FBI raises more questions about White House's Rob Porter defense in new letter

A new FBI timeline provided to Congress regarding communications between the bureau and the White House about former White House staff secretary Rob Porter raises more questions about the administration's defense of its handling of the background clearance scandal.

The White House has claimed that senior officials were not aware of the allegations of domestic abuse against Porter until media reports started surfacing in February.

But the FBI said it sent a "partial report" of "derogatory information" against Porter to White House counsel Don McGahn on March 3rd, 2017 - nearly a year before Porter's firing - an FBI official wrote in a letter to the leaders of the House Oversight Committee this month. It's unclear what exactly was in the partial report sent to the White House in March.

A White House official said, "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly issued a memorandum on February 16, 2018, to improve the security clearance process, including requiring that derogatory information is now provided in-person directly to the appropriate person, which was not the case in 2017."

Porter has denied the allegations of abuse from his two ex-wives.

The letter builds upon FBI Director Chris Wray's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee in February when he told lawmakers the FBI had completed its background check of Porter in late July.

The White House had previously said that the Porter background check was not complete when Porter was ousted. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later distanced the West Wing from the mishandling of information on Porter.

"The White House Personnel Security Office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation in November. But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House, because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned," Sanders said.

"The FBI has now confirmed that it repeatedly provided derogatory information to the White House about Rob Porter as far back as March of 2017. But White House officials ignored this information and continued granting Porter access to our nation's most highly classified secrets-just as they did with Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.

The FBI official highlighted a number of exchanges with the White House on the status of Porter's clearance. The bureau transmitted a partial report to McGahn on March 3, 2017, containing "derogatory information" on Porter, and shared a completed background check on July 21, 2017, with the Executive Office of the President's Personnel Security Operations office.

That office requested more information from the FBI in August of 2017, including re-interviews of Porter and his ex-wives and his girlfriend at the time, before the FBI re-submitted a completed report to the security division in November.

The FBI closed the Porter investigative file in January, before receiving additional information that was shared with the EOP Personnel Security Operations office on February 7, 2018.

Cummings said he and Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, were briefed earlier this month by the White House Counsel's Office on the episode, but that the White House "refused to provide any backward-looking information about the White House's dysfunctional security clearance practices."

He said the White House is refusing to turn over documents to the committee as part of its review of the episode and criticized Gowdy for not subpoenaing the White House for documents and interviews as part of the panel's investigation.

Jordyn Phelps contributed reporting.
Related topics:
abc newsnational
Copyright © 2019 ABC News Internet Ventures.