FBI director Christopher Wray directly contradicted the Trump administration on Tuesday, saying under oath that the bureau gave the White House four separate reports about disgraced former aide Rob Porter's security clearance investigation – with the first heads-up coming 11 months ago.
The bombshell development could put White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn on the hot seat as they face new questions about what they knew and when they knew it.
Responding to a question from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Wray spelled out the process in which the bureau 'briefed' the White House while Porter was operating with a temporary clearance and had access to some of America's most closely held secrets.
'The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,' Wray said, adding that 'soon thereafter we received requests for [a] followup inquiry, and we did the followup and provided that information in November.'
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified Tuesday in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the White House has had four separate notifications from the bureau about why Rob Porter couldn't get a permanent security clearance
Rob Porter (right) was forced out of his sensitive position at the White House after DailyMail.com reported on his ex-wives' allegations of long-term domestic violence
Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, (left) told DailyMail.com that he repeatedly punched and choked her. His second wife Jennifer Willoughby (right) has also claimed that Porter was abusive in their marriage
Wray added that the FBI 'administratively closed the file in January,' directly contradicting the White House's account.
'Then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that along as well,' he said.
Wray said that that 'in this particular instance the FBI followed established protocol.'
The White House subsequently claimed that an obscure personnel office was conducting its own investigation into Porter when the former staff secretary resigned, and that is why he was still doing his job with interim security clearance.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that the White House Personnel Security Office 'had not made a final recommendation' and 'the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.'
That account seemingly conflicted with Wray's testimony today on Capitol Hill.
'I think you need to be very clear about – there's multiple groups here. The White House Personnel Security Office, which is staffed by career officials, would have, may have received information, but they had not completed their process and made a recommendation to the White House for adjudication,' Sanders insisted.
Multiple White House spokespersons, however, ignored repeated requests on Tuesday to explain how the Office of Personnel Security works and who is in charge of it.
Porter was forced out of his job as President Donald Trump's staff secretary this month following DailyMail.com reports about domestic violence accusations from his two ex-wives.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday – without mentioning Porter by name – that while it can be 'necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot,' people with such temporary statuses shouldn't have the same contact with classified material as people with permanent clearances.
'Access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive,' Coats said.
Key questions: Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and Rob Porter's latest lover is at the center of the storm over how he remained in his job after four FBI warnings about the testimony of his ex-wives and ex-girlfriend
Spotted: Hope Hicks was seen leaving her home for the White House on Tuesday morning, just before the FBI's bombshell revelation under oath
Porter was among President Trump's closest aides, managing the flow of documents and other paperwork that reached the Oval Office
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (right) said Tuesday that people with temporary security clearances (like Porter) should have 'limited' access to classified material
Dozens of White House officials are still operating with temporary clearances – reportedly including Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
CNN has reported that 30 to 40 White House and administration officials lack permanent clearance. The White House has refused to say whether the number is accurate.
Sanders said Tuesday that it would be up the law enforcement and intelligence communities to make new rules governing security clearances, though, if they believe that changes are warranted.
'We are following the process that has been used by previous administration, and we would rely on the law enforcement and intelligence communities to determine if that process needed to be changed' she said.
The news that the FBI's background check was completed and the file closed last month flies in the face of what the White House has publicly said.
'In the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process. That process hadn't been completed, so we were relying on the information that we had,' White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters last Thursday.
It was unclear from Wray's testimony who at the White House received information from the FBI, leaving Sanders room later to maneuver.WHAT HAPPENED AND WHEN: A ROB PORTER TIMELINE
As more facts come out about the Rob Porter saga, the timeline of what top White House officials knew and when they knew it is coming into sharp focus:
Rob Porter and President Donald Trump
2003: Rob Porter marries Colbie Holderness. She later said his pattern of spousal abuse began during their honeymoon.
2005: Porter punches Holderness in the face during a vacation in Italy, according to her; photos taken at the time shows her black eye.
2008: Porter and Holderness divorce.
2009: Porter marries Jennifer Willoughby.
June 2010: Willoughby files a court request for an emergency restraining order against Porter.
2013: Porter and Willoughby divorce.
February 2016: A Porter girlfriend contacts Willoughby and Holderness, asking them how to handle an abusive relationship with Porter.
