Ex-GOP House Intel chairman: White House handling of Porter case 'continues to erode their credibility'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. (Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP; Yahoo News)

Former Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers was sharply critical of the White House Thursday for allowing staff secretary Rob Porter to continue to work in the West Wing for months after it was reportedly informed of domestic abuse allegations against him.

Porter resigned Wednesday after the allegations of domestic battery by his two ex-wives were published. Porter denied the allegations.

On a new episode of Yahoo News’ weekly podcast “Skullduggery”, Rogers,  a retired FBI agent and former Republican congressman from Michigan, said that if true, reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly knew about the claims against Porter before they became public “drives me crazy.”

According to CNN, the White House first became aware of accusations against Porter sometime last fall when the aide failed to receive a permanent security clearance. White House spokesman Raj Shah said Thursday that Kelly became “fully aware” of the accusations only in the last few days. Shah refused to clarify what he meant by “fully aware.”

After the Daily Mail first published allegations of abuse against Porter on Tuesday, Kelly released a statement praising Porter.

“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Kelly’s statement. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

On Wednesday night, hours after Porter’s resignation, Kelly released another statement, saying, “I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society.”

“Sometimes the cover-up is as bad or worse than the crime,” Rogers said. “But the very fact that the FBI came back and said, ‘We don’t recommend that he gets a security clearance because of something in his background.’ Somebody knew … and somebody in the White House overrode that and gave him an extended, temporary clearance.”

Rogers said the White House needs to set the example for security.

“This whole notion of, ‘I didn’t know and you knew’ — I just don’t think that’s healthy,” Rogers said. “It just continues to erode their credibility.”

The former Republican congressman was asked if he thinks it was a systems failure or a leadership failure.

“At this point, it’s probably both,” Rogers said.

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Rogers also weighed in on the current debate over the release of memos from the House Intelligence Committee he once chaired.

Last week, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the committee’s GOP chairman, released a controversial memo alleging surveillance abuses within the FBI and Department of Justice in the committee’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the committee, wrote a counter-memo rebutting Nunes’s claims. The White House, which authorized the release of the Nunes’s memo, is currently reviewing Schiff’s rebuttal and has until Friday to decide whether to approve its release.

“Now you have dueling memorandum that serves to confuse,” Rogers said. “In a political gunfight like this, there are a couple of victims: one is credibility. And the other, likely, is the truth.”

Rogers said he has spoken with current members of the committee about his concerns.

“I’ve tried to remind them, ‘What you’re doing is destroying any credibility of what you find,’” he said.

The release of the Nunes memo was seen as part of a concerted effort by the White House and members of the GOP to discredit the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe of the Trump campaign and the president himself.

Late last month, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe stepped down after withstanding months of criticism from President Trump.

“It’s tough when you think you’re under siege by your government,” Don Robinson, a former FBI agent who served as a legal attaché in Russia, said in a separate interview set to air on Friday’s “Skullduggery.” “I think what happened to him was a public lynching.”

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