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Trump praises Rob Porter, aide who resigned over spousal abuse allegations

Last Updated Feb 9, 2018 2:02 PM EST

President Trump, who had gathered the press in the Oval Office Friday afternoon to share that he had donated money to a family with a father battling cancer, commented on now-former White House aide Rob Porter, who resigned over allegations of spousal abuse. 

The president said the White House wishes him well, noting that it is a "tough time" for the former staff secretary. He made no mention of the women in his comments, which were prompted by a reporter's question.

"We wish him well," the president said. "He worked very hard. I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well. It's obviously a 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, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad. Now he also as you probably know, he says he's innocent. And I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House."

White House chief of staff John Kelly, who is under fire for his handling of the Porter situation, was in the room for Mr. Trump's remarks. 

The allegations about Porter and the White House's response to them have rocked the White House. Jennie Willoughby, Porter's second wife, filed an emergency protective order against him, and his first wife, Colbie Holderness, said he kicked her and displayed images of a black eye she says she received from him punching her. 

The White House was aware of the allegations against Porter long before the Daily Mail first published the allegations on Tuesday. Porter told White House counsel Don McGahn in January of 2017 that there could be an issue with his FBI background check, although he didn't get into specifics. In September of 2017, Porter told McGahn he had been interviewed by the FBI a second time, CBS News' Arden Farhi has reported. In November of last year, McGahn received a call from Porter's ex-girlfriend informing him of the specific allegations from both of Porter's ex-wives. 

The White House did nothing to punish Porter.

It's not the first time Mr. Trump has responded to serious accusations against an associate with a response pointing to that person's claims of innocence. When Mr. Trump was confronted with accusations that Roy Moore, then a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama, had touched underage girls in his 30s, Mr. Trump pointed to Moore's denial. 

"Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it," the president said in November of last year. "That's all I can say. He denies it. By the way, he totally denies it."

— CBS News' Arden Farhi, Kathryn Watson and Katiana Krawchenko contributed to this report.