The Trump White House has yet again been caught with its pants down with regard to material facts and their role regarding the Rob Porter controversy.
We covered the White House’s suspicious accounting of when they became aware of Porter’s spousal abuse issues and the backfilling they engaged in last week, but now, in questioning in a Congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray has officially contradicted the statements of Trump’s communications staff.
Raj Shaw, deputy press secretary, told reporters last Thursday, that the FBI background investigation had not been completed:
“We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made, unless they could compromise national security or interfere with operations at the White House. The truth must be determined. And that was what was going on with Rob Porter. His background investigation was ongoing. He was operating on an interim security clearance. His clearance was never denied, and he resigned.”
There was no investigation to be “short circuited” as Mr. Wray’s sworn testimony before the Senate panel would reveal.
Prior to that statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders misrepresented the facts to members of the press, telling them on Monday, that, “We let the process play out. It was ongoing. It hadn’t been completed.”
The process she was referring to, was the FBI’s background investigation of Rob Porter. She additionally stated that, “The White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check.” That is demonstrably a complete falsehood.
FBI Director, Christopher Wray told Senators that:
“I can’t get into the content of what was briefed to the White House. What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March. And then a completed background investigation in late July. Soon thereafter, we received request for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November and that we administratively closed the file in January.”
This is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which, it begs the question, who in the White House issued a request for a “follow up inquiry”? Was it Chief of Staff John Kelly, or White House Chief Counsel, Don McGahn or someone else in the West Wing?
Later, Ms. Sanders modified her original story to imply that she had not been referring to the FBI background investigation on Porter, but rather, the White House personnel security office. Sanders said that while the “FBI portion was closed, the White House personnel security office, which is the one to make the recommendation for adjudication, was not finished their process; therefore, they did not make a recommendation to the White House. The White House personnel security office had not finished their investigation.”
Problem. The White House personnel security office does not conduct the background investigation; that is the purview of the FBI.
All of this serves not to pour cold water on the emerging scandal involving Rob Porter, but instead to intensify the controversy and to call into question John Kelly’s management of not only Porter’s role, but the number of other West Wing staff – reputedly two dozen, who still have not yet been cleared with finalized security clearances.
It also demonstrates that Americans cannot rely on the White House Communications office to provide truthful and accurate information on the Trump administration.