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A timeline of the Rob Porter allegations and White House responses

When did W.H. know of Rob Porter abuse claims?
Timeline: When did White House know about Rob Porter abuse claims? 01:21

The resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter over allegations that he abused his ex-wives has sent shockwaves throughout the White House and Washington.

But the White House was made aware of the claims levied against Porter months before the Daily Mail first reported that his second ex-wife filed an emergency protective order against him and that he blackened the eye of his first wife. For months, Porter had access to and screened the most sensitive information for the president, doing so with an interim security clearance instead of a permanent clearance. A year after his employment by the White House began, Porter's background check was still ongoing.

So, who knew what when, and why did the White House respond as it did? A number of questions linger. Here is what we know.

2003: Porter marries Colbie Holderness. She later told The Intercept that the pattern of violence in their marriage began on their honeymoon.

2005: Holderness says that while on vacation in Florence, Italy, Porter "threw me down on the bed and punched me in the face," she said, according to The Intercept. "I think he was shocked that he had lost control to that extent." She shared a photo of her black eye with the FBI. Until then, Holderness told the Intercept, "[H]e had always done it in a way that didn't leave marks….He would get angry and throw me down on a soft surface -- to his credit, it was always a soft surface, like a couch or a bed, and he would lay on top of me, shaking me, or rubbing an elbow or a knee into me. He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out, or frankly to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing." Porter says that he was the one who took the photo, "and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described (by Holderness)."

2008: Porter and Holderness divorce.

2009: Porter and Jennifer Willoughby marry.

June 2010: Willoughby files an emergency protective order against Porter, after she says Porter smashed his hand into a glass door and refused to leave the apartment, per their separation agreement.

2013: Porter and Willoughby divorce.

February 2016: Then-girlfriend of Porter reaches out to Willoughby and, according to CNN, to Holderness, saying she is in an emotionally abusive relationship with Porter. She asked Willoughby if she had had the same experience

January 2017:

  • Porter joins the White House after Mr. Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
  • Willoughby is contacted by the FBI as it conducts a background check on Porter for his role, and Willoughby tells the FBI her story.
  • Porter tells White House counsel Don McGahn a background check on him may reveal derogatory information. Porter only says his ex-wives might say unflattering things about him to investigators. McGahn tells Porter to rest assured there is a process in place for the background check, and to let the FBI work it out. In the meantime, Porter would work under an interim security clearance, as he did until his departure more than a year later.

February 2017: Holderness, according to Willoughby, contacts her after she, too, was interviewed by the FBI for Porter's background check. The two speak and realize they have similar experiences.

April 2017: Jennifer Willoughby writes a blog post about Porter's abuses, though she does not name him. "The first time he called me a "f***ing b*tch was on our honeymoon," she begins. He blocks her from leaving their home. He "punched in the glass" on their front door when she locked herself inside. He yanks her from the shower to yell at her. But everyone loves him and people tell her how lucky she is. In her home, "the abuse was insidious" and "the terror was real," she writes. When she sought help, she was told to be careful because she could negatively affect Porter's career. No one believed her allegations.  

June 2017: Porter's preliminary file is sent from the FBI to the White House security office. The file contained the information from the ex-wives alleging abuse, but the file never went to McGahn personally. It may have gone to another attorney in the White House counsel office. 

September 2017: Porter informs McGahn he has been interviewed by the FBI a second time.

November 2017: McGahn receives a call from an ex-girlfriend of Porter informing him of the allegations made by Willoughby and Holderness A source tells CBS News this marked the first time McGahn was informed about the nature of the allegations. McGahn tells White House chief of staff John Kelly there's an issue related to Porter's clearance, but remains vague about the allegations. 

Feb. 1, 2018: Daily Mail reports White House communications director Hope Hicks is dating Porter

Feb. 6, 2018: Daily Mail first reports allegations from former wives against Porter, including responses from both White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and White House chief of staff John Kelly praising him. CBS News soon learns that Hicks played a significant role in crafting the original statements.

"Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him," Kelly told the Daily Mail.

"I have worked directly with Rob Porter nearly every day for the last year and the person I know is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character," Sanders told the Daily Mail.

Feb. 7, 2018:

  • Morning: Daily Mail publishes another story, this time, with an image from Holderness sporting the black eye she says Porter gave her shortly into their marriage.
  • Afternoon: From the White House podium, Sanders says Porter will be resigning, although not immediately, to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Afternoon: CBS News reports that the White House was made aware of the allegations against Porter in November, by the FBI.
  • Night: Kelly releases revised statement condemning domestic violence but saying he stands by his earlier statement about Porter. Senior staff at the White House helped draft statements by Kelly and Sarah Sanders expressing support for Porter.
  • Porter's employment ended Feb 7, White House deputy press secretary Raj Sah confirmed during the White House briefing on Feb. 8.
  • President Trump is taken aback by the news about Porter, and he speaks to him after Porter files his resignation. 

Feb. 8, 2018:

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah takes questions about Porter during the daily White House briefing. Shah says Mr. Trump first became aware of the allegations against Porter Tuesday night. Shah says Kelly did not become "fully aware" of the allegations until the picture of Holderness emerged, but would not say when he first became aware of any of the accusations. He also refuses to say how involved Hicks was in the drafting of the statement. Shah confirms that Porter had been operating under a temporary clearance his entire tenure at the White House. Shah says the images of Holderness' black eye played an influential role in the revised response from the White House.

CBS News' Major Garrett, Laura Strickler, Arden Farhi, Caroline Horn and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report. 

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