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White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter walks from Marine One to the White House. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned today after his two ex-wives came forward with abuse allegations.

What we're hearing: Nobody pressured him to resign, per multiple officials. A White House official said senior officials were trying to convince Porter “to stay and fight.” Those officials included Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Porter's statement:

"These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."
“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

The allegations:

  • Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness, alleged in an interview published Wednesday by the Daily Mail that he kicked her on their honeymoon, progressing to choking and punching her in the face. She provided pictures that were published with the story.
  • Porter's second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Daily Mail earlier this week that he pulled her naked from the shower shortly after their first anniversary, and that he was verbally abusive. The Daily Mail also obtained a police complaint from 2010 of Porter allegedly punching the glass on a door at their home, which led to her filing a temporary protective order.
  • Willoughby told the Daily Mail that the FBI had interviewed her, along with Holderness. The Daily Mail claimed sources told them that Porter's "dark past" was the reason for his failure to secure security clearances.

Background: Porter and Kelly were in charge of reviewing all information before it reached President Trump. Porter served as Sen. Orrin Hatch's chief of staff before entering the White House.

Porter had good relationships across the ideological spectrum of the White House — from Stephen Miller to Gary Cohn, was one of Kelly's most trusted aides and was in charge of the weekly trade policy meetings. As I reported in January, he had been receiving overtures from big companies and groups that wanted to poach him from the White House.

Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Porter on Tuesday:

  • Kelly on Porter: "a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him."
  • Sanders on Porter: "someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character."

Sanders on Wednesday: “As has always been our policy, we do not comment on security clearances. Rob Porter had been effective in his role as staff secretary and the president and chief of staff have full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance.”

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek. 

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

3 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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