FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday offered contradicted the Trump administration’s account of when the president learned of domestic abuse allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
Responding to questions from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Wray said that investigators submitted a partial report on their investigation of Porter as far back as March 2017, and that the investigation ended in July.
He said new information was also provided to the White House in November and January.
“I can’t get into the content of what was briefed; what I can tell you is the FBI submitted a report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said.
“Soon thereafter we received request for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November and then we administratively closed the file in January. And then earlier this month, we received additional information and we passed that on as well.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday that the White House learned the full extent of the Porter allegations last Tuesday.
Multiple White House officials have claimed that the background check process was never closed.
“His background investigation was ongoing,” spokesman Raj Shah said last Thursday. “He was operating on an interim security clearance. His clearance was never denied, and he resigned.”
Porter resigned last week after allegations from his two ex-wives that he abused them became public.
Wray said he is “confident” the bureau followed the same set of standards for conducting such a background briefing on a White House staffer as it has for decades.
“There is a limit to what I can say about any particular background investigation. The background investigation process involves a fairly elaborate set of guidelines, protocols, agreements, et cetera that have been in place for 20-plus years. And I am quite confident in this particular instance that the FBI followed the established protocols.”
It’s unclear what new information was provided to the FBI after it completed the initial background investigation in July.
The White House has been roiled with questions about when it knew of the allegations against Porter, and how he maintained a role where he had access to classified papers.
Officials from the White House have offered conflicting stories on when they learned about the allegations against Porter.
According to a new report from Politico on Tuesday claimed that White House officials had tried to arrange for an off-the-record meeting for Porter to deny allegations of spousal abuse to reporters even after a photograph of his wife with a black eye had been published by a British tabloid.
Despite this, the White House has tried to claim that it acted swiftly and decisively in firing Porter, even though it had been warned about the FBI about problems in granting him a security clearance months before.
Wray’s testimony also comes just weeks after he found himself in conflict with the White House, which authorized the release of a House Intelligence Committee memo drafted by staff to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) over the objections of Wray and the FBI.
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