Hope Hicks and disgraced Rob Porter no longer dating

  • White House communications director Hope Hicks and former staff secretary Rob Porter are no longer dating
  • Porter's ex-wives told DailyMail.com that he had abused and assaulted them
  • The White House initially defended him, with Hicks in the room when glowing statements were drafted
  • Power-couple relationship ended after Porter's abrupt exit
  • 'Hope is smarter than some people give her credit for,' said one White House official who called her an 'incredibly strong woman'
  • The pair started their romance in the fall; Porter's then-girlfriend learned about it by discovering her cheating paramours' text messages

By David Martosko, Us Political Editor For Dailymail.com

Published: 16:10 EST, 14 February 2018 | Updated: 20:50 EST, 14 February 2018

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and former staff secretary Rob Porter are no longer dating, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the bygone relationship's status.

One person close to Hicks told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that the dating came to an end after Porter resigned last week when his two ex-wives came forward to accuse him of abuse. 

The revelations by DailyMail.com have set of a crisis in the White House over the handling of Porter's past. 

The pair were on their way to becoming a bona fide Washington power couple, as two of President Donald Trump's most trusted and closest aides.

But their falling out was seen as inevitable, one West Wing aide said Wednesday, after Porter's two ex-wives accused him of spousal abuse.

Single once more: White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is no longer dating Rob Porter, following Porter's abrupt dismissal after his ex-wives accused him of abusing them

Cheri amour no more?: Hicks and Porter on a date earlier this month in DC 
Cheri amour no more?: Hicks and Porter on a date earlier this month in DC 

Cheri amour no more?: Hicks and Porter on a date earlier this month in DC 

Porter and Hicks, shown in China in November, began dating that month
Porter and Hicks, shown in China in November, began dating that month

Porter and Hicks, shown in China in November, began dating that month

Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, told DailyMail.com that while the two were married, Porter repeatedly punched and choked her
Colbie Holderness, Porter's first wife, told DailyMail.com that while the two were married, Porter repeatedly punched and choked her
Rob Porter's second wife Jennifer Willoughby has also claimed that the ex-Trump aide was abusive in their marriage
Rob Porter's second wife Jennifer Willoughby has also claimed that the ex-Trump aide was abusive in their marriage

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

'Hope is smarter than some people give her credit for,' the White House official said.

'She's an incredibly strong woman, independent-minded, and a tireless supporter of President Trump.'

A second person close to Hicks confirmed Wednesday that she and Porter had gone their separate ways. 

It is so far unknown who ended the relationship. 

DailyMail.com first reported less than two weeks ago that the couple became an item in November.

That revelation led to an avalanche of controversy as Porter's former spouses shared their stories with DailyMail.com, and then with other news outlets.

The result has become a powerful object lesson in the emotional scars battered women can carry with them long after their abusive relationships end.

It has also brought about a sense of national outrage about how the White House grants security clearances to aides who have access to classified information.

Porter began his relationship with Hicks by cheating on his then-girlfriend – who found out about the liaison by looking at his text messages
Porter began his relationship with Hicks by cheating on his then-girlfriend – who found out about the liaison by looking at his text messages

Porter began his relationship with Hicks by cheating on his then-girlfriend – who found out about the liaison by looking at his text messages

Porter had been working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on a temporary clearance, as are dozens of other political appointees in the White House complex.

When DailyMail.com first confronted the White House eight days ago with an account from Porter's second wife, the West Wing went into a frenzy of activity – until publication of his first wife's gruesome black-eye photos led to his eventual exit.

In the intervening hours, Hicks herself was involved in some of the deliberations about whether and how to defend her then-boyfriend.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters cryptically on Tuesday that Hicks 'was not part of a lot of the conversations that took place.' 

'I don't recall any of you being in the room,' Sanders snarked, 'to be able to say specifically what comments she made or didn't make.'

Problem: Also on Wednesday, House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy announced that he would be launching an investigation into Porter
Problem: Also on Wednesday, House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy announced that he would be launching an investigation into Porter

Problem: Also on Wednesday, House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy announced that he would be launching an investigation into Porter

Cheerleader: The President's daughter, Ivanka, who hired Hicks several years ago to work for her company before she moved on to the Trump campaign, called her a 'team player'
Cheerleader: The President's daughter, Ivanka, who hired Hicks several years ago to work for her company before she moved on to the Trump campaign, called her a 'team player'

Cheerleader: The President's daughter, Ivanka, who hired Hicks several years ago to work for her company before she moved on to the Trump campaign, called her a 'team player'

Hicks stayed silent when asked about Porter as she walked to her car
Hicks stayed silent when asked about Porter as she walked to her car

Hicks stayed silent when asked about Porter as she walked to her car

Meal prep: She was also carrying two bags (above) that seemed to contain groceries from Whole Foods - or once did
Meal prep: She was also carrying two bags (above) that seemed to contain groceries from Whole Foods - or once did

