The White House on Tuesday said the President Donald Trump continues to believe in “studies and evidence” showing that millions of people illegally voted in the 2016 election—but that Trump was not troubled by this information because he won.
“The president does believe that,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during a briefing after being asked about Trump’s assertions of widespread voter fraud. Trump has repeatedly claimed that between 3 to 5 million people illegally voted in November, which he says is the reason he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 2.9 million ballots.
“He has stated that before,” Spicer affirmed. “I think he has stated his concerns: voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign. And he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have presented to him.”
When asked what evidence Trump had been shown to prove the claim, Spicer refused to answer the question. “As I said, I believe the president has believed that for awhile based on studies and information he has.”
Trump first made the claim of “millions” of illegal votes in a Nov. 27 tweet, which read, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
White House says Pres. Trump does believe millions voted illegally in election; claims he has "studies & evidence." https://t.co/PcDd0SmQDj
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) January 24, 2017
Spicer did mention a Pew Research study from 2008—though it is likely he misspoke. He may have been referring to a 2012 study that indicated millions of voter records were out of date. (The Pew researchers specifically stated that there was no evidence such errors lead to fraud.)
It is also possible Spicer is referring to a 2014 Harvard-affiliated study that indicated 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in the 2008 election, which Trump has cited in the past. But the study itself was destroyed by experts after its release, as PolitiFact reported. A peer-review article—“The perils of cherry picking low frequency events in large sample surveys”—determined the “likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0.”
Spicer said despite the president being convinced that American democracy had been subverted by millions of illegal voters, no one in the White House was looking into it. “There is no investigation,” he said, adding: “Anything is possible.”
An investigation is unlikely, given that the true source of Trump’s claim is a spurious report compiled by a former GOP operative. Gregg Phillips, cited as an “election integrity researcher” by Breitbart News, is the source of a report cited by far-right operatives claiming that millions of ballots were illegally cast by undocumented immigrants. (Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was formerly chief executive of Breitbart.)
Phillips’ claim that “more than three million votes” were cast by illegal immigrants was circulated by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos shortly after the Nov. 8 election (his post gained 12,000+ Facebook shares)—before Trump tweeted that millions of votes were illegally cast. The claim was also circulated on Facebook by Alex Jones of InfoWars, a proud Trump supporter.
Breitbart was called out earlier this month by German authorities for creating a fake news report implicating immigrants in a crime that never happened.
— The Local Germany (@TheLocalGermany) January 5, 2017
Phillips, who reportedly directed Newt Gingrich’s Winning Our Future super PAC in 2012, has repeatedly refused to discuss his assertions with journalists and has not revealed the methodology behind his so-called study—if there even is one.
On Tuesday, the White House said that even though President Trump believes millions of ballots were illegally cast, he is “comfortable” with the results.
While Spicer was briefing the White House press corps, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to side with Trump, telling reporters with regards to election fraud, “There are always arguments on both sides about how much, how frequent and all the rest.” He added: “The notion that election fraud is a fiction is not true,” according to Yahoo News.
Not every Republican leader is going along with the charade, however. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) told reporters that he has “seen no evidence to that effect, and I’ve made that very, very clear.” Other Republicans, such as Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), urged the president to get on with the business of governing.
“The election is over,” Dent said.