January 20, 2017: Porter begins work at the White House, operating under a temporary security clearance.
January 25, 2017: The FBI contacts Willoughby as part of a background check on Porter, and she tells agents her story. Willoughby tells Porter what she had explained to the FBI, and he warns White House Counsel Don McGahn that there might be unflattering information in his background check.
February 2017: Holderness contacts Willoughby and the two discuss their stories, realizing their common experiences.
Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, (left) claims he repeatedly punched and choked her. His second wife Jennifer Willoughby has also claimed that Porter was abusive in their marriage
March 2017: The FBI submits 'a partial report on the investigation' to the White House, according to director Christopher Wray.
April 2017: Willoughby writes an anonymous blog post detailing her turbulent marriage, while not mentioning Porter by name.
Late July 2017, date unknown: The FBI gives the White House 'a completed background investigation' on Porter, according to Wray.
July 28, 2017: President Donald Trump announces on Twitter that he has appointed John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, succeeding Reince Priebus.
'Soon after' late July 2017: The FBI receives the White House's 'requests for [a] followup inquiry' about Porter, according to Wray.
September 2017: Porter tells McGahn that he has been interviewed a second time by the FBI.
November 2017 or earlier: Porter begins dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly
November 2017: A Porter ex-girlfriend contacts McGahn and gives him details of the two ex-wives' allegations. The FBI gives the White House the results of its followup investigation into Porter.
January 2018: According to Wray, the FBI 'administratively closed the file' on Porter's background check.
February 2018, date unknown: According to Wray, the FBI 'received some additional information' about Porter 'and we passed that along' to the White House.
February 1, 2018: DailyMail.com reports that White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is dating Porter, and that the relationship began when the ex-girlfriend discovered the two had been exchanging text messages.
February 6, 2018: DailyMail.com tells the White House that it plans to publish detailed reporting on Willoughby's claims. Hours later the White House sends glowing statements about Porter from Chief of Staff John Kelly and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, some of which were crafted by Hicks.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah (left) and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders (right)
Morning of February 7, 2018: DailyMail.com informs the White House that it will publish Holderness's claims along with the photos of her black eye; the report is published. Sarah Sanders says
Afternoon of February 7, 2018: The White House continues to send the Sanders and Kelly statements to reporters.
February 7, 2018 at 1:20 p.m.: Sanders invites hand-picked reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Axios news website to speak with Porter 'off the record' and hear his side of the story.
February 7, 2018 at 1:45 p.m.: Sanders tells reporters that Porter has submitted his resignation but would continue to work at the White House during a 'transition,' while also reading a statement from him claiming that 'these outrageous allegations are simply false.'
Night of February 7, 2018: Kelly releases a new statement saying he condemns domestic violence. President Trump speaks with Porter about the allegations and accepts his resignation. Porter leaves the White House for the last time.
February 8, 2018: White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah briefs the press, saying Kelly was not made 'fully aware' of the nature of the allegations against Porter until some point on February 7 after DailyMail.com published the black-eye photos of Holderness.
FBI Director Christopher Wray
February 9, 2018: President Trump tells a small 'pool' of reporters that he was 'surprised' by the allegations, 'but we certainly wish him well.' Trump says it has been a 'tough time for him.' He doesn't mention Willoughby or Holderness, and doesn't render a condemnation about domestic violence. 'Hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him,' Trump says, adding that 'he says he's innocent.'
February 12, 2008: Sanders says during a White House press briefing that the White House 'learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening.' She also says 'the process for the background was ongoing, and the White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check.'
February 13, 2018: FBI Director Christopher Wray spells out during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing all the times the FBI contacted the White House about its Rob Porter background-check investigation.
Wray was fielding questions from Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat
The White House has been cagey about whether or when Kelly knew the seriousness of the allegations against Porter, but it has been widely reported that McGahn received the initial FBI briefings.
Sanders had refused to provide specifics on Monday about the Porter clearance investigation, saying it was still 'ongoing.'
'The process for the background was ongoing, and the White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check,' she claimed.
'We learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening,' Sanders insisted.
By Tuesday of this week she was claiming that the personnel security office did have the documents but was not through reviewing them when Porter departed.