Trump advisers defend response after aide accused of spousal abuse

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Conway said on ABC's "This Week". "Same negative stories over and over again".

Conway also delivered what she said was a vote of confidence from Trump for chief of staff John Kelly, who has come under fire for his handling of the Porter matter. Critics have accused him of badly mishandling the situation and possibly even exposing one of the ousted aides to the risk of blackmail.

White House legislative director Marc Shortt told NBC "I think the president is shaped by a lot of false accusations against him in the past", a reference to numerous allegations of sexual misconduct made against Trump, which he denies.

Yet Trump made no mention of the ex-wives of the two former staffers, or of the alleged abuse, and his response has drawn widespread criticism from his opponents. "It's not surprising that he doesn't believe survivors or understand the national conversation that is happening", Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter.

Apart from disbelief, the White House also has showed ambivalence about allegations of mistreatment of women: Steve Bannon was brought on as Trump's chief strategist despite misdemeanor charges in a 1996 domestic violence case. By some accounts, White House counsel Don McGahn had been apprised of some accusations about Porter at least four times, including as early as January 2017.

But he has not offered to resign, according to a White House official who was not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Following a February 6 Daily Mail article recounting allegations of abuse against Porter by both Willoughby and his first ex-wife Colbie Holderness, the 40-year-old White House staffer resigned from his position as staff secretary.

His second, Jenny Willoughby, took out an emergency protective order against Porter in 2010 after what she says was a terrifying altercation at their home.

But since the resignations of White House staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen, both of whom have been accused of domestic violence, it has been suggested that Kelly's days at the helm of the White House staff could be numbered.

Willoughby said in her article that no one should be surprised that Trump stood up for Porter instead of believing the women who accused Porter.

He empathized with ex-aide Rob Porter, gone over wife-beating allegations credible enough to have held up his security clearance.

Kelly has said he found out only Tuesday night that the accusations against Porter were true, but that same evening the White House released a statement of support for Porter from Kelly.

"He's up to his neck in it", Maloney said, noting the Federal Bureau of Investigation rigorously vets applicants for security clearances.

Further, Conway told Tapper she didn't worry about White House communications director Hope Hicks dating Porter, as "I've rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts" - as if strong, smart women are never abused.

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