February 09, 2018

Cortez Masto Demands Explanation for Porter’s Continued Access to Classified Information from Kelly, McGahn

Washington, D.C. – As new details continue to emerge about what the White House knew about former Staff Secretary Rob Porter’s history of alleged abuse – and when they knew it – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), along with 10 of her Senate Democratic colleagues led by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), wrote White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn today to raise serious concerns regarding Porter’s ongoing access to classified information even after John Kelly was notified that Porter was unable to obtain a security clearance.

“We understand there are also serious questions regarding when the White House first learned of these allegations and Mr. Porter’s security clearance status and access to classified information,” the Senators wrote. “Like many Americans, we find these allegations deeply troubling.” 

Today’s letter was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

A full copy of the letter is available HERE and below:

General Kelly and Mr. McGahn,

Based on recent news reports, Rob Porter has officially left his position as White House Staff Secretary following public disclosure of allegations he physically and verbally abused his two former wives and the existence of a temporary protective order. Following the publication of a news story on February 5 about the allegations, you issued a statement on February 6 describing Mr. Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said that you and President Trump had “full confidence” in Mr. Porter following the allegations. After publication of a photograph on February 7 depicting Porter’s first wife with a black eye, however, you professed to be “shocked by the new allegations.”

We understand there are also serious questions regarding when the White House first learned of these allegations and Mr. Porter’s security clearance status and access to classified information. It has been reported that the White House knew a year ago that Mr. Porter’s ex-wives were prepared to make these accusations about him, yet allowed Mr. Porter to serve without investigating them. In addition, press reports suggest that there are “multiple” White House employees in addition to Porter who may not be receiving permanent security clearances and that the White House may have been aware of this. Like all Americans, we find these allegations deeply troubling.

We recognize that you and the President have tremendous discretion in deciding whom to hire to work in the White House. However, we are troubled by published accounts suggesting that you decided to hire Mr. Porter despite the fact he could not get a security clearance and that you were aware of the specific domestic violence allegations made against him. As Senators, including members of the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Judiciary Committee, we would like answers to the following questions:

  • When were you or your predecessor, Reince Preibus, and other officials first made aware of any aspect of the allegations of domestic abuse and the temporary protective order against Mr. Porter?
  • Did Mr. Porter disclose these domestic abuse allegations or the temporary protective order taken against him as part of his application for a security clearance (SF-86, Questionnaire for National Security Position) or an application for employment in the White House?
  • As part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background investigation that accompanies an application for a security clearance, when did the FBI make you or your predecessor, Reince Preibus, and other officials aware of these domestic abuse allegations and the temporary protective order?
  • Was Mr. Porter denied a security clearance?
  • Did Mr. Porter ever receive classified material while holding an interim security clearance?
  • How many individuals in the White House are working with interim security clearances? Please identify these individuals, how long they have been permitted to work at the White House under this interim status, and how long you plan to allow them to continue doing so.
  • Other than Porter, who are the “multiple aides” that have been told they aren’t getting a security clearance? For each identified employee, are they in roles that deal with classified information, and if so, why are they still in the White House?

We would like answers to these questions by March 1, 2018.