The White House domestic abuse scandal just gets worse.
Donald Trump’s White House has been bungling the Rob Porter domestic abuse scandal, and is still making it clear they would have kept defending Porter if he had not resigned.
On Thursday afternoon, principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah took to the podium for his debut as Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ fill-in, hours late and in over his head. He was promptly peppered with questions about the White House’s mishandling of now-ousted senior staffer Rob Porter.
Among the revelations that Shah made at the briefing was the fact that the White House will not deny chief of staff John Kelly knew about the abuse allegations months ago. Shah would only say that Kelly became “fully aware” of the allegations based on news reports and was “shocked” when he saw the published photographs.
Shah was also forced to admit “we all could have done better” in dealing with the scandal, referring to the entire White House staff, but refused to elaborate.
NBC News’s Kelly O’Donnell followed up Shah’s admission by asking if White House staffers’ personal feelings had influenced their botching of the scandal.
“I’d point you to a number of statements that indicate the White House was prepared to defend Rob Porter based on initial accusations that we heard about, and his denial,” Shah said. “And that was based on our experiences with Rob Porter, and so to answer your question, I think that the initial response was based upon that.”
On its face, Shah’s assertion that they were prepared to defend Porter until the “shocking” photos came out is despicable, but the truth is far worse.
The fact is that the White House was still defending Porter after the photos came out, as evidenced by the fact that Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from the podium on Wednesday in which Porter claimed to have taken the photos himself. Sanders then told reporters that the White House had not pressured Porter to resign, and would allow him to stay on while his position was filled.
It was only after the public began reacting to the photos that Kelly and the White House changed their tune, accelerating Porter’s departure and adding lip service to the “shocking” allegations.
Even so, it is a stunning admission that these allegations alone were not enough for the White House to jettison Porter, and that they freely admit Kelly may have known about them for months.
This White House’s hostility toward women isn’t new, but this scandal will continue to bathe it in a bright, ugly light.