WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing another day of fallout, the White House on Monday defended President Donald Trump’s failure to acknowledge publicly the women who’ve accused former staff secretary Rob Porter of domestic violence.
With questions still swirling about who knew what and when, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly told reporters that the “president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.”
“Above all, the president supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process,” she added.
The statement came in response to repeated questions about why the president has not uttered similar words himself. In tweets and in public remarks, Trump has made no mention of the two ex-wives who accuse Porter of physical and emotional abuse, and he has made no attempts to personally reassure the public that he takes such charges seriously.
Porter has denied the allegations and blamed them on a smear campaign.
“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump complained over the weekend on Twitter, asking: “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” Trump also wished Porter well and said he hoped he’d have a successful career.
But Sanders said her statement had come directly from the president and argued there was no effective difference between the two.
“It’s my job to speak on the behalf of the president. I spoke to him, and he relayed that message directly to me, and I’m relaying it directly to you,” she said. She also defended his comments wishing Porter well, saying the “president of the United States hopes that all Americans can be successful in whatever they do.”
The circumstances surrounding Porter’s departure have also raised questions about the national security background checks White House officials must undergo.
As staff secretary, Porter handled the president’s paper flow, giving him access to highly sensitive information as well as the president himself. Yet he had only interim security clearance the entire time he worked in the building.
Sanders stressed that the background check process is handled by the FBI and other intelligence agencies, not the White House, and is the same process administrations have relied on for decades.
“If changes are thought to be made, that would be made by the law enforcement and intel communities that run that process, not the White House. But that’s something that could be looked at, certainly, in light of this,” she said.
She also accused reporters of being the ones who put classified information at risk.
An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau neither grants nor denies clearances on behalf of government agencies, nor does it make recommendations. Once an investigation is complete, information is provided to the agency, which then decides whether to grant or deny clearance. The White House has stressed that Porter’s investigation was still underway.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Sadie Gurman contributed to this report.