WASHINGTON, U.S. - On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump made his first public remarks after former White House staff secretary Rob Porter quit this week, amid domestic abuse allegations.
Commenting on the claims against Porter, Trump said, "We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it's a tough time for him. He did a very good job while when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”
Trump added, “But it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he's also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that."
On Thursday, commenting on the incident, a White House spokesman said they could have better handled the accusations.
However, in comparison, comments made by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence were in stark contrast to those made by the President.
Pence condemned Porter and said he was "appalled" by his alleged behaviour.
He said, “There's no tolerance in this White House, no place in America for domestic abuse.”
Porter is facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse by his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby.
U.S. government analyst Holderness, Porter’s first spouse has alleged that he had kicked her on their 2003 honeymoon in the Canary Islands.
She further accused him of punching her in the face and giving her a black eye, while on a holiday a couple of years later in Florence, Italy.
Photos of the woman with a black eye too emerged.
Meanwhile, his second wife and a motivational speaker, Willoughby has said she was married to Porter from 2009-13.
Willoughby has claimed that she obtained a protective order against him in June 2010 after he punched the glass of the door at their Alexandria, Virginia, home.
A report meanwhile quoted a third woman who said she was Porter's girlfriend and contacted his ex-wives in 2016 with allegations of "repeated abuse.”
The unnamed woman quoted by CNN was reportedly seeking advice on how to leave Porter, but said she was afraid of him.
The Harvard graduate and former Oxford Rhodes Scholar, Porter, who has denied all the allegations, stated that "these outrageous allegations are simply false.”
However, more shockingly, Porter received interim security clearance to act as a gatekeeper to the U.S. president despite the allegations.
After the allegations came to light on Wednesday, Porter resigned from his post.
After his resignation, reports revealed that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly had some knowledge about the accusations against his deputy.
After the Daily Mail reported the ex-wives' allegations on Tuesday, Kelly initially called Porter "a man of true integrity and honour.”
Later, Kelly released a new statement saying he was shocked by the claims and stressed domestic violence was unacceptable.
As the fallout from the scandal engulfed Trump’s inner circle at the White House, Trump was reportedly displeased with White House communications director Hope Hicks' handling of the controversy.
According to reports, Hicks helped craft the administration’s initial response to the allegations against Porter and Trump was not consulted then.
What complicates the situation is that 29-year-old Hicks is reportedly dating Porter and now, the President and his aides are questioning whether her relationship with him clouded her judgment when responding to the unfolding crisis.
However, amid the spiralling controversy, now Democratic lawmakers have ripped Trump for what they call his “appallingly unpresidential” defense of Porter.
On Friday night, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) criticized Trump for praising Porter and called Trump's remarks “appallingly unpresidential.”
Lieu tweeted, “Instead of offering sympathy to the women who've come forward alleging abuse, Trump wished Porter well & pointed to his claims of innocence. At this point, it’s hard to come up w/ new ways to express total dismay for @POTUS’s appallingly unpresidential remarks & actions in office.”
Lieu further wrote on Twitter that Trump’s comments defending Porter are especially troubling “in a watershed time where more women and men are coming forward with harrowing #MeToo stories of abuse.”
He added, “While it is clear the current President cannot serve as our moral compass, we must not lose sight of our shared virtues. Domestic violence and abuse must always be aggressively condemned.”