High-level White House officials knew about Porter abuse accusations for months: Sources

Two of the former staff secretary's ex-wives said they told the FBI about alleged abuse in early 2017.
4:49 | 02/08/18

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Transcript for High-level White House officials knew about Porter abuse accusations for months: Sources
A top aide to the president is now gone tonight, after multiple allegations of domestic abuse from two ex-wives. Staff secretary rob porter, often at the president's side, was defended by chief of staff John Kelly as a, quote, man of true integrity and honor. He's now resigned. These photos of porter's first wife who claims that black eye was just one case of physical abuse. Tonight, ABC news has learned that both of those women were interviewed by the FBI for his security clearance months ago. So, what did the white house know? ABC's senior white house correspondent Cecilia Vega leading us off. Reporter: Tonight, the president's staff secretary, rob porter, is out. Abruptly packing up his office, a day after the white house said he would not leave immediately. The west wing in crisis mode after two of porter's ex-wives came forward to publicly accuse him of domestic violence. His first wife, colbie Holderness, sharing this photo, showing her black and blue eye, saying porter punched her in the face more than a decade ago. Both women tell ABC news they told the FBI about porter's alleged abuse during his white house security clearance background check in early 2017. His second wife, Jennie Willoughby, telling "The Washington post" she did not hold back. I told them all of the details of my marriage, including verbal and emotional abuse. Reporter: When the story first broke, white house aides praised porter, one of the president's top aides, who is also romantically linked to white house communications director hope hicks. The president and chief of staff have had full confidence and trust in his abilities and performance. Reporter: White house chief of staff John Kelly called porter a man of true integrity and honor. But last night, with that picture of porter's first wife out in public view, Kelly issued a second statement, saying that he was "Shocked by the new allegations" and that there is no place for domestic violence. But Kelly adding, "I stand by my previous comments and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation." And now, sources tell ABC news, high level white house officials have actually known about the accusations against porter for months. So what did Kelly know and when did he know it? He became fully aware about these allegations yesterday. I'm not going to get into the specifics. Reporter: Are you saying the chief of staff of this white house had no idea that rob porter's two ex-wives had domestic violation allegations against him, when they made those claims to the FBI, John Kelly did not know that? How is that possible, the chief of staff did not know that? The chief of staff does not get detailed updates about what may or may not have been alleged. This is a process, it involves a thorough investigation. And as I went through the process, it involves looking at not just accusations, but denials. Reporter: Jennie willoughwilloughby, who filed for an emergency protective order in 2010, paints a disturbing picture. He came and grabbed me by the shoulders here and pulled me out of the shower in a rage. Reporter: Colbie Holderness, seen here on her wedding day, told the online publication "The intercept," "He would lay on top of me, shaking me or rubbing an elbow or a knee into me. He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out or, frankly, to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing." She also tells ABC news that in late 2016, she was contacted by another woman who shared her own story of what she called "Repeated abuse" at porter's hands. The woman telling her, "He can go from being the sweetest, kindest person to a complete abusive monster in minutes." "It is unbelievably hard to watch him continue to rise and ascend in politics while everyone around me thinks he's just this wonderful guy." ABC news has not spoken with her. Porter denies abusing his ex-wives, saying, "These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described." Mr. President, any comment on the resignation of rob porter? Reporter: The president today refusing to answer questions. Mr. President, when did you learn about the allegations against rob porter? Reporter: But from his aides, a rare admission of fault. I think a 0 lot of individuals were involved with the white house response to this, myself included. I think a lot of us could have done better. President not taking quells on this, as we saw there a moment ago. Let's go live to Cecilia say fwa. You reported senior white house officials did know about the allegations for months, but do we have any idea when president trump found out? Reporter: No, David. We still do not know for sure. What the white house said today is that the president only learned about these questions over rob porter's security clearance as these domestic violence allegations surfaced this week in the press. The white house says that the president was saddened and surprised. As for these questions about John Kelly, the white house still says the president has confidence in him. David? Cecilia Vega, our thanks to you again tonight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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