Prior to his resignation, Rob Porter held the position of White House staff secretary. Most people, when they hear the word “secretary”, think of someone who performs clerical work, answers phones, maybe gets coffee. Anyone who has ever held the position, or who knows the etymology of the word, can tell you that a secretary is much more than that; they are usually the person who is intimately familiar with the inner workings of their business.
Nowhere is this more true than in the White House.
As staff secretary, Porter was basically in charge of all the information that made its way to President Donald Trump. This information, by necessity, would include secrets that are usually only known by a small handful of people. Those people would include the chief of staff and the national security adviser. Given the extreme sensitivity of the information these people see regularly, they require security clearance.
According to reports, Porter was in possession of an interim security clearance, which is common during the early days of an administration. Porter’s was a temporary clearance, lasting 180 days, with the option for an extension of a second 180 days. With an interim security clearance, a person is allowed to serve in positions which are designated “National Security/Non-Critical Sensitive” or “National Security/Critical Sensitive.” Interim security clearance does not, however, allow a person to serve in jobs designated “Special Sensitive”. And therein lies the problem.
The position of White House staff secretary is designated “Special Sensitive” in regards to security clearance. Porter never held the security clearance his position required. This means that one of two things happened during Porter’s tenure with the Trump administration. It is possible that Chief of Staff John Kelly found a way to work around Porter’s lack of security clearance for a year. Or, Porter had access to information that he did not have the security clearance to know anything about.
Rob Porter resigned his position after his ex-wives came forward and accused him of domestic abuse. While Porter denies the allegations, the FBI thought the accusations were credible enough to deny him security clearance. It is possible that a violent man had access to some of our country’s most important secrets.