- Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
- President Donald Trump pointed to Rob Porter’s denials when asked about the scandal involving his former aide.
- It’s not the first time he’s made such comments when asked about a scandal involving someone else.
- Trump made similar comments about both Roy Moore and Vladimir Putin.
When President Donald Trump first had an opportunity to address the scandal involving former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, he returned to what’s become a familiar trend in recent months.
He pointed to Porter’s denial of the allegations against him.
Trump has made virtually identical comments when asked late last year about allegations that Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore committed sexual misconduct with teenagers. And he used a similar defense in explaining away Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Porter’s ex-wives have alleged that he physically and mentally abused them in their marriages. Both ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, provided the Daily Mail with photographic evidence of the alleged abuse.
But Friday, after wishing Porter “well” in his post-White House career, which Trump said he hopes will be “wonderful,” the president reminded the press pool gathered in the Oval Office that Porter “says he’s innocent.”
“And I think you have to remember that,” he added. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, but you’ll have to talk to him about that.”
He had given a familiar answer last November. After staying mostly silent on the multiple allegations against Moore, Trump offered the Republican candidate his explicit endorsement, noting Moore’s denial of the allegations in the process.
“Well, he denies it,” Trump told reporters. “Look, he denies it. If you look at what’s really going on … he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And you have to listen to him also. He said 40 years ago this did not happen. So, you know.”
And Putin, too
Last fall, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One following an economic summit that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a strong denial that his government worked to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said. “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did meddle in the election, and both Democrats and Republicans have demanded that the Russian government be held accountable.
“But he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country,” Trump said.
“I think that he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it,” he said when pressed if he believed the denials.
The CIA subsequently offered a statement saying that it stood by its earlier assessment that Russia meddled in the election. Trump backed away from the comments slightly, saying that what he said was “that I believe he believes that.”
As to whether he believed that Russia interfered or not, Trump said he was “with our agencies.”
There is a running theme involving those three individuals – each provides some level of reflection on Trump.
Porter was one of the highest-ranking staffers in the president’s administration. Moore was running on the Trump platform and sought to be another Republican vote in the Senate. And there is currently an investigation underway led by the special counsel Robert Mueller looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials as part of any Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has sought to delegitimize the efforts of the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt” and a Democratic effort to discredit his electoral victory.
At the same time, there’s another layer: Trump himself faces allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment from more than a dozen women. He’s painted those women as each being liars.