President Donald Trump consistently griped about voter fraud during and after the election. And now that he’s taken office he is taking his baseless assertions one step further as he calls for a “major investigation.”
“I will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud,” he wrote in part Thursday morning on Twitter, and indicated that that illegal immigrants, those registered in two states and “those registered to vote who are dead” are to blame — without offering any evidence to back up his claims.
Although he won the Electoral College following the general election on Nov. 8, Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes — which he claimed was due to “millions of people” voting “illegally” last November. He reiterated that claim in a meeting on Monday, telling a group of Congressional leaders that he lost the popular vote because undocumented immigrants voted in the election.
There is no proven basis to Trump’s claims, but the White House continues to defend them. In a press briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump “does believe that” millions of undocumented immigrants voted in this election, though he didn’t name concrete evidence — just “studies” — to back up his point.
Trump followed that up with two tweets Thursday morning.
Though this seems to be a deeply held belief for Trump, it’s not one that is shared across Washington — even for members of his own party. Lawmakers, politicians, organizations and journalists across party lines and have vocally disagreed with Trump’s claims in recent days.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe it’s true. “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect,” he said. “I’ve made that very, very clear.”
Republican strategist and commentator Ana Navarro, who has been a vocal critic of Trump from the early days of his campaign, tweeted her displeasure that Trump wants to investigate voter fraud, but not Russian interference in the election.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe told The Hill that Trump should rephrase his statement.
“I think that a better statement would be if we had had a popular vote standard, I would have still won because I wouldn’t have ignored California, some of New York.”
Rep. Chris Collins, an early Trump supporter, called the president’s statements an “opinion,” and added that the president is “entitled to his opinion.”
“No, I don’t,” Collins told CNN when asked if he has any evidence to support Trump’s claim. “That’s his opinion. But I’ll say there are illegal votes cast and if we can tighten down we should do it.”
Trump isn’t completely without supporters in his own party, however. His former campaign foe, Senator Ted Cruz, told The Hill, “I don’t know how widespread it was, but I know it’s real problem, persistent problem,” even as he stopped short of completely agreeing with Trump’s comments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a similar response, according to The Hill: “It does occur. The notion that election fraud is a fiction is not true. [There are] literally people in jail in Kentucky [for voter fraud].”
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Democrats, meanwhile, are very much in disagreement over Trump’s claims. Three House Democrats even sent a letter to the country’s top law officials asking for a list of proven instances of voter fraud.
“The thing that I worry about with this argument about voter fraud is it gives the Republicans and others another tool and another reason to justify to the public of denying people the right to vote,” Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote in the letter. “The president can join me and my staff, and we will show him that there is no voter fraud.”
Cummings was joined by Rep. Jim Clyburn and Rep. Bob Brady in signing the letter.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted in response to Trump’s claims, too, calling his claims “delusional.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she feels “sorry” for Trump that he is making these sort of allegations.
And veteran political reporter Dan Balz wrote about Trump’s claims for the Washington Post, and said that they “undermine the democratic process and his presidency.”
“This is not a debate about the size of the crowd at last week’s presidential inauguration,” Balz wrote. “That is a piddling controversy compared to his claim that the election system overseen by the states is somehow riddled with fraud. Trump is chipping away at a shared public confidence in a system that is fundamental to a representative government for no apparent reason other than that he’s bothered by the fact that, although duly elected and now in the White House, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes.”
Ironically, one of Trump’s closest advisers, Stephen Bannon, is registered in two states, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Florida and New York.