Meal prep: She was also carrying two bags (above) that seemed to contain groceries from Whole Foods - or once did

Eric Trump (left) said in an interview with WABC on Tuesday that his father takes allegations of domestic abuse 'very seriously'
Eric Trump (left) said in an interview with WABC on Tuesday that his father takes allegations of domestic abuse 'very seriously'

Eric Trump (left) said in an interview with WABC on Tuesday that his father takes allegations of domestic abuse 'very seriously'

Dippin dots: After two-straight days of forlorn looks and steely stares, Hicks appeared to be in a more hopeful mood
Dippin dots: After two-straight days of forlorn looks and steely stares, Hicks appeared to be in a more hopeful mood

Dippin dots: After two-straight days of forlorn looks and steely stares, Hicks appeared to be in a more hopeful mood

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway expressed her support for Hicks on Wednesday, and referred DailyMail.com to her remarks three days earlier on CNN. 

Amid fears that Porter's past could become Hicks' present, Conway declared on CNN's 'State of the Union' program: 'I don't worry about her in that respect.' 

'In the case of Hope, I have rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent – excellent – instincts and loyalty and smarts,' she added.

'I didn't have the presence of mind and the professional capabilities at her age that I see in her every single day.'

Conway said Hicks had 'a great support system around her' including West Wing colleagues, along with a big advocate in the Oval Office

'Hope is absolutely fantastic,' President Trump said Saturday through a spokesperson.

'She was with the campaign from the beginning, and I could not ask for anything more. Hope is smart, very talented and respected by all.'  

President Donald Trump broke his silence about domestic violence on Wednesday, saying in the wake of his staff secretary's chaotic departure that he is 'totally opposed' to it
President Donald Trump broke his silence about domestic violence on Wednesday, saying in the wake of his staff secretary's chaotic departure that he is 'totally opposed' to it

President Donald Trump broke his silence about domestic violence on Wednesday, saying in the wake of his staff secretary's chaotic departure that he is 'totally opposed' to it

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly considered Porter a key aide. Now he is under fire for the handling of the accused spouse abuser's scandalous final days in the West Wing
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly considered Porter a key aide. Now he is under fire for the handling of the accused spouse abuser's scandalous final days in the West Wing

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly considered Porter a key aide. Now he is under fire for the handling of the accused spouse abuser's scandalous final days in the West Wing

Trump declared Wednesday in the wake of the Porter crisis that he is 'totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind.'

'Everyone knows that,' Trump told reporters, 'and it almost wouldn't even have to be said.' 

But with support for Chief of Staff John Kelly waning inside the White House, Trump continued on Wednesday to miss easy opportunities to give the retired Marine Corps general his public backing.

'Did your staff handle the [Rob] Porter allegations properly?' one reporter asked him following a planned event to tout his infrastructure plans. 'Is General Kelly's job safe?' another shouted.

The president sat stone-faced, uttering an occasional 'thank you' while his press aides shooed journalists and cameramen out of the Cabinet Room.

LETTER TO FBI REVEALS ROB PORTER'S FRIEND TRIED TO SMEAR BATTERED EX BY CLAIMING SHE TRIED TO POISON ANOTHER OF HIS 'VICTIMS'

Colbie Holderness's husband emailed the FBI in January 2017 after a close friend of her first husband, Rob Porter, came to him saying he was told that Colbie poisoned Porter's ex-girlfriend at a bar, DailyMail.com has learned.

In a Facebook messenger exchange between Colbie Holderness, 37, and Porter's ex-girlfriend, obtained by DailMail.com, the two women discuss meeting for a drink – but there is no accusations of alleged 'poisoning' - only the ex's gratitude for Colbie support.

In Skiffington Holderness' email to the FBI, also obtained by DailyMail.com, he expressed concerns that Porter's friend, Bryan Cunningham, who was a mutual acquaintance, was 'actively working to quell' issues surrounding Porter's background check for his White House security clearance.

Skiffington, 36, also wrote that Cunningham told him it was best to 'bury the past' with regards Colbie's marriage to Porter, now 40.

Skiffington Holderness declined to comment when contacted today by DailyMail.com.

According to the email, Cunningham, a D.C. lobbyist, called Skiffington Holderness in late January, regarding a 'time-sensitive' issue. Cunningham told him that 'Rob didn't know' he was reaching out to him or Porter's ex-girlfriend regarding the FBI background check.

