Vice President Pence told reporters in Japan on Thursday that he only recently learned of the allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, and declined to answer a question about why he often seemed "out of the loop" when it came to major events at the White House.
“I learned as I awoke this morning of those developments, so we’ll comment on any issues affecting White House staff when we get back to Washington,” Pence said of the allegations against Porter, who announced Wednesday that he would resign from his White House role after being accused of abusing his two ex-wives.
His resignation occurred overnight in Japan, where Pence appeared alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visited U.S. troops at Yokota Air Force Base. The vice president is in the middle of a five-day trip throughout Asia before he leads the U.S. delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
During a brief gaggle with reporters at the base, Pence was asked why he seemed “a little bit out of the loop” on major events in the Trump administration.
“This is now a number of times when you’ve found out … about something very late, after a number of other senior staff below you in the West Wing have found out about it. Can you comment on why you often seem a little bit out of the loop on some of this major news?” a reporter asked.
Pence replied by saying it’s a “great honor” to serve as vice president. He also praised President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE for being “incredibly generous” in allowing him to represent the U.S. abroad in meetings with foreign leaders and at the upcoming Olympics, as well as allowing his involvement in the legislative process on Capitol Hill.
“I’m very grateful for that,” Pence said. “We’ll leave those White House staffing matters for when we get back to Washington.”
According to pool reports, White House staffers said Pence learned of both the allegations against Porter and his resignation on Thursday.
Pence is widely seen as one of the most influential members of the Trump administration, with his imprint often seen on major policy decisions. He has been deeply involved in efforts to move Trump's legislative agenda through Congress, including on the tax bill enacted last year.
The White House announced Thursday that Porter’s last day at the White House was Wednesday.
Deputy press secretary Raj Shah acknowledged that the White House mishandled the controversy surrounding Porter after chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and other administration officials initially defended Porter following the initial round of media reports in which two of his ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse.
Kelly issued a statement late Wednesday night saying he was “shocked” by the allegations, but said he stood by his initial praise of Porter and insisted that the former top aide should have an opportunity to defend himself.