Trump apparently hasn't learned his lesson.
Top Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has been drawn into a burgeoning sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State University, where he served as an assistant wrestling coach a quarter-century ago. Multiple former wrestlers now say Jordan was aware of team doctor Richard Strauss's abuse of athletes, but Jordan flatly denies it.
Trump has now unequivocally lined up with Jordan. “I don’t believe them at all; I believe him,” Trump said. “Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He’s an outstanding man.”
These situations aren't completely analogous, of course. Porter and Moore were accused of perpetrating the abuses themselves, and there was plenty of evidence and reporting to support the allegations. Jordan, on the other hand, is accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse, and we're basically relying on the decades-old recollections of his wrestlers — four of whom have now said Jordan was aware. We're in the very early stages of the Ohio State investigation, and it may be awhile before we know anything definitive about Jordan's conduct, if ever.
But Trump's comments go beyond simply saying Jordan is a good person or that these are mere allegations — as he did with Porter and Moore. They go beyond saying the accused denies it and we have no way to know for sure.
Trump skipped over all that and went straight for It didn't happen. “I don't believe them at all,” Trump said of the accusers who say Jordan knew. “No question in my mind,” he added.
That's a lot of faith to place in Jordan at this very early juncture in the investigation. Yes, Jordan has unequivocally denied the allegations, but Trump has no idea what really transpired. All he really knows is Jordan has been perhaps his most important attack dog in the House — someone willing to press Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Trump's conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation and other matters.
It's perhaps fitting and not a coincidence that Trump's comments about Jordan came just minutes after he finally forced Scott Pruitt to resign as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump stuck by Pruitt even in the face of apparently insurmountable ethical questions — in large part because he liked the work he was doing and trusted him. As with Porter and Moore, Pruitt served a political purpose, and Trump didn't want to believe that which was plainly in front of him. Trump chose political expediency in the moment — and thumbing his nose at his opponents — even if it wound up blowing up in his face and being rather inexpedient over the long term.
That's not to say Jordan is in a similarly dire situation. But it's looking increasingly bad, with the growing number of wrestlers coming forward. As someone who once covered another Big Ten wrestling team for a season, I can attest to the fact that these teams are like families — spending hours together training and cutting weight. If it was such common knowledge that Strauss's abuse was taking place, it seems logical that even more wrestlers could come forward, complicating the situation even further for Jordan.
If past is prologue, Trump is really opening himself up by coming to the defense of someone he badly wants to trust. That's especially the case when you're talking about a case involving sexual abuse. These are the kinds of things you generally treat with extreme care and parse your comments carefully — unless you're Trump, of course.