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Prince Andrew becomes the latest person Trump pretends not to know

"I don't know Prince Andrew," Trump claimed today, despite quite a bit of evidence suggesting he knows Prince Andrew.

The Jeffrey Epstein scandal involves alleged wrongdoing on the part of others, including the UK's Prince Andrew. In fact, Virginia Roberts Giuffre has testified that she, as a teenager, had sex with the prince at Epstein's direction in 2001.

The scandal has forced Andrew to retreat from public life. This morning, Donald Trump commented on the controversy, telling reporters, "I don't know Prince Andrew, but it's a tough story; it's a very tough story." The American president, in London for a NATO summit, added, "I don't know him, no."

As the New York Times reported, there's a fair amount of evidence to the contrary.

During his state visit to Britain in June, Mr. Trump toured Westminster Abbey in London with the prince, and they were photographed laughing together.There are also photographs of the two men together closer to the time and the social circles that Ms. Giuffre has spoken about.Mr. Trump and his then-girlfriend, Melania Knauss -- who is now the first lady -- were seen with the prince at least twice in 2000: once at the opening of Hudson Hotel in New York and, more intimately, at Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

While the Republican's latest denial is very difficult to take seriously, it is also quite predictable -- because if there's one thing Donald Trump can be counted on to do, it's pretending not to know his associates when they get into trouble.

We saw a classic example of this two weeks ago, when Trump tried to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani's work, following reports that the former mayor is under investigation. "Rudy has other clients, other than me," the president argued.

Around the same time, Trump said he "hardly knows" U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. He also said he didn’t know Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas after their arrests, despite his previous interactions with them.

Of course, none of these guys should feel too bad about this, since this is the line the president always takes.

As regular readers may recall, after his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, directly implicated Trump in a felony, the president argued, in reference to the former vice president of the Trump Organization, “Michael Cohen was a PR person who did small legal work, very small legal work.”

Around the same time, in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Trump reportedly told associates he “barely knows“ Mohammed bin Salman.

But that’s just the start of the list. When Paul Manafort was indicted, for example, Trump’s former campaign chairman became some random staffer “who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”

When White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign in disgrace, Team Trump decided he was “a former Obama administration official” who did some “volunteer” work for the president.

Carter Page was described as someone Trump “does not know.” George Papadopoulos was dismissed as a “coffee boy.” Trump World even tried to downplay its association with Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign’s data firm.

This is a modest sampling; the list goes on.

No one outside the White House ever takes the president's rhetoric on this seriously, but it’s obviously on the first page of Trump’s playbook, unveiled even when everyone knows it’s laughable.