The second wife of one of Donald Trump’s most trusted staffers has discussed their abusive marriage in a shocking new interview. Motivational speaker Jennifer Willoughby, 39, made the allegations against Trump’s Staff Secretary Rob Porter, 40, in a feature with the Daily Mail that was published on February 6. Those claims were backed up in the piece by Porter’s first wife Colbie Holderness.
The day after the allegations first emerged, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Porter “is going to be leaving the White House. It won’t be immediate.”
The Mail had previously reported that Porter was dating controversial White House staffer Hope Hicks. Porter has been one of the few senior figures in Trump’s White House to have stayed the course, joining the administration in January 2017. Prior to that, Porter had been the chief of staff to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch as well as working for Senators Rob Portman and Mike Lee. A Business Insider profile on Porter described him as among the most important behind-the-scenes figures in the Trump White House.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Willoughby Says Porter Once Grabbed Her Naked From the Shower in a Fit of Anger
Willoughby alleged to the Daily Mail that in December 2009, Porter dragged her from the shower by her shoulders. Willoughby says she was naked and dripping. That incident led to Willoughby not going on vacation with Porter’s family during that holiday season. Willoughby goes on to mention multiple incidents where Porter called her a “f***ing b****” under his breath in public settings, including on their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach.
After the shower incident, Willoughby says she started seeing a therapist as well as meeting with a Mormon bishop about Porter’s rage. She adds that he never took his anger out on others and wasn’t even prone to road rage. The couple split in early 2010 with Willoughby adding that in the last weeks of their relationship, she had suffered a miscarriage. Later that year, Willoughby filed a protective order against Porter after he wouldn’t leave their apartment. During an argument Willoughby said Porter punched a glass window and cut his hand, reports the Daily Mail.
2. Willoughby Is a Motivational Speaker in the D.C. Area
I'm not always kind. I'm not always calm. I'm not always proud of my choices. I'm not always slow to react. — But I am patient with myself. And I am quick to forgive. I am willing to hear others' pain and endure their attacks. And I am able to remove my 'self' from most situations as I recognize that nothing is ever truly about me. — Every reaction I experience both viscerally and mentally are responses to my judgments on reality. And I have control over how deeply I will let these reactions affect me. — I have found that almost all of my suffering comes from convincing myself I have more of a say in how life unfolds than I actually do. I control my actions. I control my responses. But I do not control the world. — Where can you soften and allow reality to exist as it is today? I promise you there is peace in letting go. #bornebackceaselessly (📷: @maria.font.photography)
Willoughby works as a motivational speaker in the D.C. area. On her Facebook page, Willoughby calls herself a “writer, speaker, teacher, resilient optimist.” The day before the Daily Mail article was published, Willoughby said on Facebook, “I am quick to forgive. I am willing to hear others’ pain and endure their attacks. And I am able to remove my ‘self’ from most situations as I recognize that nothing is ever truly about me.” On her official website, Willoughby says, “I believe in the goodness and kindness of all beings. I believe in the power of adversity to transform us into stronger, more beautiful, more compassionate versions of ourselves. I KNOW we are more than the sum of our past circumstances and choices.”
An online profile says that Willoughby has worked with at-risk youth in various schools in Fairfax County in Virginia. Although now, Willoughby works on “practical techniques for managing stress and anxiety for busy executives in Washington, DC and New York City, as well as educating companies on the importance of maintaining work-life balance.”
In her Daily Mail feature, Willoughby says that in 2017, Porter contacted her and asked her to remove a blog post she had written about their marriage and detailing the alleged abuse. At the time of writing, the blog post, titled “Why I Stayed,” remains online.
3. The Couple Got Married in Harvard
According to a wedding announcement at the time, Willoughby and Porter married in Harvard, his alma mater, on Thanksgiving Day in 2009.
Willoughby added in her Daily Mail feature that despite her allegations, she does “want him in the White House. I don’t want to be married to him. I would not recommend anyone to date him or marry him. But I definitely want him in the White House and the position he is in. I think his integrity and ability to do his job is impeccable. And the majority of the issues he suffers from are very personal and intimate.”
4. Porter’s First Wife Says He Was ‘Verbally, Emotionally & Physically Abusive’
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, told the Daily Mail that Porter “was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive and that is why I left.” Holderness is a senior analyst in the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Like Porter, Holderness is a graduate of Harvard University. In a Daily Mail article published after the first allegations emerged, Holderness alleged that that Porter “threw” her on the bed and would dig his elbow or knee in to her. She also says that Porter choked her, “It was not hard enough for me to pass out but it was scary, humiliating and dehumanizing,” Holderness said.
The analyst told the Mail that the FBI interviewed her about her and Porter’s marriage as part of his security clearance. The article says that Porter has never received such clearance.
5. The Allegations Have Been Strongly Denied by Porter, General John Kelly & Senator Orrin Hatch
The Daily Mail interview includes a deluge of senior D.C. figures talking fondly about Porter. Senator Orrin Hatch said, “It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this—and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name. I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal advisor. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.”
Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Daily Mail, “Rob Porter is 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.” While Porter himself called the allegations, “Simply false.”