Second WH official resigns over domestic abuse allegations

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Jeremy Moorhead/CNN

David Sorensen, a member of the Trump administration’s speechwriting team, has resigned after being accused of domestic abuse, a White House official says.

He is the second administration official to resign this week over domestic abuse allegations, after top White House staffer Rob Porter resigned on Wednesday.

According to a White House official, Sorensen’s job with the Council on Environmental Quality did not require a security clearance, but his background check was ongoing.

The Washington Post first reported Sorensen’s resignation Friday evening, and reported that his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, alleged that “he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall and grasped her menacingly by her hair while they were alone on their boat in remote waters off Maine’s coast, an incident she said left her fearing for her life.”

The Washington Post reported that it had been working on a story regarding the allegations made by Corbett prior to Sorensen’s resignation.

Corbett released a statement on Medium saying she stands by her allegations, saying her story is “messy, humiliating and tragic, but it’s my truth.”

Sorensen denied the allegations in a lengthy statement released Friday night to CNN and other media.

“I have never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life,” Sorensen wrote in the statement.

“In fact, I was the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her,” he said, adding that he had consulted with an attorney and was “considering legal options to address her defamation.”

Sorensen alleged the incidents of what he called Corbett’s domestic violence and abusive behavior “are too many to recall,” but included several occasions when she punched him. He alleged she hit him with a flurry of punches on three occasions in a single day because he had asked if she would mind if he went to the gym before breakfast. He also alleged she attempted to block the driveway to prevent him from driving away after she had punched him in the face repeatedly after a fight, forcing him to pull the car forward over the lawn, and that she ran after the car and injured herself in the process. He showed photos of what he alleged was evidence of her violence against him, including one showing redness and a cut behind the left eye from what he said was a punch to the face in 2015 and another showing a scrape on left cheek from what he said was a punch to the face in July 2016.

Corbett told the Post in response to Sorensen’s allegations that her violence didn’t not go beyond slapping him, adding that several of the incidents involved alcohol and that she slapped him multiple times after he called her a vulgar term.

“Everything I told you is 100 percent true and that is why he had to resign today,” she told the paper.

CNN was unable to reach Corbett for comment.

Sorensen told the Post in a text message that he resigned because he “didn’t want the White House to have to deal with this distraction.” He added, “It should be able to focus on continuing President Trump’s historic accomplishments for the American People.”

The White House said in a statement that it had been made aware of the allegations before The Washington Post reached out regarding the story.

According to the Post, Corbett told the FBI about her allegations during an October 2017 interview for a background check of Sorensen.

“Before we were contacted by the media, we learned last night that there were allegations,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement Friday. “We immediately confronted the staffer, he denied the allegations and he resigned today.”

The White House was already under scrutiny this week over its handling of Porter’s departure. West Wing staff — including chief of staff John Kelly — initially defended Porter despite the allegations of abuse by both of his ex-wives. Photos of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a black eye surfaced publicly, which eventually led to the White House expressing concern about the allegations. Porter has denied the allegations.

On Thursday evening, Kelly sent an email to White House staff about domestic violence, writing, “While we are all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against a former White House staffer, I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence seriously. Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society.”

Senior aides knew for months about the allegations levied against Porter, even as his stock in the West Wing continued to rise, multiple sources have told CNN. CNN previously reported that a source familiar with the matter said Porter’s ex-girlfriend called White House counsel Donald McGahn in recent weeks to inform him of abuse allegations, and added that whatever McGahn did with the information clearly wasn’t enough.

“I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better dealing with this over the last few days,” Shah told reporters Thursday at the daily White House briefing.

Trump said Friday that he was “surprised” by the claims against Porter, but he praised the former top staffer for his time working in the administration.

“I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it,” Trump said. “We certainly wish him well. It’s obviously a very tough time for him. He did a very good job while he was in the White House.”