Rob Porter ex-wife says he was 'verbally and emotionally abusive'

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By Dartunorro Clark and Daniel Arkin

Jennifer Willoughby, an ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, told NBC News on Friday that "shame" once kept her from coming forward with allegations of spousal abuse.

But telling her story in recent days has been "really cathartic," she said.

"I think anybody who has been in a toxic or abusive relationship recognizes that, [to] some degree, you feel as though it's your fault and you carry that shame with you," Willoughby told Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "Today."

Porter announced his resignation Wednesday, a day after a British online publication reported allegations from two ex-wives — Willoughby and Colbie Holderness — of physical and verbal abuse.

Willoughby told The Daily Mail that she felt manipulated while married to Porter and said his anger was unpredictable. He was "verbally and emotionally abusive" and leveled "attacks on my character and intelligence," Willoughby said on "Today."

She has said the abuse started on their honeymoon and that she filed a restraining order against Porter in June 2010 after he punched the glass on a door to their home and refused to leave, violating their separation agreement.

Holderness, Porter's first wife, told The Daily Mail that he choked and punched her during their marriage.

In another interview with NBC News on Thursday, Willoughby said she informed the FBI during a background check interview for his security clearance that Porter had been abusive toward her.

"During the FBI background interview for security clearance, I shared with the FBI all of the details that I shared in previous articles, including access to a protective order from June of 2010, and police calls that I had made to our home," she told NBC News' Kristen Welker.

"I shared with them the details of my marriage the same as I have been in the interviews and articles that have come out."

Willoughby also said she thought it was possible that Porter could be blackmailed about the alleged abuse in response to a question from the FBI.

"I actually had difficulty answering that question because I believed that the people who had the power to blackmail him would be the women who had been in personal relationships with him, so in short the answer could be maybe," she said.

Porter, who was an influential figure in President Donald Trump's administration, denied the allegations in a statement on Wednesday announcing his departure, saying: "These outrageous allegations are simply false."

Willoughby said Thursday that she was not surprised by his denial.

"I think it's really unfortunate and I hope that in light of everything that is coming out he will be able to face some of the issues he deals with," she told NBC News.

And on Friday, Willoughby said her goal was not to see her ex-husband ousted from his White House post.

"I think he is good at his job and I liked that he was in that administration, but this is a consequence of his actions," she said.

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