FBI contradicts White House timeline on Trump aide's security clearance
Washington (AFP) -
FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday the White House was given a full background security report in July on an aide to President Donald Trump who resigned only last week over domestic abuse allegations.
Wray's comments to the Senate Intelligence Committee raised fresh questions about why Rob Porter was able to continue working at Trump's right hand, dealing with top secret materials with only an interim security clearance.
The White House is under fire for its handling of Porter, who was Trump's staff secretary until being forced to step down when allegations he abused two former wives became public.
Top White House officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, have said they only learned of the claims against Porter when they were reported by the media on February 6.
But the FBI had interviewed both of Porter's former wives last year as part of its background check for his security clearance.
Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that a preliminary clearance report was submitted in March, and a final report in July. A followup was made in November and the official file was closed in January.
As staff secretary, Porter handled some of the Oval Office's most sensitive materials, which should have made his security clearance a priority after Trump took office in January 2017.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that even though the FBI had completed its report, at the time Porter departed, the White House's personnel security office still had not completed its own process for finalizing his security clearance.
That office "had not made a final recommendation for adjudication because the process was still ongoing when Porter resigned," she said.
Sanders did not say what had delayed a final decision.
Some Democrats have said that Porter's violent history could have made him a target of blackmail, and that he should not have held such a sensitive position.
Chief of Staff Kelly has struggled to explain why a close Trump aide with that background could have had the clearance to view top secret materials.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that while preliminary security clearances are necessary sometimes, "access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive."