President Donald Trump decried lives “being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation” at the end of a week that saw the departure of two White House aides amid accusations of domestic violence.
“There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone,” Trump tweeted. “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
Although Trump didn’t specify to whom he was referring, the tweet followed remarks the president made on Friday, when asked about the departure of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend came forward to detail allegations of physical abuse.
During his comments in the Oval Office, the president didn’t mention the women or address domestic violence, instead remarking that it was a “tough time” for his former aide.
“He did a very good job when he was in the White House,” Trump said. “And we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him.” The president noted that note that Porter “said very strongly” that he was innocent of the alleged assaults.
The White House announced later on Friday that speechwriter David Sorensen, who worked at the Council on Environmental Quality, had resigned after administration officials learned his ex-wife had accused him of physical abuse. Sorensen, too, has denied that he physically harmed his former partner.
At a time when the #MeToo movement has arisen as a way to help demonstrate the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault against women in the workplace and beyond, Trump’s comments were the latest in which he’s appeared willing to offer support to men accused of sexual impropriety.
The president endorsed Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2017, despite multiple allegations that he initiated sexual encounters with minors. Trump also defended former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who was ousted from his job over sexual harassment claims.
The president himself has faced accusations — which he’s denied — from more than a dozen women of offenses including groping and non-consensual kissing.
‘Central Park Five’
Trump has been less supportive of “due process” in the past. In 1989, Trump placed full-page ads in New York newspapers calling for the execution of black and Latino teenagers accused of assaulting and raping a white woman in Central Park. The so-called “Central Park Five” were later exonerated by DNA evidence. Trump also repeatedly questioned the validity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, despite no credible evidence to dispute the fact Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.
He’s come to the defense, though, of people including Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian government. “General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed,” Trump lamented on Twitter in December. Trump has also repeatedly termed the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia a witch-hunt driven by Democrats, and tweeted on Saturday that “I hope people are now seeing & understanding what is going on here.”
The White House’s stumbling response to this week’s allegations against Porter have again plunged the West Wing into chaos. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has publicly offered contradictory accounts of his handling of the Porter situation, is facing questions about his future in the job.
In a meeting on Friday, Kelly encouraged subordinates to spread the word that he’d removed Porter within 40 minutes of receiving evidence on Feb. 6 that the spousal abuse allegations, first reported by the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail, were credible, said a person familiar with the matter. But that account was contradicted by public statements Kelly made at the time, and the fact that Porter was still at the White House two days later.
Both ABC News and the New York Times reported that Kelly indicated to Trump a willingness to resign over his handing of the incident. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said after the reports were published that Kelly hasn’t offered his resignation. There is no sense the chief of staff’s departure is imminent, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The episode has also cast a shadow over communications director Hope Hicks, the longtime Trump aide who was dating Porter when the allegations emerged. Hicks was involved with the White House’s initial response to the Porter allegations, which included issuing laudatory statements from Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
White House counsel Don McGahn is also facing questions about whether he should have sooner informed more members of the staff about the domestic-abuse allegations, or implemented a more thorough vetting process, in line with the actions of previous administrations. The Washington Post reported that McGahn knew in January 2017 that Porter’s ex-wives were prepared to make damaging claims which could threaten his ability to receive a security clearance.
“I think it’s fair to say that we all could have done better over the last few hours — or last few days in dealing with this situation,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Thursday.
Even as Trump continued to stress his concern for the wrongfully accused, other top administration officials have forcefully condemned domestic violence. Vice President Mike Pence, traveling in South Korea to attend the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, said he was “appalled” by the allegations against Porter.
“There is no tolerance in the White House, no place in America for domestic abuse,” Pence said. “That being said, I think the White House has acknowledged that they could have handled it better.”