FBI, White House Offer Different Timelines on Porter Clearance

FBI director testifies background check report was first completed in July

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “World Wide Threats.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

FBI Director Christopher Wray has offered a different account from the White House of the timeline for the security clearance investigation of former Staff Secretary Rob Porter.

“I can’t get into the content of what was briefed,” Wray testified Tuesday at the Senate Intelligence Committee. “What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July. Soon thereafter we received request for follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November.

“We administratively closed the file in January, and then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.” 

Wray also said he was confident the bureau had followed long-standing protocols for conducting Porter’s clearance investigation.

Porter departed the White House last week after credible allegations of domestic abuse became public. President Donald Trump himself defended Porter last Friday, after his employment as staff secretary came to an end.

Watch: FBI Director Discusses Porter Security Clearance Timeline

“The allegations made against Rob Porter, as we understand them, involve incidents long before he joined the White House,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said Thursday. “Therefore, they are best evaluated through the background check process.”

Shah then called the allegations against Porter “serious and disturbing” — the first time a White House official had done so in the aftermath of the reports. “They’re upsetting,” he said

Shah’s timeline was substantially different from the one Wray spelled out five days later. Most notably, Shah told reporters Porter’s background investigation was still ongoing — not closed as Wray said Tuesday morning.

“The background check investigates both the allegations and the denials. The investigation does not stop when allegations come to light,” Shah said.

“We should not short-circuit an investigation just because allegations are made, unless they could compromise national security or interfere with operations at the White House. The truth must be determined,” he said. “And that was what was going on with Rob Porter. His background investigation was ongoing. He was operating on an interim security clearance. His clearance was never denied, and he resigned.”

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