WASHINGTON - An aide to U.S. President Donald Trump is defending the White House's handling of allegations that a former staff secretary physically abused his ex-wives.
Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN Sunday "it's very clear" that Rob Porter, who helped oversee paperwork and documents sent to the president and helped draft the State of the Union address, "did the right thing" by resigning after his two ex-wives offered evidence that he struck them during their marriages.
But Conway pushed back on numerous news media reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House lawyer Donald McGahn knew about the allegations for months from FBI security background checks but did not act to remove him. Porter could not get a permanent security badge because of the allegations, but he continued to hold his job under an interim clearance.
Conway said she was not privy to the FBI security investigations, but said she had "no reason to not believe the women." She said she was "horrified, very shocked" to learn of the accusations against Porter because of her highly professional relations with him inside the White House.
A second White House aide, speechwriter David Sorenson, also abruptly quit Friday after his former wife claimed he was violent and emotionally abusive during their marriage. Sorenson adamantly denies the charges, claiming he was the one who was abused.
Colbie Holderness, the first of Porter's two ex-wives, produced a widely published photo of her with a black eye she said she sustained when Porter punched her in the face during a vacation in Italy in 2005.
Porter's second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, obtained a restraining order against him in 2010.
Porter was a key aide to Kelly, who reportedly told Trump he would be willing to resign in the fallout over his handling of the Porter security investigation.
But Conway said the president assured her ahead of her television interview that he has "full faith" in Kelly's White House performance and was "not actively searching to replace" him. She quoted Trump as saying that Kelly was "doing a great job."
In a rare admission of error last week, White House spokesman Raj Shah said "we all could have done better" in handling the Porter case. He said that Trump took the issue of violence against women "very seriously."
But speaking Friday, Trump never mentioned the women and instead wished Porter a good career in the future.
"He says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent, so you'll have to talk to him about that."
On Saturday, Trump took a similar stance, appearing to side with men accused of domestic abuse or sexual misconduct, raising doubts about the #MeToo movement in the United States, in which dozens of prominent men have been fired or forced out of powerful, high profile jobs after women accused them of unwanted sexual advances.
"Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation," Trump said in a Twitter remark. "Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"
Porter's second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, wrote in Time magazine, that by using the words "mere allegation" and "falsely accused," Trump is calling her a liar.
"The truth exists whether the president accepts it or not," she writes.
While some men have maintained their innocence, including Trump, who has been accused by a dozen women of unwanted sexual advances before he ran for president, others have admitted to their misbehavior, resigned from their jobs, or have been fired after corporate investigations verified the accusations against them.