Mr. Trump has appeared to grow noticeably more comfortable in the role of president, according to advisers, and that comfort level has reinforced his confidence in his own instincts, including what he regards as facts. Mr. Trump often points to a key moment — his election in 2016, which defied the polls — as proof that agreed-upon data can be wrong.
His long career in the New York real estate world convinced Mr. Trump that all people are prone to shading their views according to their own self-interest. Objectivity is not something he expects of people, and he long ago came to believe that “facts” are really arbitrary.
For Mr. Trump, personal relationships are more important than institutional ones. That means he “gives weight to data based on who told him, not the evidentiary stack underneath it,” [former CIA director Michael] Hayden said.
The result is that the Russian president or the North Korean leader can seem to have a greater impact with Mr. Trump than his own State Department or C.I.A. His willingness to repeat claims like the notion that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of “rogue killers” is a function of that, [GOP operative Rob] Stutzman said.
“This rhetoric really matters,” he said, “in that it belies how little he fundamentally understands the institutions of American democracy.”This attitude has infected his followers. Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian at WP:
Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.
In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.