House Panel Examines White House Handling Of Porter Scandal
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump's White House faces a new investigation by members of Congress over what led up to the resignation of Rob Porter. Porter left his job as staff secretary at the White House last week after these allegations came out that he had abused his two ex-wives. President Trump had talked about how much he respected Porter, but Trump was criticized for not being outspoken against domestic violence. Yesterday, the president tried to set the record straight on that.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am totally opposed to domestic violence, and everybody here knows that.
MARTIN: His administration, though, still faces new questions about why Rob Porter, who had access to classified material, was allowed an interim security clearance despite known concerns about his past. That's what a House panel plans to investigate. NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is here to explain what could happen next. Hey, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: So tell us more about this congressional investigation. This is going to be led by Trey Gowdy - right? - House Oversight Committee chair.
MONTANARO: That's right. It's coming from the House Oversight Committee. And Gowdy yesterday was out speaking about this and questioning why really with what he said were credible allegations of domestic abuse that Porter was allowed to stay on and given a temporary security clearance when the FBI hadn't cleared him. Gowdy wrote a letter to the White House. He wanted answers, he says, within two weeks. And House Speaker Paul Ryan backed up Gowdy on that. Let's take a listen.
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PAUL RYAN: They clearly have to - have work to do to fix their vetting system. I don't know exactly how they'll do that. I'll leave that to them. But Chairman Gowdy is doing his proper job in oversight. And yes, he did give us a heads up.
MONTANARO: So you've got Ryan. You have Gowdy. And the significance of all of this is now you have, for the first time really, congressional Republicans saying, we need answers from this White House.
MARTIN: Answers to what specific questions, Domenico?
MONTANARO: Well, you know, the committee really is looking into this kind of timeline that seems to be contradicted by the FBI director, Christopher Wray, who testified on Capitol Hill this week really going against some of what the White House had talked about. It's very unclear who knew what and when, who approved of Porter's interim security clearance, what information was available to that person and who else in the White House knew what and when. Those are all the answers that we, as reporters, haven't been able to get answers to from the White House. In fact, yesterday, for example, after lots of delays, they canceled the press briefing altogether.
MARTIN: So John Kelly, chief of staff, has been really at the epicenter of this particular scandal. Also, White House General Counsel Don McGahn's name has come up. Are these two men and their jobs safe at this point?
MONTANARO: Well, it's unclear. You know, right now, we've heard Vice President Pence say, for example, that the president has great confidence in General Kelly. And Kelly was brought in to restore or bring some kind of order to what had been sort of a leaky palace with all kinds of discussion and rumors in the press. And now you're starting to see that again. And Kelly needs to try to wrest control of that, he believes. And, you know, you've got Don McGahn, who's the White House lawyer, who is also in the center of what happened with national security adviser Michael Flynn. And his name keeps coming up over and over again here when it comes to the Porter situation.
MARTIN: OK. We'll see what the House Oversight Committee investigation bears out. NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much, Domenico.
MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.