on staffers' security clearances.

"Rob Porter has been effective in his role as staff secretary. The president and chief of staff have full confidence in his abilities and his performance," Sanders said.

Before Porter resigned, Kelly told the Daily Mail that 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."

In an October press briefing, Kelly lamented that, in his view, women were no longer held to be "sacred" in the U.S.

"You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor," he said then. "That's obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases."