President Donald Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Hope Hicks, his communications director and one of his closest confidantes, amid the fallout from the Rob Porter scandal, people familiar with the matter say.
But some commentators are questioning whether the White House turned a blind eye.
And despite their rocky union, it seems that Porter and Willoughby do have a cordial relationship as he called his ex-twice earlier this week about a blog post she was preparing to share about her abuser. She said it has been "cathartic" to discuss the emotional toll of her four-year marriage to Porter, for which she had largely blamed herself.
Willoughby told the "Today" show Friday that she filed a temporary protective order against Porter after he punched in a door at their home while they were separated, because she "really didn't know what else he was capable of".
Trump was also recently surprised to learn that Porter was dating Hicks, according to the officials.
"A lot of us could have done better", deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters when asked about the situation-a rare statement of contrition from the Trump White House.
Noting that the allegations against Porter are serious and deeply troubling, Shah told reporters that the former White House staffer denied them. "But this was the Rob Porter that I and many others have dealt with, that Sarah dealt with, that other officials, including the Chief of Staff, have dealt with".
Kelly went on to infuriate immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers on February 6 when he said some young immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had failed to apply for the legal protections because they were too afraid - or "too lazy to get off their asses".
Shah said the original support for Porter from the White House was based on incomplete information.
Trump's senior aides knew for months about the allegations levied against Porter by his ex-wives, even as Porter's stock in the West Wing continued to rise, multiple sources have told CNN.
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CNN reported that following their 2003 marriage, Holderness said Porter quickly began to be abusive: "She said that Porter's repeated physically abusive behavior also included throwing her on the bed and forcefully pushing one of his limbs into her body in anger and choking her".
At any rate, the president is reportedly unhappy with the way the White House has handled the Porter story.
Porter was operating with an interim security clearance at the time of his resignation Wednesday.
The president's glowing praise of a staff member accused of serial violence against women was similar to Trump's own denials of sexual impropriety in the face of accusations from more than a dozen women.
"He became fully aware about these allegations yesterday", said Shah.
"He started calling me names, calling me a "f-ing bitch, ' how I behaved was 'f-ing ridiculous" and most of that was instigated around my not having sex with him often enough on our honeymoon", Willoughby said.
Holderness provided photos of her injuries to media.
"I was completely honest with my experience of the marriage including telling them instances of abuse or police contact", said Willoughby, adding that Porter was curious about what she was going to say.
"There was no coordination of this", she said. "It was not completed, and Rob Porter has since resigned", he said. Law enforcement officials said the FBI does not make any security clearance determinations or recommendations, but rather provides a report at the end of an investigation to the hiring agency, which makes the decision.