(WASHINGTON) — FBI Director Chris Wray offered new details on Tuesday that directly contradict the White House’s account of the timeline leading to former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s ouster following allegations of domestic abuse from two of his ex-wives.
Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI completed its background investigation of Porter “in late July.” The FBI then responded to requests for follow up information in November, and finally “administratively closed the file in January,” Wray said.
The timeline laid out in Wray’s testimony before Congress sharply departs from the narrative offered by the White House last week.
As the allegations of violence came to light — including graphic photos of one ex-wife with facial bruising and a black eye and a haunting description of violence from a second ex-wife —the White House repeatedly claimed the background investigation needed for Porter’s security clearance was ongoing as of last week when he resigned.
The FBI, Wray said on Tuesday, had concluded months earlier that Porter’s past made him ineligible for a full (multi-year) security clearance. Porter then continued to work at the White House under a temporary security clearance.
Wray’s testimony undermines the White House’s central defense of Porter, first offered by Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah last Thursday, that it would have been premature to issue a final verdict on his security clearance while an investigation was ongoing.
“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,” Shah said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders repeated the messaging in her briefing yesterday.
“As I know Raj addressed last week, we let the process play out. It was ongoing, hadn’t been completed,” she said. “ And beyond that, and the statement I just gave you, I don’t have anything else to add.”
On Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, Shah continued to use the defense that the background check process was still ongoing.
ABC is still trying to determine the number of individuals still operating under temporary security clearances in the White House as of Tuesday.
One such figure with that type of clearance is the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
However, according to sources familiar with the matter, it’s not uncommon for some clearances to take several months, nor is it uncommon to have a backlog of individuals seeking clearances.
What remains unclear is whether there are additional staffers employed by the White House who failed to secure full security clearances.
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