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Why Orrin Hatch had two statements on Rob Porter's resignation

Moments after Rob Por...

Posted: Feb. 8, 2018 8:54 AM
Updated: Feb. 8, 2018 8:54 AM

Moments after Rob Porter resigned from his post as White House staff secretary on Wednesday, reporters received two very different statements from Porter's former boss, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

One statement offered a strong defense of Porter, while another was less robust and carried a sharply different tone as Porter faces allegations of abuse from his two former wives. Prior to working in the White House, Porter served as Hatch's chief of staff.

The Daily Mail first published allegations of physical abuse Tuesday night from Porter's second ex-wife and then later, on Wednesday, published allegations of physical and mental abuse from his first ex-wife.

Not long after the allegations came out Wednesday, Porter resigned -- though he denied the allegations in his own statement -- and the White House handed out multiple statements of support for Porter from various officials and leaders, including Hatch.

The statement from Hatch vigorously defended Porter, saying "it's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man."

This same statement also appeared in the Daily Mail's reporting.

Here's the full statement: "It's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this-and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name. I know Rob. I've known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal advisor. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails."

At the same time, Hatch's office blasted out a different statement that said Hatch was "heartbroken" by the allegations. Hatch still described his interactions with Porter as "professional" and "respectful" but said "domestic violence in any form is abhorrent."

Here's the full statement: "I am heartbroken by today's allegations. In every interaction I've had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob's personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved."

A source familiar with the two statements said the White House started collecting statements of support for Porter on Tuesday because they knew the allegations were going to be published. Porter himself was involved in asking Hatch's office Tuesday for a statement defending him.

That's how the Daily Mail got a statement from Hatch -- the White House already had one from him.

However, an aide to Hatch said the statement was drafted before the first article came out and Hatch didn't know all the details. His office was only told there was some kind of effort underway to undermine Porter and that it would involve his marriages.

"The statement was prepared before any accusations were printed but with the understanding that his past marital troubles would be used against him," the aide said.

The aide said that after the second article came out Wednesday and Hatch realized the severity of the allegations, Hatch's office drafted the second statement and released it when they heard Porter resigned. Hatch personally dictated both statements, the aide said.

But Hatch's office didn't know that the White House was still going to release their old statement in support of Porter after the resignation, the aide said, so that came as a surprise to them.

Hatch later tweeted his newer statement, just to make sure it went far and wide.

Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said Hatch was at the White House for a meeting of members of the Senate Finance Committee. Hatch's spokesman confirmed that Hatch spoke to Porter at the White House on Wednesday.

"Senator Hatch spoke to Rob about his next steps and urged him to get help so that he could possibly serve the country in some capacity down the road," Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said in a statement. "Whether he takes leave and gets that help now or resigns to focus on making necessary changes will be up to him to work out, of course."

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