WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House advisers on Sunday tried to quash speculation that President Donald Trump may seek to replace Chief of Staff John Kelly over the handling of domestic abuse accusations against an aide who resigned last week.
Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president asked her to make clear he supports Kelly, who came under intense scrutiny after the abuse allegations against White House staff secretary Rob Porter surfaced.
“He has full confidence in his current chief of staff, General John Kelly and he’s not actively searching for replacements,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
Porter resigned on Wednesday after two former wives said he abused them. His abrupt departure raised questions about how long it took Trump’s team to act on the accusations.
Kelly has so far taken the brunt of the blame and a source familiar with the matter told Reuters he offered to resign.
Budget director Mick Mulvaney blamed talk of a Kelly ouster on people disgruntled because they lost access to Trump after Kelly became chief of staff in July.
Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” that everyone in the White House, including Trump, was pleased with Kelly’s performance.
“I think that talk about the chief’s departure is much ado about nothing.”
Trump appeared sympathetic to Porter in a Twitter post on Saturday. “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” he wrote without naming Porter. “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
Mulvaney said Trump and Kelly felt saddened and betrayed by the accusations that emerged against Porter. “For the president and the chief of staff to give that person the benefit of the doubt is probably a very normal and human reaction,” he said on Fox.
Trump is less popular among women than men. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was criticized for denigrating women, including a video showing him bragging in 2005 about groping them.
Over the past two years, more than a dozen women have accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them before he became president. Trump has denied the accusations.
White House legislative liaison Marc Short denied reports that Kelly had offered his resignation, and said he was doing an “outstanding job.”
Short told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided an interim security clearance to Porter.
He did not say whether he believed Kelly was aware of the accusations before Tuesday night, when he “learned the depth of the nature of the accusations.”
“I think there was probably some … lack of communication between different elements in the White House,” Short told NBC.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Doina Chiacu, David Morgan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Daniel Wallis and Paul Simao