Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that he and President Donald Trump have confidence in chief of staff John Kelly, but he said the White House could have better handled the situation regarding a former top aide who was accused of domestic abuse.
"The White House could’ve handled this better," Pence said.
He continued to vouch for Kelly, who has faced criticism for initially praising Rob Porter’s character after allegations against him by two ex-wives became public and for letting him work for a year with an interim security clearance. Porter resigned his position as staff secretary last week.
"John Kelly has done a remarkable job as chief of staff," Pence told Axios at an event. "I look forward to continuing to work with him for many, many months to come."
Although Pence criticized the White House’s performance, Kelly told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that the shouldn’t have handled the situation any differently.
Pence said he and the president shared "great confidence" in Kelly due to his long-history of serving the country. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, served as secretary of homeland security before Trump tapped him to be chief of staff last year.
Pence said last week he was "appalled" to learn of allegations of domestic violence against Porter, who worked closely with Trump in the West Wing and played a major role in crafting his State of the Union address last month.
The White House said last week that Kelly and other staffers only became "fully aware" of the abuse allegations after reports surfaced last week. But FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday the bureau had given the White House multiple reports on the matter last year.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who initially said the background check process didn’t "operate within the White House," conceded Tuesday that some staffers were aware of the FBI’s findings last year.
“The White House personnel security office, staffed by career officials, received information last year in what they considered to be the final background investigation report in November,” Sanders said. “But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.”