Sun | Aug 19, 2018

White House grappling with fallout from aide's resignation

Published:Monday | February 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON (AP):

Reeling from the downfall of a senior aide, the White House was on the defensive Sunday, attempting to soften President Donald Trump's comments about the mistreatment of women while rallying around the embattled chief of staff.

Several senior aides fanned out on the morning talk shows to explain how the White House handled the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, a rising West Wing star who exited after two ex-wives came forward with allegations of spousal abuse. And they tried to clarify the reaction from Trump, who has yet to offer a sympathetic word to the women who said they had been abused.

"The president believes, as he said the other day, you have to consider all sides," said senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway. "He has said this in the past about incidents that relate to him as well. At the same time, you have to look at the results. The result is that Rob Porter is no longer the staff secretary."

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that "lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false." And the day before, he pointed to Porter's assertions of innocence and wished him a great future.

Conway also delivered what she said was a vote of confidence from Trump for chief of staff John Kelly, who has come under fire for his handling of the Porter matter. Kelly initially defended his right-hand man before later offering a version of the week's events that puzzled aides and did not line up with the White House's earlier timeline.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney, among those mentioned as a possible Kelly successor if Trump were to make a change, also downplayed the speculation about Kelly's standing, suggesting that those stories "are mostly being fed by people who are unhappy that they have lost access to the president". He said talk of Kelly's departure is "much ado about nothing".