Pence on Porter scandal: 'The White House could've handled this better'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the White House mishandled the allegations about former staff secretary Rob Porter that continue to roil the West Wing, a week after his resignation.

“This administration has no tolerance for domestic violence. Nor should any American,” Pence said during an interview with Mike Allen of Axios at a live event in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. “As I’ve said, and the White House has said, I think the White House could’ve handled this better. And I still feel that way.”

Pence’s comments are in stark contrast to those of White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was asked by Wall Street Journal on Monday if the White House should have handled Porter’s situation any differently.

“No,” Kelly said. “It was all done right.”

Kelly’s remark also appeared to be at odds with the sentiment of White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, who suggested on Friday that the administration “could have done better” in its handling of the Porter matter.

Porter resigned from his post last week after the allegations of domestic battery by his two ex-wives were published. Porter has denied the allegations. But multiple reports that Kelly knew about the allegations months before they were made public has led to speculation that his job may be in jeopardy.

The vice president was asked whether he was confident that Kelly has been fully honest and transparent about Porter’s departure with the White House brass.

Pence was evasive in his answer.

“There are very few Americans or American families that have served this nation more honorably or sacrificed more for this country than the family of Gen. John Kelly,” Pence said. Kelly’s son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

“John Kelly’s service in uniform, his distinguished service at our Department of Homeland Security — where there was a dramatic reduction of illegal crossings on our southern border — and his distinguished service as our chief of staff gives me and the president great confidence in this good man,” Pence added. “John Kelly has done a remarkable job as chief of staff for the president of the United States. And I look forward to continuing to work with him for many, many months to come.”

But Pence isn’t always known to have his finger on the pulse when it comes to palace intrigue.

Last week, while en route to the Winter Olympics, Pence said he first learned of Porter’s departure when the press did.

Pence was then asked by a reporter why he often seems “out of the loop” when it comes to major news coming out of the West Wing.

He did not answer that question directly either.

“It’s a great honor for me to serve as vice president,” Pence replied. “President Trump has been incredibly generous with the responsibilities and opportunities he’s given me.”

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