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Trump White House Finally Confronts A Scandal It Can’t Quash With An ‘Alternative Fact’

Published on February 20, 2018


Trump White House Finally Confronts A Scandal It Can’t Quash With An ‘Alternative Fact’

By S.V. Date.

WASHINGTON – From their first full day in office with claims of massive, record-setting inaugural crowds, President Donald Trump and his top aides have been a virtual juggernaut of dishonesties and falsehoods, seemingly immune to normal White House standards of candor and accuracy.

Until this month.

Two weeks’ worth of shifting explanations about a key staffer accused of domestic violence have accomplished what a full year of fact-checking thousands of untruths could not: put the White House on the defensive and shredded its credibility.

“At long last, something Donald Trump couldn’t bullshit his way out of,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida GOP consultant who has been calling Trump a liar since the start of presidential primary campaign in 2015.

But why has the Rob Porter story persisted when all the others did not?

“Attachment to a larger narrative and a provocative visual,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The larger narrative is the Me Too movement, where women across the country and around the world have spoken out about long-quashed experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.

And the provocative visual was the photograph of Colbie Holderness’ bruised eye, which she said was the result of a punch Porter threw during the couple’s vacation to Italy in 2005.

Until that photo of Porter’s first ex-wife surfaced, White House chief of staff John Kelly had been offering testimonials for his trusted aide.

With the arrival of Kelly in August and his attempts to bring order to what had been a chaotic White House, Porter as staff secretary had become a key player in limiting access and information to Trump.

His work, under Kelly’s direction, dramatically reduced the unscheduled visits Trump received from random West Wing staffers and the number of unverified “news” articles that wound up on his desk.

To protect his aide and ally, Kelly and other top White House staffers praised Porter, even though the White House had received a full FBI security clearance background investigation into Porter last summer, according to Senate testimony by bureau director Christopher Wray.

That report almost certainly included stories of abuse from both of Porter’s ex-wives – allegations that typically doom a security clearance approval.


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