He had regular access to the president. He has been praised incessantly by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
He’s a wretched human being.
That would be Rob Porter, now a former White House staff secretary.
Porter resigned from his role (after being encouraged to stay by Kelly), after news broke of two former wives with harrowing stories of spousal abuse.
I talked about that story on Wednesday, and today, there’s more specific details available.
CNN spoke with the former wives and got their accounts of life with Porter, and the behavior that both cited as the reasons for their divorce.
His first wife was Colbie Holderness. They married in 2003, and as Holderness explains, the physical abuse began on their honeymoon.
While on a trip to the Canary Islands, they got into an argument, resulting in Porter kicking Holderness in her thigh.
“I didn’t quite know how to take it,” Holderness said. “I had just tied the knot with him.”
Another move he pulled was to throw her down and grind a knee or elbow into her body, along with choking her.
“The thing he would do most frequently is he would throw me down on a bed and he would just put his body weight on me and he’d be yelling at me but as he was yelling he’d me grinding an elbow or knee into my body to emphasize his anger,” she said. The choking, she said, “was just very scary and dehumanizing,” and she said she didn’t realize the severity of the situation until she spoke with a counselor.
That’s something that’s not uncommon. When a spouse is abusive, the abused spouse will find all kinds of ways to excuse it away. It often takes something particularly jarring or heinous to force them out of their stupor and into flight. Getting counseling early helps many come to terms with what’s happening to them, so they can make decisions about their situations before things get worse.
In 2005, while on vacation in Florence, Italy, Porter punched his wife in the face, leaving a mark.
Senior White House aide Rob Porter physically assaulted two ex-wives, they tell @theintercept. Full story to come in the morning.
His first wife, Colbie Holderness, provided these photos from a vacation they took together in Florence, Italy: pic.twitter.com/tl3TbyGA8Y
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) February 7, 2018
He was escalating.
“I think it shocked him and it shocked me. It never happened again, it was a one-time thing,” she said.
Porter objected to the accounts, saying he even took the photos (although he has no explanation for how his wife got the black eye).
“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.
Holderness is not backing down from her story, either.
“He’s wrong in that the circumstances are exactly what I described. In contrition I made him take the photos. In his contrition, I had him take photos of what he did,” she told CNN.
Her brother, Trevor Paulson, and a close girlfriend who declined to be named, both told CNN on Wednesday that Holderness had confided in them over the years about Porter’s abuse.
Porter married Jennifer Willoughby in 2009. Just as it was with Holderness, Willoughby says the abuse began immediately after, while on their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, SC she experienced what she described as intense anger – something she said she was already familiar with, but apparently, it became amplified on their honeymoon.
So it’s not like he just changed after they married. She was accustomed to his bursts of temper.
“He started calling me names, calling me a ‘f—ing bitch,’ how I behaved was ‘f—ing ridiculous’ and most of that was instigated around my not having sex with him often enough on our honeymoon,” Willoughby said.
Yeah, it’s amazing how a nasty attitude can just kill off any amorous feelings.
The couple sought therapy, and eventually separated.
Then there was a Spring 2010 episode, where Porter returned to the home they had shared and lashed out, by punching the glass from the front door.
“The window on the door was broken and his hand was bleeding and he was requesting to be able to come in and seek medical attention. At that point, I was scared, and he also wasn’t supposed to be there to begin with,” she said.
She was advised by the police to take out an order of protection against him. In June 2010 she took out a temporary order.
In December 2010, after an argument, the abuse went from emotional to physical.
“We were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me,” she said. “He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right.”
They divorced in 2013.
Both women were questioned by the FBI last year, in regards to his security clearance. They both were honest about the abuses they endured. What resulted was difficulty in obtaining necessary security clearance.
Porter previously served as a chief of staff to Senator Orrin Hatch, who spoke well of him.
As previously pointed out, he’s also become John Kelly’s right-hand man, serving as a gatekeeper and filter of information that made it to President Trump’s desk.
More recently, his role has expanded. He’s traveled more frequently with the president, and has expressed a desire to become more hands-on with policy.
His job is considered to be as an “assistant to the president.”
So has he cleaned up his act?
A third woman reached out to Holderness and Willoughby in 2016, claiming to be Porter’s girlfriend, and she needed help.
“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,” the woman wrote to Holderness in December 2016. “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.”
“Rob was abusive, degrading, a liar and a cheater and during the course of my relationship with him, I found out that he was to others, too,” the woman wrote to Willoughby in February 2016. “I am just searching for someone who might be able to relate to the hell I have gone through.”
CNN would not reveal the name of this third woman, saying only that she currently works in the federal government.
What we do know is that Porter is said to be dating White House communications director Hope Hicks.
Hicks has also been romantically linked to another nasty character, former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, during the campaign.
Was Hope Hicks the mystery woman who reached out to the ex-wives?
We can’t say, but it would fit a pattern.
Porter resigning on Wednesday was a good thing for the administration. Character matters, for more than just the top office. Our government should not become a nesting place for liars, cheats, and violent misogynists. In time, those characteristics will begin to seep into policy and that can’t happen.
And if you’re reading this and see your situation here, get to counseling. Get help. Don’t stay. They don’t get better without a lot of counseling, themselves.
Love your life more than you love perceived security.
You can get 24/7 help, 365 days a year at 1-800-799-7233.