Politics & Government

White House defends Trump’s false belief millions voted illegally

White House press secretary Sean Spicer calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House. AP

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Tuesday repeated President Donald Trump’s false claim that millions of people voted illegally in November’s election.

Trump had made the claim in a meeting Monday with members of Congress, during which he lamented he lost the popular vote only because millions of undocumented immigrants unlawfully cast ballots in the presidential election. Trump won 304 electoral votes, delivering him the presidency, but lost by almost 3 million popular votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The president told Congressional leaders that three million to five million unauthorized immigrants voted for Clinton, echoing a claim he made on Twitter after the election.

When asked by reporters Tuesday about the claim, which has been repeatedly debunked, Spicer replied.

“The president does believe that, I think he's stated that before and stated his concern of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him,” Spicer said, declining to provide reporters any definitive evidence of such voter fraud. “As I said I think the president has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has.”

Some of that information Trump’s team has used to defend the claim includes a 2012 Pew Center of the States study that found some voting registrations were inaccurate because people have moved to a new state. Many people register to vote in their new state without informing their old state of residence they won’t be casting a ballot there. The author of that study tweeted in November, in response to Trump’s claim, that his research did not conclude voter fraud was a problem.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to denounce Trump’s false claim, but said Tuesday voter fraud “does occur.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he has seen “no evidence” millions voted illegally. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said no one gave the claim “much credence.” All three leaders were at Monday’s meeting with Trump.

Reporters asked if the administration will be investigating such a claim, which one journalist noted would be “a scandal of astronomical size.”

“We'll see where we go,” Spicer said. “Let’s not prejudge what we may or may not do in the future.”

When pressed further about the possibility of a future investigation into widespread voter fraud, Spicer said “Anything is possible.”

“I was asked a question, there is no investigation,” Spicer said. “I said it was possible. Anything is possible. It was a hypothetical question.”