“I just spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of what took place with regard to, as he said, his ‘Saudi Arabian citizen’... He firmly denied that,” Trump said Monday, appearing to side with the Saudi government’s claim that “rogue killers” were involved.
He cited the Saudi denial again on Tuesday.
“Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate,” Trump tweeted.
He maintained in a Tuesday interview with The Associated Press that accusing Saudi officials of killing the journalist was a case of being “guilty until proven innocent.”
“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he said. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
As Trump noted, blind faith in a denial ― even when strong evidence suggests otherwise ― is a familiar place for the president, as long as the denial is coming from someone he likes or considers an ally.
“In this realm, you are truly guilty until proven innocent,” Trump said earlier this month, in response to the multiple sexual assault allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Trump has also lamented that “nobody believes” his own denials of sexual misconduct allegations from at least 20 women.)
Trump seems especially taken by denials that come from authoritarian world leaders.
He declared in July that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that the Russians did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election — siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence officials, who say they have plentiful evidence that Moscow mounted a calculated effort to help Trump win the election.
“President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said during a news conference with Putin.
Trump extends the pattern of embracing denials when Republican men are accused of misconduct or abuse.
Last year, Trump endorsed then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused by numerous women of sexual misconduct, including sexually assaulting teenagers.
The president sided with Moore.
“Roy Moore denies it. That’s all I can say,” Trump said. “He says it didn’t happen, and you know, you have to listen to him also.”
He also defended former White House aide Rob Porter, who resigned after allegations of domestic abuse from two ex-wives.
“As you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump told reporters in February. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”
But when the accused perpetrators are not among those he considers supporters, Trump is quick to pile on, as he did when sexual misconduct allegations were raised against former “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer and former Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.).
And as for his “guilty until proven innocent” refrain, Trump in the 1980s famously called for the execution of the Central Park Five, a group of teenagers of color later exonerated in the rape and beating of a jogger.
The lesson is clear: If you’re a man on Trump’s side politically, denying any accusations is a pretty good way to gain the support of the president of the United States.