WASHINGTON – Are you having trouble keeping up with the Rob Porter scandal? Apparently Sarah Huckabee Sanders is.
Her daily press briefing Wednesday was scheduled for 1 p.m., then at 2 p.m. was postponed until 4 p.m., then at 4 p.m. was abandoned entirely. The menu of topics – scandals at the EPA and VA, confirmation of a payoff to porn actress Stormy Daniels and, by midafternoon, another horrendous school shooting – was hardly appetizing. And the unpalatable entree was sure to be Porter, the White House staff secretary who resigned last week amid accusations of wife-beating that were ignored by the White House for months.
After eight days of the administration’s shifting and contradictory explanations of its handling of Porter, it’s quite understandable that Sanders would be at a loss for words. But I am here for her. As a public service, I used the time waiting in vain for Wednesday’s briefing to compile the following executive summary of l’affaire Porter, in Trump administration officials’ own words:
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Rob Porter “is a man of true integrity and honor,” a “trusted professional” and “friend to many” in the White House who were “proud to serve alongside him,” and enjoys the “full confidence and trust” of the president and Chief of Staff John Kelly. This is why “Porter did the right thing by resigning” and why “General Kelly had no tolerance” for what he was accused of. Porter “was not being honest,” was not being “forthcoming,” leaving his colleagues “very disturbed” and convinced he “had to go.”
White House officials “are all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against” Porter, which is why they “hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him.”
Porter “says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent,” which explains why “it became apparent to us that the allegations were true.”
Porter “is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character” and is the victim of “a coordinated smear campaign.” As a result, there is “no reason not to believe the women” who accused him, and his “resignation was appropriate.”
Resignation “was a personal decision that Rob made and one that he was not pressured to do, but one that he made on his own.” Furthermore, “we dismissed that person immediately.”
There were “contemporaneous police reports,” “women speaking to the FBI under threat of perjury” and “photographs” corroborating accusations of wife beating. Consequently, “we absolutely wish him well.”
The White House “learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening,” as a result of Porter himself telling the White House counsel of the situation in January 2017.
As of Sunday, the White House “had not received a final investigation” of Porter’s background because “the FBI has the ongoing investigations” and had “not completed that investigation,” which is only logical given that the FBI gave the White House “a completed background investigation” in July and “closed the file” last month.
Kelly learned the details of Porter’s situation only “40 minutes before he threw him out,” last week, several months after Kelly reportedly was informed that allegations of spousal abuse were holding up Porter’s security clearance.
Once White House officials learned of the Porter allegations, “within 24 hours his resignation had been accepted and announced,” which is why the White House security office informed high-level White House officials about the allegations in November and Porter resigned in February.
The president has “absolute confidence in Gen. Kelly,” who is “an American hero” and also a “big fat liar.”
The “White House personnel security office,” which received the FBI’s background report on Porter, is part of “a process that doesn’t operate within the White House.”
The president is “totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind,” while “people’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” Domestic violence “is abhorrent and has no place in our society,” and “there is no recovery for someone falsely accused.” The White House takes “matters of domestic violence very seriously,” and “the president is shaped by a lot of false accusations against him” and wonders, “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
When you think about the Porter affair this way, it all begins to make perfect sense. Yes, the matter is “shocking,” and the White House “could have done better.” And at the same time, “what happened this week was completely reasonable and normal.”
In the Trump White House, this juxtaposition of “shocking” and “normal” somehow doesn’t feel like an oxymoron.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.