Rob Porter's friend attempted to silence Porter's ex-wife Colbie Holderness, 37, into not talking about their 'abusive' marriage to the FBI, according to email sent by Colbie's new husband Skiffington Holderness to the FBI (pictured together)
Rob Porter's friend attempted to silence Porter's ex-wife Colbie Holderness, 37, into not talking about their 'abusive' marriage to the FBI, according to email sent by Colbie's new husband Skiffington Holderness to the FBI (pictured together)

Rob Porter's friend attempted to silence Porter's ex-wife Colbie Holderness, 37, into not talking about their 'abusive' marriage to the FBI, according to email sent by Colbie's new husband Skiffington Holderness to the FBI (pictured together)

Cunningham began by asking Holderness if he knew Rob Porter's ex-girlfriend. In the email, obtained by DailyMail.com, her name has been removed as she is an alleged victim of domestic violence and has requested anonymity.

Holderness' email states: 'He began by asking me if I knew a XX XX. I said I knew of her. He then told me that while he barely knew her, she had called him the previous night claiming that my wife poisoned her at a bar. He said that he recommended that she call 911 because she was throwing up while on the phone.

'He then said that he didn't think my wife would poison anyone but wanted to let me know that someone was going around town trying to 'infect' others against Rob.

'He also asked whether Colbie reached out to XX, or whether XX approached Colbie. I said that my wife did not poison anyone, that they had gone out the night before, that my wife mentioned very stiff drinks, and that I didn't know who reached out to whom and didn't want to get involved in this matter.'

In Skiffington Holderness' email to the FBI, Skiffington Holderness expressed concerns that Porter’s friend, Bryan Cunningham (above), who was a mutual acquaintance, was ‘actively working to quell’ issues surrounding Porter’s background check for his White House security clearance
In Skiffington Holderness' email to the FBI, Skiffington Holderness expressed concerns that Porter’s friend, Bryan Cunningham (above), who was a mutual acquaintance, was ‘actively working to quell’ issues surrounding Porter’s background check for his White House security clearance

In Skiffington Holderness' email to the FBI, Skiffington Holderness expressed concerns that Porter's friend, Bryan Cunningham (above), who was a mutual acquaintance, was 'actively working to quell' issues surrounding Porter's background check for his White House security clearance

DailyMail.com has reached out to Bryan Cunningham for comment but have not received any.

DailyMail.com has also obtained a Facebook messenger exchange between Colbie Holderness and Porter's ex-girlfriend, where they discuss meeting for a drink –but there is no mention of alleged 'poisoning'.

From the messages, it appears that the ex-girlfriend, who is also a government employee, reached out to Holderness for support with her own domestic abuse allegations.

In the messages, the women arranged to meet for a drink in a D.C. bar. The following day, the ex-girlfriend messaged Holderness to apologize for leaving early because she felt ill.

She wrote: 'I am so so sorry I had to run out like that and wasn't feeling well! Please let me venmo or pay pal you for the drinks.'

Holderness' email to the FBI also recounts that Cunningham told him it was 'good' that Colbie was initially considering not talking to the FBI about her marriage and that it was better to 'bury the past and move on'

The email reads: 'I told him that after he and I had spoken about Rob and the White House, that Colbie wanted to move past everything and her initial inclination was to not speak with the FBI.

'Bryan said that was good. He stated that she is not obligated to speak with the FBI. He mentioned that while Rob didn't know about Bryan speaking with XX or me, it was best to 'bury the past' and move on.'

'Bryan then spoke of how the two of us are good friends and how women in this town are crazy. Before the call ended, I mentioned to him that from time to time people approach Colbie or me and ask questions about her previous marriage, having been told mistruths.

'I asked that since we have been put in the awkward position of talking about this matter, whether Bryan could ask Rob to be truthful when discussing his past marriage. Bryan said that Rob isn't lying; that women around town lie because they are 'crazy' and jealous. We have not spoken since.'

The email to the FBI ends: 'I want to be sure that you were aware of these conversations because it seemed to me that Bryan, due to his close friendship with Rob, is aware of possible background issues and is actively working to quell them. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.'

Details of the email come as it emerged that Porter told the White House last week before his resignation that Colbie's black eye, seen in photos released by DailyMail.com, was an 'accident'.

Sources told ABC News this week that Porter said the couple had been arguing over a vase in their hotel room on a holiday in Italy in the early 2000s early on in their marriage when Holderness fell and got her black eye.

Colbie tells DailyMail.com that while she and Porter were on a vacation in Florence, Italy, a couple of years after they married in the early 2000s, Porter punched her in the face
Colbie tells DailyMail.com that while she and Porter were on a vacation in Florence, Italy, a couple of years after they married in the early 2000s, Porter punched her in the face
Holderness said that she never went to the police in the U.S. because she did not think that she would be believed
Holderness said that she never went to the police in the U.S. because she did not think that she would be believed

Porter and Colbie were married in 2003 and divorced in 2013. She was photographed with a black eye Porter allegedly gave her, and claims he choked, punched and verbally abused her

