Mere hours after the Daily Mail published several photographs detailing then-staff secretary Rob Porter’s physical abuse against his first wife, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reportedly organized a secret meeting between him and several reporters. According to Politico, the primary purpose of the meeting was so that Porter could “[relay] his version of events and [field] questions from the group” that included the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Axios. Meanwhile, Chief of Staff John Kelly — who has apparently offered to resign over the Porter scandal — allegedly didn’t know about the meeting at all.
Sarah Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting in the West Wing with Porter and four reporters: the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender. In that meeting, which hasn’t previously been reported, Porter relayed his version of events and fielded questions from the group.
Meanwhile, Kelly reportedly told staff members two days later that once he found out about the allegations against Porter, “he was gone 40 minutes later.” Additional reports have since claimed that the chief of staff already knew of the domestic abuse allegations against the staff secretary months ago (hence Kelly’s offer to resign), but Politico here adds that the White House would neither comment on Sanders’ arranged meeting between Porter and reporters, or whether or not Kelly was aware of said meeting. Sources suggests this is “symptomatic of the extent to which the White House has left Kelly to shoulder the blame.”
This is significant, especially since rumors of President Trump’s growing displeasure with Kelly’s performance have persisted for months. Not only has he publicly contradicted his second chief of staff on numerous occasions, but throughout the growing Porter scandal, the president has seemingly defended the former staff secretary on multiple occasions.