Ignoring photographic evidence, Trump dismisses abuse allegations against ex-White House staffer

On Saturday morning, President Trump dismissed credible domestic abuse allegations against former top White House secretary Rob Porter as “a mere allegation” and suggested that Porter has been falsely accused.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump tweeted. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

Porter has been credibly accused of physical and verbal abuse by both of his ex-wives. His first wife, Colbie Holderness, provided media outlets with a photo of her with a black eye she says Porter gave her in 2005. Holderness told CNN that “the physical abuse began almost immediately after their wedding” in 2003.

In a statement released after the accusations went public, Porter said he “took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described,” but he didn’t specify what part of the evidence is misleading.

Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told CNN that Porter physically assaulted her in the shower and punched a glass pane at their previously shared home after their separation. She sought and received a temporary restraining order.

But speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump praised Porter and didn’t so much as mention his alleged victims. He did, however, point out that Porter “very strongly” denies the accusations against him.

“We hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him,” Trump said. “But it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent and you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”

It’s not surprising that Trump would defend Porter, given that Trump has been accused of sexual assault by 14 women and has been recorded bragging about grabbing women by their genitals. The White House’s official position is that all of Trump’s accusers are lying.

But Trump’s Saturday tweet is even more dismissive about the accusations against Porter than other White House officials have been.

During a news briefing on Thursday, deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters that the administration’s process for responding to accusations involves “looking at not just accusations, but denials.” But he also acknowledged that the photo of Holderness with a black eye prompted the administration to act. Senior White House officials reportedly knew about the allegations against Porter for months, but Shah said they weren’t “fully aware” of them until the photo was published.

Trump has a long history of defending men that have been accused of sexual assault or abuse, including Roy Moore, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes.

It’s unclear what Trump means by suggesting that accused abusers should be given “due process,” since Porter has not been charged with any crimes. But Trump has not always been concerned about making sure that people accused of wrongdoing get a fair hearing.

Back in 1989, when a group of four black teens and one Latino teen were on trial for the brutal assault and rape of a jogger in Central Park, Trump called for their execution in an ad he spent more than $85,000 to place in four newspapers.

There was just one problem — they were innocent. The five teens were convicted thanks to a confession they said was coerced by officers violently interrogating them while they were deprived of food and sleep. In 2002, their innocence was proven once and for all when another man confessed to the crime and his DNA was determined to match a sample found on the victim.

Trump, however, has few regrets. In a statement sent to CNN on the occasion of a retrospective about the case in 2016, then-candidate Trump didn’t back away from his previous comments.

“They admitted they were guilty,” he wrote. “And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

In November, Trump called for the immediate execution of an Uzbekistan national who allegedly drove his vehicle onto a bike path in New York City, killing eight and injuring 11 more. But that came less than two months after Trump dragged his feet before condemning white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville for a rally that involved the murder of a counterprotester, infamously said there “were very fine people on both sides.”

Trump justified his equivocating response by insisting he was simply being responsible.

“I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct and there was no way of making a correct statement that early,” Trump told reporters. “I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters… I didn’t know David Duke was there, I wanted to see the facts.”