Blumenthal criticizes White House response to domestic violence scandal
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized the Trump administration Friday for its response to domestic violence allegations against the former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who is the boyfriend of White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.
The Democrat said Porter’s ability to land a senior post in the West Wing and his resignation earlier this week raise serious questions about the vetting of Trump staff and Porter’s ongoing access to classified materials.
Blumenthal, who has been a favorite target of Trump’s Twitter barbs, said the public comments by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and the president himself defending Porter were unacceptable.
Hicks, who is from Greenwich, reportedly helped craft Kelly’s initial comments on the matter.
“The initial statements made by the chief of staff fall far short of the zero-tolerance attitude that the White House should be taking in response to domestic violence,” Blumenthal told Hearst Connecticut Media. “I think that the White House should explain those initial statements. What is most troubling about those statements is, in fact, their seeming acceptance of domestic abuse.”
A request for comment was left Friday for Hicks, 29, who for the second time in as many weeks finds herself at the center of a White House maelstrom. Last week, the New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is zeroing in on Hicks in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump told reporters Friday that he only “recently” learned of the domestic violence allegations against Porter by both of his ex-wives and was “surprised by it.” The president twice mentioned that Porter maintains he’s innocent and said that his former aide “did a very good job” and “will have a great career.” Trump did not mention Porter’s accusers or a photograph that one said she provided to the FBI showing her with a black eye.
Blumenthal was one of a dozen Democratic senators who sent a letter Friday to Trump’s chief of staff, Kelly, and White House Counsel Donald McGahn II seeking further information about Porter’s tenure in the administration.
“Here is the staff secretary, who has access to the most classified and sensitive documents with secret information and material that could put lives in jeopardy and he is vulnerable to blackmail,” Blumenthal said. “We want to know when and how the White House learned about it why they didn’t take more action. It shouldn’t have taken an absolutely horrendous photograph for the White House to conclude that there was something deeply wrong.”
A source close to the administration told Hearst Thursday that it was unusual that Hicks did not recuse herself from helping to craft the initial response from the White House on Porter.
“In the abstract, two people in the same organization dating each other is not necessarily a violation of rules,” Blumenthal said. “I don’t know what the White House rules are.”
On Thursday, Blumenthal, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono, called on Acting Inspector General Wayne Stone to investigate how Porter was able to get an interim security clearance. White House officials have said that Porter’s background check was ongoing when he resigned.
“Interim clearances can pose a clear and present danger to national security when they are permitted to continue for months and even years,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal, who is also from Greenwich, declined to comment further about Hicks.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Hicks assured Trump during a conference call that potentially damaging emails written by Donald Trump Jr. about a Trump Tower meeting with the Russians “will never get out.” The purpose of the 2016 confab was to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Hicks’ lawyer has denied that she made the comment and has said that any suggestion that Hicks would delete emails and obstruct justice was completely false.
Hicks’ father, Paul Hicks III, a one-time Greenwich selectman, is managing director of a public relations powerhouse, The Glover Park Group. Previously, he was executive vice president of communications and government affairs for the National Football League. He declined to comment.
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