But Kelly's explanation did not fully comport with CNN's extensive reporting on the Porter scandal.
Mr. Kelly's timeline still does not explain why Mr.
Trump associates inside and outside the White House have criticized Kelly's handling of the Porter episode.
Kelly told journalists that he had his "eyes opened" after joining the White House in July past year, after he noticed the manner in which people were treating documents and the number of staff who had access to secrets. "The accusation was late in the afternoon and it was simply one of his two former wives had - and this was coming from the press".
"Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can't say enough good things about him".
At that point Kelly noted he issued a statement defending Porter before departing for a meeting on capitol hill. But Kelly pushed back on reports that he offered to resign over his handling of Porter.
The matter of Porter, the former White House staff secretary, has roiled the White House for weeks.
"We didn't cover ourselves in glory in how we handled that", Kelly told reporters.
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He is going to be leaving the White House. "It won't be immediate, but he is resigning from the White House, but is going to stay on to ensure that there's a smooth transition moving forward". That followed several statements in which Kelly defended Porter, with whom he had grown close since joining the White house in August. He claims he again spoke with Porter.
"The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March". "He changed the statement after realizing it was 'physical abuse.' That is insulting to anyone suffering an abusive situation now. The story was that a wife had claimed that she had had some level of emotional abuse", the retired Marine general said.
When pressed about the discrepancies on Friday, and whether he would step down over the controversy, Kelly stated, "I have absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over".
Kelly also noticed that many staff did not have final clearance and were working as Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks were ongoing.
According to two White House officials, Kelly was made aware by White House counsel Don McGahn last fall of at least the broad outlines of the issues with delays in approving Porter for permanent security clearance. The White House contends that the "full nature" of the allegations did not come out until later.
Porter was among around 100 staffers working with an interim clearance when he stepped down.
Kelly was speaking at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security, which he led for six months before replacing former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
"There was no story out yet", Kelly said. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has repeatedly told reporters she does not discuss the individual security clearances of White House officials.