PoliZette

Forget $4.4 Trillion Budget — Media Obsess Over Porter Controversy

Days after the now-former White House staff secretary resigned, journalists are still hounding President Donald Trump about it

President Donald Trump proposed a $4.4 trillion federal budget for 2019.

Israel is blowing up Iranian military assets in Syria.

Somebody sent Vanessa Trump — wife of Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son — a white powder that looked like anthrax.

U.S. intelligence chiefs tell Congress that North Korea is getting closer to being able to nuke Los Angeles.

So what does the White House press corps want to talk about?

How Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly handled last week’s resignation of former staff secretary Rob Porter, 40, following allegations that Porter physically abused two former wives.

The issue has not died down for a variety of reasons. The White House has been inundated with media requests that Trump strongly denounce domestic violence. Journalists are also raising questions about Porter’s security clearance, and why it had been up in the air for so long. Did the White House ignore reports about Porter’s conduct because he was such a good manager?

Porter has been staff secretary for about a year, but his clearance has not been approved by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Further, the FBI knew last year about the domestic violence charges his ex-wives made against him.

Trump has not helped himself, to be sure. He issued a vague defense of someone, possibly Porter, who has fallen victim to allegations made in the media.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

It didn’t matter that Trump’s statement is essentially and mostly a truism. The tweet angered the elite media, who are demanding Trump issue a full-throated condemnation of domestic violence.

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The media pressure is building, with new claims aimed at damaging the president’s standing and character. On Tuesday morning, The New York Times released a video on Facebook claiming, “Long before the #MeToo movement, President Trump had a history of believing men.” That is — believing men who are alleged to have hurt women.

Then The Times posted a quote from Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation: “I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets.”

The shaming of Trump is an old trope in the White House press briefing room, and one made for the insatiable daily news focus desired by the big TV news networks, who sit in the first three rows at the White House press briefing room. It doesn’t matter that most Americans have moved on from the news about Porter. Big media demands further cycles on Porter.

On Monday, at the White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took the first 18 questions about the Porter issue. Among the questions were why Trump was not forceful in his condemnation of domestic violence.

The White House press finally asked about Vanessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr.’s wife, who was also a victim on Monday.

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Vanessa Trump received a mysterious powder in the mail. She opened the package and was immediately sent to the hospital. The substance was found to be nonthreatening, but the package was likely meant to cause psychological terror. It’s an issue that is already forgotten among the Beltway media of Washington, D.C.

And after the testimony of FBI Director Christopher Wray in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday morning, it became clear the “timeline” the media have been trying to nail down doesn’t make sense to them. Wray told the committee that the FBI closed its investigation of Porter for clearance in July, and was then asked for a review.

The media pounced (on Twitter). This timeline doesn’t add up, they yelled. The White House could be lying to us, they suggested.

It’s an odd narrative to try to develop against a man who daily fights such issues as opioid abuse and poor treatment of veterans.

But the timeline is small potatoes to the media. The ultimate goal is to prove the White House ignored charges of domestic abuse to advance Porter into a larger role, such as deputy chief of staff, and that Trump is therefore indifferent to the issue of domestic violence. It’s an odd narrative to try to develop against a man who daily fights such issues as opioid abuse and poor treatment of veterans.

But for now, it’s the latest media narrative in Washington — and Trump will likely have to deal with it head-on, sooner or later.

PoliZette White House writer Jim Stinson can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.