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Sunday 22 September 2019

Second White House staff member departs Trump administration over abuse claims

Donald Trump defended former aide Mr Porter who left on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin, Associated Press

A second White House staffer has departed the Trump administration in the wake of abuse allegations.

Spokesman Raj Shah confirmed speechwriter David Sorensen resigned on Friday after the White House learned of the allegations against him.

Mr Shah said Mr Sorensen denies the allegations, which were first reported by The Washington Post.

Staff secretary Rob Porter, one of the president’s closest aides, resigned on Wednesday after the publication of allegations that he’d abused his two ex-wives. He, too, denies the allegations.

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, centre, stepped down following allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Donald Trump defended former aide Mr Porter, wishing him well in his future endeavours without any mention of the two ex-wives who have accused Porter of physical and emotional abuse.

The president’s comments set off a firestorm at a time of national conversation about the mistreatment of women and they came amid rampant White House finger-pointing about who knew what, and when, about the severity of the spousal abuse allegations.

Mr Trump said Mr Porter, who resigned when the abuse allegations became public this week, had “worked hard” at the White House and wished him well.

“It’s a, obviously, tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career,” Mr Trump said in his first comments on the allegations against the onetime rising West Wing star.

“He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent,” Mr Trump added.

He gave no nod to the treatment of the women whose reports of abuse led to Mr Porter’s resignation.Joe Biden

That's like saying that axe murderer out there, he's a great painter Joe Biden

They came amid swirling questions about how White House chief of staff John Kelly had handled the matter and whether he could maintain his job despite Mr Trump’s growing frustration. They also raised questions about how seriously the president takes allegations of domestic abuse.

Mr Trump has complained that Mr Kelly did not bring the Porter allegations to him sooner, adding to his frustrations about the chief of staff’s attempts to control him and Mr Kelly’s recent inflammatory comments about immigrants.

Meanwhile, a number of Democrats denounced Mr Trump’s comments about Mr Porter and his lack of empathy for the women who alleged abuse.

“That’s like saying that axe murderer out there, he’s a great painter,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. “Is there any other crime — and it’s a crime — where there would be an explanation that the reason why we shouldn’t pay attention to the transgression is because they’re good at something?”

National Women’s Law Centre General Counsel Emily Martin said Mr Trump’s reaction to the allegations against Mr Porter speaks to the willingness of many to believe the accused rather than the accusers.

“What that clearly says to me is that the president is one of those people who either automatically disbelieves women and believes men, or arguably even worse, believes the woman who makes the allegations but thinks that should not be a barrier to her abuser’s success,” said Ms Martin.

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