BOSTON (CBS) – Amid bipartisan outcry over the case of Rob Porter – the president’s chief secretary forced out over charges of spousal abuse that top White House officials reportedly knew about but never acted on – President Trump summoned reporters into the Oval Office today to express concern – for Porter.
“I was surprised by it but we certainly wish him well,” he said. “It’s obviously a tough time for him…. He did a very good job when he was in the White House and we hope he has a wonderful career. Hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him.”
There was no mention of the two ex-wives who say he abused them, a claim backed up by photos of one of them with a badly-blackened eye. And even as he praises his former aide, the president is reportedly angry with Chief of Staff John Kelly and other staffers for their management of the Porter affair, including his deputy press secretary for breaking a cardinal Trump rule – never apologize.
“I think it’s fair to say that we all could have done better over the last few days in dealing with this situation,” said Raj Shah at a briefing on Thursday.
There is bipartisan concern over the story in Congress, where sexual harassment charges have brought down several members in recent months.
“There can be zero tolerance for this,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina). “And so as you look at the reports that have come out, they are very troubling.”
Adds Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California), a leader of the backlash against sexual harassment in Congress: “Everyone thought that they were gonna be able to weather the storm until photographs of one of his wives with a black eye came.”
And at the eye of the storm is Kelly, whose efforts to defend his handling of all this are drawing skepticism even within the White House, amid reports that less than two years ago, Kelly was a character witness for a Marine court-martialed for sexual misconduct.
“He doesn’t get it, he really doesn’t get it,” says Rep. Speier.
The willingness of women in recent months to go public with their stories of harassment and abuse has exposed a blind spot toward those issues at a variety of institutions – Hollywood, the media, Congress…and now, it seems, the White House too.