White House Doubles Down on Trump's False Voter Fraud Claim
The president's assertion appears to be part of a continuing pattern for him and his new administration in which falsehoods overshadow his outreach efforts.
The White House on Tuesday stuck firmly to President Donald Trump's claim that millions of people voted illegally in the November election, but provided no evidence to back up his assertion.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said the president "does believe" that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton only because of widespread illegal ballots.
"He believes what he believes, based on the information he was provided," said Spicer. But he would not detail what information he was referring to, citing only a 2008 study that called for updating voter rolls but did not conclude there has been pervasive election fraud.
Spicer, who spent several years at the Republican National Committee before joining the White House, would not say whether he shared the president's belief. He also sidestepped questions about whether the White House would investigate the voter fraud allegations, saying only, "Anything is possible."
Trump first raised the prospect of illegal voting during the transition. Then, during a reception with lawmakers at the White House on Monday evening, he again claimed that he'd lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had voted. That's according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
Trump's assertion appears to be part of a continuing pattern for him and his new administration in which falsehoods overshadow his outreach efforts. Both Trump and Spicer made false comments over the weekend about the crowds who gathered for the inauguration.
Aides and associates of the president say that he is dogged by insecurity over his loss of the popular vote and believes Democrats and the media are questioning the legitimacy of his presidency.
On Tuesday, the president tweeted a photograph he said was from the inauguration taken that accentuated the crowd and said he planned to hang the image in the press area of the White House. The date on the photo, however, was labeled as Jan. 21 — the day following his inauguration, which was actually the day of the massive Women's March on Washington.
Trump has packed his first days in office with meetings with business leaders and lawmakers. He also has moved to unravel former President Barack Obama's legacy, including signing orders Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Both projects had been blocked by the Obama administration.
Besides taking steps to advance construction of the oil pipelines, subject to renegotiation of the agreements, Trump also signed a notice Tuesday requiring the materials for the pipelines be constructed in the U.S., though it was unclear how he planned to enforce the measure.
"From now we are going to start making pipelines in the United States," he said.
Trump has sought to focus his first full week in office on jobs and the economy. Republicans, as well as some unions, have cited the pipeline projects as prime opportunities for job growth.
Obama stopped the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy. The pipeline would run from Canada to Nebraska where it would connect to existing lines running to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needs to approve the pipeline because it would cross the nation's northern border.
Separately, late last year, the Army Corps of Engineers declined to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under Lake Oahe, saying alternative routes needed to be considered. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters say the project threatens drinking water and Native American sites, though Energy Transfer Partners, the company that wants to build the pipeline, disputes that and says the pipeline will be safe.
The pipeline is to carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.
Even as Trump moves to implement his agenda, he is still making false claims.
On Tuesday, Trump summoned the heads of the big three American automakers — General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler — for a breakfast meeting. He pledged to scrap regulations and reduce taxes on corporations that keep jobs in the U.S., though he did not specify his plans for either.
His administration, he said, will "go down as one of the most friendly countries" for business.
The president also said it will announce a candidate next week to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the February 2016 death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia.
"We will pick a truly great Supreme Court justice," Trump told reporters. "Probably making my decision this week, we'll be announcing next week."
He later tweeted that the announcement would come on Thursday of next week.
Trump continued to tweet about voter fraud on Wednesday, saying he is ordering a "major investigation," revisiting unsubstantiated claims he's made repeatedly about a rigged voting system.
The investigation, he said, will look at those registered to vote in more than one state, "those who are illegal and...even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time)."
Depending on results, Trump tweeted, "we will strengthen up voting procedures!"
I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
After Friday's inaugural festivities, the new president grew increasingly upset the next day by what he felt was "biased" media coverage of women's marches across the globe protesting his election, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Trump was particularly enraged with CNN, which he thought was "gloating" by continually running photos of the women's march alongside the smaller crowds that attended his inauguration the day before, according to this person, one of several White House aides and associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Tuesday night on Twitter, Trump slammed CNN again, referring to the network as "FAKE NEWS @CNN" while praising rival Fox News Channel.
Trump has had a tumultuous relationship with the press, frequently calling the media dishonest and insulting individual reporters by name at his rallies and on Twitter. Still, two people close to Trump said he expected his coverage to turn more favorable once he took office. Instead, he's told people he believes it's gotten worse.
The bad press over the weekend has not allowed Trump to "enjoy" the White House as he feels he deserves, according to one person who has spoken with him.
The result has been a full display of Trump's propensity for exaggeration and more. During an appearance at the CIA Saturday, he wrongly said the inaugural crowds gathered on the National Mall stretched to the Washington Monument, despite clear photo evidence to the contrary. And during a reception with lawmakers from both parties Monday night, he repeated his false assertion that millions of illegal immigrants provided Hillary Clinton's margin in the popular vote.
Jan. 25, 9:15 a.m. ET: Updated with Trump's Wednesday tweets.