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Trump sympathizes with alleged abuser Rob Porter.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press

In his first public remarks since the White House aide resigned over domestic-abuse allegations, President Donald Trump stopped just short of defending his former staffer. “He worked very hard,” he said. “I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well. It’s a ... obviously tough time for him. He did a very good when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. Hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it. Certainly he’s also very sad. Now, he also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.” (The BBC has full video of Trump’s remarks.)

The Washington Post reports that the White House has actually known about the abuse accusations for months and that White House counsel Don McGahn chose to keep Porter on staff anyway. Porter, for his part, denies the accusations, despite graphic evidence to the contrary, and that was apparently enough to persuade McGahn, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and other White House staff.

Trump, meanwhile, may have chosen an alternative target to blame. According to CNN, he reportedly blames Hope Hicks for the administration’s botched response to the allegations. Hicks has been in a relationship with Porter:

Trump was not consulted when Hicks and several other aides drafted a White House statement defending Porter, and he is under the impression that Hicks has let her romantic relationship with Porter cloud her judgment, a source familiar said.

In the aftermath, Trump has told associates he feels that Hicks put her own priorities ahead of his. However, there is little to indicate that Hicks’ standing is in jeopardy.

Nineteen women have accused Trump of sexual assault. He, too, denies allegations of abuse. But it’s difficult not to wonder what he feels he may have in common with Porter.