Donald Trump wishes former aide Rob Porter well after domestic abuse allegations

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Porter (right) with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in November 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Donald Trump said on Friday (Feb 9) that White House aide Rob Porter, who resigned this week after allegations that he abused two former wives, had maintained his innocence, and he wished him well.

"He says he's innocent. I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

"We certainly wish him well. It's obviously a tough time for him, and he did a very good job in the White House. We hope he has a wonderful career ahead of him," Trump added.

The President did not refer to the two women who have this week provided graphic accounts of the verbal and physical abuse they said they suffered while married to Porter.

Trump said he found out about the allegations recently, and was "surprised" by them.

Porter's resignation on Wednesday raised questions about how much White House staff knew about the accusations against Porter and the amount of time it took them act.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders both issued statements calling Porter a man of "integrity" in response to the initial Daily Mail report that Porter's two former wives had accused him of abuse.

Kelly later put out a statement saying he was shocked by "new" allegations against Porter, stressing that domestic violence is unacceptable.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Thursday that Kelly had some knowledge about the accusations but was not "fully aware" of the extent of the allegations against Porter until photographs of one of his ex-wives with a black eye emerged on Wednesday.

Shah also said the crisis could have been better handled by senior White House officials.

"A lot of us could have done better," he said.

Porter's position as White House staff secretary required a security clearance and close contact with Trump. At the time of his resignation, Porter, a Harvard Law School graduate, had not yet been approved for security clearance because the required background check was still ongoing.

Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter's ex-wives, said in an interview with NBC's Today show on Friday that she told the FBI during Porter's background check that he had been abusive towards her.

"Of course I was part of the background check and I was completely honest with what my experience of the marriage, including telling them instances of abuse or police contact," said Willoughby.

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