This evening the Daily Beast is reporting that prior to the release of a story about Rob Porter’s (alleged) abuse of his ex-wives, the White House claimed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was behind a smear campaign against Porter:
Late Tuesday night, senior White House officials reached out to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) office with an urgent request. They needed the Utah Republican to put together a statement praising his former chief of staff and then-White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter.
At issue was a story that was about to pop from the British tabloid, The Daily Mail, in which two of Porter’s ex-wives detailed the emotional and physical abuse they endured by him.
The White House officials told Hatch’s office that the story was the product of a “smear campaign” being orchestrated against Porter by his political enemies. Among those they pinpointed was former Trump campaign manager (and current outside adviser to the president) Corey Lewandowski, according to two sources familiar with the conversations. Multiple White House staffers told Hatch himself that Lewandowski “was digging into Rob’s previous marriages,” recalled one source, who said Porter himself was among the officials who fingered Lewandowski.
The Daily Beast reported yesterday that Lewandowski had “agitated for Porter’s ouster.” However, when contacted today Lewandowski denied playing any role in pushing him out. He told the Daily Beast, “I’ve never had a bad word about Rob Porter.”
Hatch’s office wound up providing a statement of support without knowing that Porter was about to be accused of physical abuse by his ex-wives. Now the White House is telling the Daily Beast they were also misled about the nature of the allegations:
Reached by The Daily Beast on Thursday, after a day of withering questions on just those topics, a White House official said only that, “The White House feels misled by Mr. Porter’s characterization of the [then] impending allegations from his ex-wives.”
Meanwhile, one of Porter’s ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby confirmed to NBC News today that she told the FBI about his history physical abuse during his background check. She says she showed them a protective order she had received in 2010 as well as calls to police she had made from their home. “I shared with them the details of my marriage the same as I have been in the interviews and articles that have come out,” Willoughby said.
Last year Willoughby wrote a post on her personal blog titled “Why I stayed” detailing some of the abuse:
The first time he called me a “fucking bitch” was on our honeymoon. (I found out years later he had kicked his first wife on theirs.) A month later he physically prevented me from leaving the house. Less than two months after that, I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside. We bought a house to make up for it. Just after our one year anniversary, he pulled me, naked and dripping, from the shower to yell at me.
Everyone loved him. People commented all the time how lucky I was. Strangers complimented him to me every time we went out. But in my home, the abuse was insidious. The threats were personal. The terror was real. And yet I stayed.
In short, there is no reason to doubt that the FBI knew about all of this. CNN reported yesterday that the White House also knew, so it’s not clear how people within the White House can now claim they were blindsided by the nature of the allegations.