Porter and Colbie were married in 2003 (pictured) and divorced in 2013. Her new husband Skiffington Holderness sent an email to the FBI in January 2017, expressing concern that Porter's friend Bryan Cunningham was trying to silence allegations of abuse
Porter and Colbie were married in 2003 (pictured) and divorced in 2013. Her new husband Skiffington Holderness sent an email to the FBI in January 2017, expressing concern that Porter's friend Bryan Cunningham was trying to silence allegations of abuse

Porter and Colbie were married in 2003 (pictured) and divorced in 2013. Her new husband Skiffington Holderness sent an email to the FBI in January 2017, expressing concern that Porter's friend Bryan Cunningham was trying to silence allegations of abuse

In on-the-record remarks to DailyMail.com, Colbie Holderness said that Porter punched her in the face on that occasion. She also detailed multiple other incidents of physical and verbal abuse over her five-year marriage.

She also said that she was interviewed by the FBI in January 2017 and had told agents about the alleged domestic abuse by Porter, including about him punching her and giving her a black eye. She also provided photos of her black eye to the FBI.

In the wake of her allegations, Colbie has hit out at the Trump administration over the way it has handled her allegations of domestic abuse.

In a comment piece for The Washington Post, she expressed her dismay at Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for not saying whether or not the President believed her and Porter's other ex-wife Jennie Willoughby, who also claims abuse at the hands of Porter.

Colbie said she expected better from a woman, and had strong words for another woman - White House counsel Kellyanne Conway after the lawyer spoke on CNN.

Addressing rumors the communications director Hope Hicks was now dating Porter, Conway said she didn't fear for her because she was 'strong'.

But Colbie, who claims she was punched by her former husband during a violent relationship, was eager to point out this gave the impression she was weak.

'Her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ,' she wrote.

'Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant.

'For me, living in constant fear of Rob's anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth.'

Porter has denied abusing his ex-wives, but Colbie's column addressed the need for people like her to speak out about it and not stay silent on the issue.

Porter's second ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby also claims the former White House aide abused her, once pulling her naked from the shower to yell at her.

The couple married at Thanksgiving 2009 and he called her a 'f**king b***h' on their honeymoon at Myrtle Beach between Christmas and New Year, she says.

The White House on Monday defended President Donald Trump's failure to acknowledge publicly the women who've accused Porter of domestic violence.

With questions still swirling about who knew what and when, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly told reporters that the 'president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.'

'Above all, the president supports victims of domestic violence and believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process,' she added.

The statement came in response to repeated questions about why the president has not uttered similar words himself.

In tweets and in public remarks, Trump has made no mention of the two ex-wives who accuse Porter of physical and emotional abuse, and he has made no attempts to personally reassure the public that he takes such charges seriously.

Porter has denied the allegations and blamed them on a smear campaign.

'People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,' Trump complained over the weekend on Twitter, asking: 'Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?'

Trump also wished Porter well and said he hoped he'd have a successful career.

But Sanders said her statement had come directly from the president and argued there was no effective difference between the two.

'It's my job to speak on the behalf of the president. I spoke to him, and he relayed that message directly to me, and I'm relaying it directly to you,' she said. She also defended his comments wishing Porter well, saying the 'president of the United States hopes that all Americans can be successful in whatever they do.'

Speaking on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Conway also defended the tweet, saying: 'What the president is pointing out is that, all the while - and Sarah said this from the podium too, read a statement from Rob Porter - that he is denying these 'vile allegations', but that he doesn't want to further engage in this orchestrated public smear campaign.'

Privately however President Trump is said to be furious with Porter, blaming him for creating a crisis for the administration. He is said to have told one confidant during a phone call that Porter was 'bad garbage', according to the New York Times.

The circumstances surrounding Porter's departure have also raised questions about the national security background checks White House officials must undergo.

As staff secretary, Porter handled the president's paper flow, giving him access to highly sensitive information as well as the president himself.

Yet he had only interim security clearance the entire time he worked in the building.

Sanders stressed that the background check process is handled by the FBI and other intelligence agencies, not the White House, and is the same process administrations have relied on for decades.

'If changes are thought to be made, that would be made by the law enforcement and intel communities that run that process, not the White House. But that's something that could be looked at, certainly, in light of this,' she said.

She also accused reporters of being the ones who put classified information at risk.

An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau neither grants nor denies clearances on behalf of government agencies, nor does it make recommendations.

Once an investigation is complete, information is provided to the agency, which then decides whether to grant or deny clearance.

The White House has stressed that Porter's investigation was still underway, although on Tuesday morning, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in a Senate hearing that the White House got four separate notifications about Rob Porter.

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.'

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

He also declared that 'in this particular instance the FBI followed established protocol.'

 

FALL FROM GRACE: TIMELINE OF EVENTS SURROUNDING ROB PORTER AND HIS EX-WIVES' ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE  

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.

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

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.

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.

February 9, 2018: President rump 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.'  


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