FBI director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the White House was given four separate reports about disgraced former aide Rob Porter’s security clearance investigation – with the first heads-up coming 11 months ago.
The bombshell development could put White Houe Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn on the hot seat as they face new questions about what they knew and when they knew it.
Responding to a question from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Wray spelled out the process in which the bureau ‘briefed’ the White House while Porter was operating with a temporary clearance and had access to some of America’s most closely held secrets.
‘The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,’ Wray said, adding that ‘soon thereafter we received requests for [a] followup inquiry, and we did the followup and provided that information in November.’
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified Tuesday in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the White House has had four separate notifications from the bureau about why Rob Porter couldn’t get a permanent security clearance
Rob Porter (right) was forced out of his sensitive position at the White House after DailyMail.com reported on his ex-wives’ allegations of long-term domestic violence
Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, (left) told DailyMail.com that he repeatedly punched and choked her. His second wife Jennifer Willoughby (right) has also claimed that Porter was abusive in their marriage
Wray added that the FBI ‘administratively closed the file in January,’ directly contradicting the White House’s account.
‘Then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that along as well,’ he said
He also declared that ‘in this particular instance the FBI followed established protocol.’
Porter was forced out of his job as President Donald Trump’s staff secretary this month following DailyMail.com reports about domestic violence accusations from his two ex-wives.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday – without mentioning Porter by name – that while it can be ‘necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot,’ people with such temporary statuses shouldn’t have the same contact with classified material as people with permanent clearances.
‘Access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive,’ Coats said.
Porter was among President Trump’s closest aides, managing the flow of documents and other paperwork that reached the Oval Office
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (right) said Tuesday that people with temporary security clearances (like Porter) should have ‘limited’ access to classified material
Dozens of White House officials are still operating with temporary clearances – reportedly including Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The news that the FBI’s background check was completed and the file closed last month flies in the face of what the White House has publicly said.
‘In the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process. That process hadn’t been completed, so we were relying on the information that we had,’ White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters last Thursday.
It’s unclear from Wray’s testimony who at the White House received information from the FBI.
Wray was fielding questions from Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat
The White house has been cagey about whether or when Kelly knew the seriousness of the allegations against Porter, but it has been widely reported that McGahn received the initial FBI briefings.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders refused to provide specifics on Monday about the Porter clearance investigation, saying it was still ‘ongoing.’
‘The process for the background was ongoing, and the White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check,’ she claimed.
‘We learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening,’ Sanders insisted.