By Deb Riechmann and Zeke Miller The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Breaking his silence about abuse, President Donald Trump said Wednesday he‘s “totally opposed to domestic violence.” He commented amid growing pressure to speak out after allegations that a top White House aide had abused two former wives.
“Everybody knows” his position, Trump said, but “now you hear it.”
The president‘s remarks came more than a week after the allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter became public. Porter resigned a week ago. He has denied the allegations.
Trump had praised Porter, his former staff secretary, on Friday in his first comments about the allegations. And on Saturday, he appeared to cast doubt on the women‘s allegations when he tweeted: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
The White House‘s handling of the Porter situation has engulfed senior West Wing officials, calling into question the decision-making and candor of chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn.
Trump‘s comments came as lawmakers on Capitol Hill launched a probe into how Porter was allowed to work at the White House under an interim security clearance despite allegations of spousal abuse.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent letters to the FBI and White House on Wednesday as his panel opened an investigation into the matter.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked Wednesday whether Trump needs to publicly condemn domestic violence.
“Clearly, we all should be condemning domestic violence,” Ryan told reporters. “And if a person who commits domestic violence gets in the government, then there‘s a breakdown in the system. There‘s a breakdown in the vetting system, and that breakdown needs to be addressed.”
Ryan‘s comments and word of the House probe followed a day after the FBI contradicted the White House over the Porter accusations. The FBI said it gave the Trump administration information on multiple occasions last year about Porter and that the investigation wrapped up in January.
That account by FBI Director Christopher Wray challenged the White House assertion that Porter‘s background “investigation was ongoing” and officials learned the extent of accusations against him only last week, just before he abruptly resigned.
Several senior officials, including Kelly and McGahn, were aware of the broad allegations against Porter for months, officials say privately.