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White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter resigns amid abuse claims

By Ed Adamczyk
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter resigns amid abuse claims
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, left, walks with Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, center, and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, right, walk at the White House on January 18. Porter resigned his position on Wednesday after two former wives alleged his physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter announced his resignation Wednesday amid domestic abuse allegations he called "simply false."

The claims came from two of Porter's ex-wives. Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, said in interviews with progressive news website The Intercept and the British Daily Mail that verbal, physical and emotional abuse caused her to leave him. Each site published a photo of her from the early 2000s with a bruised eye, which she alleged was the result of a punch from Porter. She said incidents of violence began during their honeymoon.

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His second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, wrote a blog post she later confirmed was about Porter. In it, Willoughby said she received an emergency protective order against Porter after verbal and physical abuse.

Porter, who before his White House appointment was a staff member for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, denied the allegations.

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"These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described," he said. "I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign. My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House."

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Speaking with the Daily Mail, Hatch called the claims "a vile attack on such a decent man." Later, Hatch released a statement saying he was "heartbroken by today's allegations."

"My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor," Hatch said. "I do not know the details of Rob's personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable. I am praying for Rob and those involved."

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On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Porter "a man of true integrity and honor," prior to publication of photos of Holderness' eye injury.

Porter received similar support from press secretary Sarah Sanders, who on Tuesday called him "someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character." At Wednesday's news conference, Sanders read Porter's statement, saying that "Rob has been effective in his role." She added that the resignation was "a personal decision Rob made" with no influence by Trump or other White House officials.

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