The fallout from the Rob Porter scandal has engulfed Trump’s inner circle at the White House. The president is reportedly angry at the handling of the situation, and is training his frustration on his top aide and close confidante Hope Hicks, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Hicks, the White House communications director, reportedly helped craft the administration’s initial response to the serious domestic violence allegations against Rob Porter, who resigned from his post as staff secretary. That included chief of staff John Kelly’s laudatory statement, which called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”
But the situation is even more complicated than Hicks’s possible misfire in the White House’s response. Hicks is reportedly dating Porter, and the president and others in Trumpworld are questioning whether her relationship with him clouded her judgment when responding to the unfolding crisis, according to CNN.
He's blaming Hope Hicks ... "The president feels that Hope Hicks has allowed her romantic relationship with Porter to really cloud her judgment and her decision-making ... that Hope Hicks put her own priorities above his and above the White House's." pic.twitter.com/ahPjkyxszI— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) February 9, 2018
Hicks, one of the more private figures in the Trump administration, is close to the president. She had previously worked for Ivanka Trump’s fashion label before joining the Trump campaign, and later the White House.
But it’s starting to look like she is becoming a scapegoat for the Porter scandal. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, citing an anonymous source, reported that Trump had not been consulted about the White House’s statement before it was released. Sources told CNN that Trump is under the impression Hicks — who has reportedly continued to defend Porter privately to colleagues — put herself before Trump and the administration.
On Thursday, White House spokesperson Raj Shah said Hicks had “recused herself” from some matters relating to the Porter situation — but it might be too little, too late. Trump was allegedly also irked with his team’s attempts to conduct triage. “Trump watched Shah’s session and was unhappy that he showed contrition on behalf of the White House,” according to the Washington Post.