An inner-circle aide to President Trump, Rob Porter, resigned earlier this week, and his two failed earlier marriages are now front-page news in the New York Times.
The story is sad for many reasons, starting with the reported treatment of the ex-wives and including the downfall of Porter, who had an impressive background as a Rhodes Scholar, former chief of staff to Senator Hatch, and son of Roger Porter, a big deal Harvard professor and former White House official who was Master of Dunster House.
It's resonating in part because it fits into pre-existing narratives. The "Trump is a misogynist" narrative is reinforced by the idea that the president kept an alleged wife-beater around the White House. The "Trump is a stumbling clown" narrative is reinforced by the idea that Porter wasn't properly vetted to begin with or that then his departure was prolonged and botched by a White House that first defended him and then dumped him overboard.
But there's a third possible narrative that the Porter story might fit into — one that I haven't yet seen written about. That is the story of a too-powerful and potentially abusive FBI at war with a White House that is trying to rein it in. The Porter domestic violence history or allegations (he was never convicted or charged with any crime, so far as I can tell) surfaced as part of the extensive background investigation that the FBI conducts on anyone seeking classified clearance or a sensitive government job. I've been interviewed by FBI agents conducting these sorts of investigations. The ostensible reason for the questions is counterintelligence — to make sure that the public servants are loyal Americans who aren't going to slip secrets to foreign governments. One thing the FBI looks for is dirt — material that a foreign government might use to blackmail or extort secrets from an American government official.
In digging up all this "dirt" that a foreign government might potentially use to compromise a U.S. government official, though, the FBI winds up with its own files of what the Russians call kompromat. As I noted here earlier, Trump has fired the FBI director, encouraged the deputy director to retire, and approved, over the bureau's objections, the release of the Nunes memo faulting the bureau for "abuses" in its application to wiretap a Trump campaign aide. Trump has also tweeted about the inappropriate text messages between FBI officials Pete Strzok and Lisa Page.
Now, maybe the Daily Mail, which broke the Porter story, got it all on its own, without any assistance from the FBI. Or maybe some FBI official or former official, either directly or through an intermediary, told a reporter to go try to talk to Porter's ex-wives, as the bureau's way of pushing back against the release of the Nunes memo. In essence, the FBI would have been sending the message to Trump, "okay, you want to air our dirty laundry in public, be careful, Mr. President, because we can play that game, too, and you will wind up getting burned."
It's just a theory. Maybe there's another explanation. But the timing is odd.