GOP senator: Kelly made 'bad decision' keeping Porter on staff after abuse allegations

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said Thursday that White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE made a "bad decision" to retain staff secretary Rob Porter despite knowing of domestic abuse allegations against him.

Kennedy said on CNN that the claims against Porter were still allegations, but "they appear to be the truth" and the aide did the right thing when he resigned from his White House post on Wednesday.

"If you want to serve the public, particularly as a member of a president's staff, I don't care who you are, even if you're a Rhodes Scholar, you can't beat the hell out of your spouse," Kennedy said.

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"It's wrong, and if it happened and they're serious allegations — some honestly believe that it did happen — then Mr. Porter did the right thing," he added. 

Kennedy said that he has full confidence in Kelly and that he had simply made a mistake. 

“I think Gen. Kelly has done an extraordinary job as chief of staff to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat MORE. I think he’s a good man, and sometimes good people make bad decisions.”

Kennedy's comments came on the heels of a CNN report that senior White House officials, including Kelly, had been aware of the allegations against Porter for months. President Trump reportedly did not know about the allegations until this week.

Porter's two ex-wives detailed the allegations to the FBI during the aide's background check. Despite having worked in the White House for more than a year, Porter never received a full security clearance because of those allegations. 

Porter denied the claims in a statement on Wednesday, calling them part of a "coordinated smear campaign."

"These outrageous allegations are simply false," he said.

In an initial statement after the allegations against Porter surfaced, Kelly called the aide a "man of true integrity and honor" and said that he is "proud to serve alongside him."

A second statement issued by Kelly late Wednesday condemned domestic abuse, but argued that Porter had a right to defend his reputation. 

"I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation," Kelly said.