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John Kelly in the State Dining Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas / Bloomberg via Getty Images

In an impromptu off-the-record briefing with reporters Friday, White House chief of staff John Kelly went on-the-record to discuss how the White House mishandled the Rob Porter scandal. He added that it opened his eyes to the number of staffers who were still working under interim security clearances, noting that it was “more people than I was comfortable with.”

We didn’t cover ourselves in glory in terms of how we handled that on Wednesday morning.
— Chief of Staff John Kelly

Kelly also offered a detailed timeline, from his point of view, on the events leading up to Porter's exit.

  • Kelly explained that he had only heard of allegations of emotional abuse against Porter when he accepted his resignation and issued a statement praising Porter's professionalism on Tuesday, Feb 6. At that point, Kelly said Porter had denied the claims, calling them "absolutely untrue."
  • "The mix-up came the next day," Kelly said, adding that the photo of Porter's ex-wife with a black eye surfaced on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
  • Kelly also backed up FBI Director Christopher Wray's statement that the Bureau had sent over their report on Porter to the White House security office in March 2017.
"That information was, in the security office’s perspective, only partial information still coming in," Kelly said. "When that got looked at, I do not know. But Chris Wray was right, and it was a shock for me certainly. Because I thought the information that came over was in November."

Take note: Rob Porter's version of events contradicts Kelly's timeline. "The man we all knew, it was an absolute shock," Kelly said of Porter. "His religion, his focus on work, etc. It was just a shock to us all."

  • Kelly added that he had never contemplated resigning in the wake of the messy Porter fallout: “I have absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over.”

Go deeper

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Trump confidante Matt Schlapp interviews Jared Kushner last February. Schlapp is seeking a pardon for a biotech executive. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A flood of convicted criminals has retained lobbyists since November’s presidential election to press President Trump for pardons or commutations before he leaves office.

What we're hearing: Among them is Nickie Lum Davis, a Hawaii woman who pleaded guilty last year to abetting an illicit foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Trump confidante Matt Schlapp also is seeking a pardon for a former biopharmaceutical executive convicted of fraud less than two months ago.