By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Grappling with the fallout over a former aide accused of domestic abuse, the White House on Monday said any changes in how security clearance investigations are conducted on President Donald Trump’s team would be up to the FBI and intelligence agencies.
Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned under pressure on Wednesday, had been operating under a temporary clearance that gave him access to classified information, in the absence of a final security clearance.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence agencies had not completed an investigation into Porter, who has been accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday the same process has been used for decades to conduct investigations on people who need access to government secrets to do their jobs.
“And if changes are thought to be made, that would be made by the law enforcement and intel communities that run that process, not the White House. But that’s something that could be looked at, certainly, in light of this,” she said.
Normally a security clearance investigation takes up to several months to complete, but Porter’s had gone on for about a year without a resolution.
The White House has not offered a definitive explanation of when top officials first got word of problems in Porter’s background.
One official said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had wondered last autumn why Porter’s clearance was taking so long – along with that of some other top officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The extent of what he was told about Porter at the time is unclear. The White House has said Kelly became “fully aware” of the accusations on Wednesday and promptly obtained Porter’s resignation.
That was the day that photos emerged of one ex-wife with a black eye that she said was a result of an altercation with Porter, 40.
Trump brought criticism on himself on Saturday by not expressing sympathy toward domestic violence victims.
In a tweet on Saturday that did not mention any names, Trump lamented that “peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
Sanders on Monday stressed that Trump supports victims of domestic abuse.
“The president, along with the entire administration, takes domestic violence very seriously and believes all allegations need to be thoroughly investigated,” she told reporters.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)