There is no charitable way to spin President Donald Trump’s reckless claim that millions of undocumented voters cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election. Either he’s delusional or he’s the sorest winner in American history.
Trump won the Electoral College with 304 votes; Hillary Clinton won 2,864,974 more popular votes than he did. The only evidence of election tilting has pointed to Russians, who, according to U.S. intelligence, hacked Democrats’ emails to help Trump get elected.
Yet since late November, Trump has been chipping away at the integrity of the nation’s electoral system by insisting he would have won both if, as he tweeted then, “you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” in blue states such as California.
There is no evidence of any such large-scale voter fraud. Trump’s own legal team said as much during post-election recounts. Trump produced zero proof when he was asked to put up or shut up by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, among others. He has been contradicted by leading Republicans from Sen. Lindsey Graham to House Speaker Paul Ryan.
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In less than a week, Trump has gone from small lies about his inaugural crowd to big ones that could pave the way for harassment and voter suppression.
Yet he repeated the false claim again last week, telling congressional leaders that Clinton had benefited from as many as 5 million undocumented votes. When Democrats protested, the president reportedly repeated an anecdote from a German golf pro whose friend had once been turned away from the polls while Latinos got provisional ballots. Trump’s increasingly compromised press secretary, Sean Spicer, cited studies that he said would back up Trump’s “longstanding belief” in massive voter fraud, but did not.
On Wednesday, Trump called for “a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).” Actually, multiple registration isn’t illegal, only multiple voting. But news organizations soon produced public records showing Trump’s daughter Tiffany, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin all fell into Trump’s multiple registration dragnet.
This is ceasing to be amusing. Trump’s investigation, like his border wall and draconian refugee ban, is policy by prejudice, gossip and “alternative fact.”
“If President Trump has evidence of voter fraud at the scale he’s alleging, he should please bring it forward,” Padilla told a Sacramento Bee editorial board member Thursday. But so far the only fraud seems to be coming from the Oval Office. Trump has gone from small lies about his inaugural crowd to big ones like this, which could cost taxpayers, pave the way for voter suppression and harm innocents.