FBI chief Christopher Wray contradicts White House's story on Porter

  14 February 2018    Read: 1225
FBI chief Christopher Wray contradicts White House
The FBI Director has contradicted the White House’s version of events regarding how a background check was carried out for a senior aide accused of assaulting his two ex-wives. 

Speaking on Capitol Hill, Christopher Wray said the bureau had carried out a background check last July for Rob Porter, who resigned last week after the two women came forward with their accusations and produced photographs that detailed the alleged abuse. 

“I’m quite confident that in this particular instance, the FBI followed established protocols,” Mr Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The FBI submitted information to the White House on its background investigation into the former White House staff secretary that uncovered allegations of domestic abuse four times before those allegations became public, Mr Wray said.

His testimony raised fresh questions about why the White House kept on Mr Porter if it was aware of the claims against him.

“I can’t get into the content of what was briefed to the White House. What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March. And then a completed background investigation in late July” he said

“That soon thereafter, we received request for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November and that we administratively closed the file in January.”

Mr Wray added that the FBI “received some additional information” earlier this month and ”passed that along as well”.

Mr Wray’s timeline contradicted the White House’s accounting of when it learned of the allegations against Mr Porter and the status of the FBI’s background check investigation to determine whether he could be granted a permanent security clearance.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed on Monday the background investigation into Mr Porter was still ongoing when the allegations became public and he later resigned.

“We let the process play out. It was ongoing. It hadn’t been completed,” Ms Sanders said.

The White House began making that claim last Thursday when deputy press secretary Raj Shah claimed that the FBI’s background investigation into Porter was “ongoing“.

“His background investigation was ongoing,” Mr Shah said. “In this instance, in the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process. That process hadn’t been completed, so we were relying on the information that we had.”

The controversy has created a major problem for Mr Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who warmly praised Mr Porter before issuing a new statement saying he was shocked by the latest allegations made of the official. The former general apparently said he was ready to resign over the issue.

On Tuesday, Ms Sanders defended its handling of the issue. She said the White House personnel security office had not finished making a recommendation on Mr Porter’s security clearance even though the FBI had finished its investigation.

“The White House Personnel Security Office, which is staffed by career officials, may have received information. But they had not completed their process and made a recommendation to the White House for adjudication,” she said. “The process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.”

Meanwhile, Dan Coats, US Director of National Intelligence, told the senators he believed presidential aides with interim security passes should only receive “limited” access to secret information.

Responding to a question about Mr Porter and the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who also only has interim clearance, such as that Mr Porter received, he said: “Sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot.”

He added: “But if that is the case the access has to be limited in terms of the kind of information they can be in a position to receive.”

He told the committee there was currently a government-wide backlog of 700,000 security clearance applications.

“The process is broken, it needs to be reformed. It’s not evolution, it’s revolution.”


The Independent

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