Backing The Bullies

Women’s shelters have served as a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse in this country for more than forty years and the Violence Against Women’s Act of 1994 solidified the nation’s commitment to improving the adjudication and community response to domestic violence. So how is it that we find ourselves in the twenty-first century with a White House and a Republican Party that is a safe haven for alleged abusers?

Republicans long ago branded themselves the party of “family values,” and they have the backing of the religious right to show for it. Unfortunately, the pious people’s support for President Trump, a man who stands accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women, including his first wife Ivana, who in a sworn deposition testified about an incident during which he yanked a fist full of hair from her head and forced himself on her sexually, doesn’t pass the sanctimonious smell test.

Trump and the GOP have moved beyond offensive rhetoric to a sustained pattern of behavior, trumpeted from the podium and Twitter feed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that lets abusers know Trump doesn’t just want you to survive, he wants you to thrive. The President’s penchant for empowering boys who allegedly batter dates back to the campaign trail when he picked Steve Bannon, a man charged with misdemeanor domestic violence in 1996, as his campaign chair. After Steve’s predecessor, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with misdemeanor battery for grabbing a female reporter hard enough to cause bruises, Trump defended him by saying, “I think it’s a very very sad day in this country when a man could be destroyed over something like that.” Indeed Lewandowski held onto his job until his clashes with other campaign higher-ups, most notably infuriating first daughter Ivanka by trying to dig up nasty stories about first son-in-law Jared Kushner, finally rendered him bully non grata. Trump went on to nominate Andrew Pudzer, whose former wife offered a detailed account of abuse by him in a 1990 episode of the Oprah show, for Labor Secretary. And in a truly depraved turn of events, the GOP and Trump gave their full-throttled support and funding to accused child molester Roy Moore’s failed senate campaign.

The most recent example of the Executive Branch backing the bullies came with the news that two White House officials resigned over allegations of spousal abuse. Speechwriter David Sorensen, who was the subject of an ongoing background investigation, resigned last week; following media reports detailing his ex-wife’s accounts of spousal abuse. But of course, Rob Porter, former White House Staff Secretary, is the alleged wife beater who has inspired the most passionate defense from the White House. Both of Rob’s former wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby spoke to the FBI under the penalty of perjury as part of the requisite background investigations that accompany the security clearance process for sensitive, high-level posts like Porter’s. The women recounted emotional and physical abuse at the hands of Porter, including instances of degrading and insulting language, kicking, choking and punching, the latter of which resulted in the graphic photo Colbie shared with the FBI just a week after Trump’s Inauguration. Jennifer filed a restraining order against Porter in 2010 and wrote a blog post about abusive marriage last year titled, Why I Stayed.

Porter had been operating on an interim clearance since January 2017. The FBI sent its completed background check to the White House in July and shortly thereafter received a request for a follow-up inquiry. They shared the findings of their secondary inquiry with the White House in November and closed the file in January 2018. In early February the Daily Mail notified the White House that they would publish the wives’ accounts of alleged abuse in the coming days. The story ran on February 6 and pictures of Colbie with a blackened eye were published the next day. Porter resigned the same day.

This timeline tells us that the Trump White House is perfectly fine with putting suspected wife beaters on the payroll and allowing them access to top-secret documents without the proper clearance. And Trump’s response to Porter’s resignation provides clear evidence of where our President’s allegiance lies when it comes to cases of alleged domestic violence.

“I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it.  But we certainly wish him well.  It’s obviously a tough time for him…. hopefully, he will have a great career ahead of him.  But it was very sad when we heard about it.  And certainly, he’s also very sad…” said Trump. It’s so tough, so sad to think that a good-looking, high-achieving, Harvard man whose career has been derailed by the extensively well-documented accounts of his bygone beautiful brides who say he beat the hell out of them for years.

For a President and party intent on projecting a law and order image, they offer no safe quarter or comfort to victims of violence, choosing instead to validate the voice of the accused over the very credible cries of the abused. Trump finally did deign to reference the awkward circumstances behind poor Porter’s most unwilling exit from the west wing when he issued the following statement:  “I am totally against domestic violence of any kind. And everyone knows it.”  Do they? It would be understandable if the prior Mrs. Porters begged to differ.