WASHINGTON, U.S. - Amid reports claiming that U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly had offered to resign over the poor handling of the controversy surrounding allegations of domestic abuse made against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter - questions have been raised about Kelly’s position.
Reports claimed soon after that Trump was considering replacing his chief of staff.
The retired four-star general, who was tasked with bringing military discipline into a chaotic White House, was questioned for his judgement - especially since Porter’s second wife was said to have obtained a protective order against him in June 2010.
Questions were raised about how Porter received interim security clearance to act as gatekeeper to the U.S. president despite the allegations.
Then, a report in the New York Times suggested that Kelly told his staff on Friday that he was willing to resign over his mishandling of the domestic violence allegations that led to Porter’s resignation.
However, on Sunday, senior White House aides defended Kelly and insisted that Trump is not looking for replacements.
White House aides said that Trump remains confident in Kelly despite a staff turmoil.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said in a media interview, “I spoke with the president last night about this very issue, and he wanted me to reemphasize to everyone, including this morning, that he has full confidence in his current chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and that he is not actively looking for replacements.”
After the scandal blew up over the weekend, Trump was reportedly displeased with White House communications director Hope Hicks' handling of the controversy.
According to reports, Hicks helped craft the administration’s initial response to the allegations against Porter and Trump was not consulted then.
What complicates the situation is that 29-year-old Hicks is reportedly involved in a romantic relationship with Porter and the President and his aides were said to be questioning whether her relationship with him clouded her judgment when responding to the unfolding crisis.
Conway however, clarified on Sunday that Trump also remains confident in communications director Hope Hicks.
Meanwhile, Kelly’s response to the entire controversy unfolded with what critics called an error in judgement.
After the Daily Mail reported the ex-wives' allegations on Tuesday, Kelly initially called Porter "a man of true integrity and honour.”
Then, reports revealed that Kelly had some knowledge about the accusations against his deputy.
Later, Kelly released a new statement saying he was shocked by the claims and stressed domestic violence was unacceptable.
The following day, Porter resigned or was fired.
Meanwhile, White House legislative director Marc Short said in an interview on Sunday that Kelly did not offer his resignation over criticism of his handling of the Porter case.
Short said, “John Kelly knows that he serves at the pleasure of the president. And he will step aside anytime the president doesn’t want him to be there. But John Kelly has not offered his resignation. John Kelly is doing an outstanding job.”
When questioned about whether Kelly and White House counsel Donald McGahn had known about the abuse allegations for several months, Conway replied, “Well, there is no way for me to know what those two men knew, because I'm not in that line, and nor should I be.”
Further, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, whose name surfaced as a potential replacement for Kelly, denied that he is under consideration on Sunday.
Mulvaney said he has “absolutely not” been approached about replacing Kelly as Trump’s chief of staff.
Adding, “I think all the stories about replacing Gen. Kelly are from people who are unhappy they’ve lost access to the president. It's much ado about nothing.”