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Mr. Trump’s aides initially said they had no inkling of the accusations against Mr. Porter until press reports that first appeared in The Daily Mail last week, and acted swiftly to terminate him when they discovered them. In fact, the White House spent the first hours after learning of the accusations — including the publication of photographs of one of his ex-wives with a black eye she said he gave her — defending Mr. Porter against the allegations and insisting that he was not being dismissed.

Since then, multiple people familiar with the situation have said that top officials — including John F. Kelly, the chief of staff; Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations; and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel — learned in November that there were problems with Mr. Porter’s background investigation.

Even after Mr. Kelly changed his stance, calling the allegations vile and orchestrating Mr. Porter’s swift departure, the president has stuck up for him…



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