The shifting White House story about how quickly aides took action to remove Rob Porter from his post following revelations about his history of domestic violence have now turned into a “Kelly coverup,” per a source inside the White House. Axios writes:
Chief of Staff John Kelly’s White House enemies are ready to use FBI Director Chris Wray’s testimony as a weapon: “Wray’s FBI timeline makes one thing clear: the Kelly coverup is unraveling right before our eyes,” a White House official says.
Wherever the truth lies, John Kelly is now getting a very political lesson in leading a “team” where factionalism rules the day—if your sh*t stinks, it’s gonna come straight back at you.
Here’s what we know: Kelly knew for months about Porter’s history and everyone knew he knew and yet he kept advocating for Porter’s promotion inside the White House. And while we can’t say for certain exactly who has decided that Kelly should be on the hook for the present debacle enveloping the White House, there’s strong indications that it’s Trump himself.
A Politico article this morning revealed a previously unreported off-the-record briefing hastily convened last Wednesday for four reporters by Sarah Sanders in the immediate aftermath of photographs documenting the abuse being published in the DailyMail.com. It was reportedly a chance for Porter to tell his side of the story but at least two of the stories produced following that briefing focused on Trump’s ire at Kelly.
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times‘ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, who was one of the reporters included in the OTR briefing:
Among the many people agitated this week over John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, was President Trump. […]
For now, it is Mr. Kelly who is in trouble. The president has little tolerance for aides who attract negative media attention that spills onto him, and in recent days Mr. Kelly has drawn a string of unwelcome headlines. He roiled negotiations over immigration legislation by declaring that some immigrants were “too lazy” to apply for legal status. And he initially defended a deputy accused by two ex-wives of physically abusing them.
What that version of events fails to mention is how livid Trump was after Kelly went over to the Hill during the Dreamer debate and called Trump’s immigration policy “uninformed.”