On Monday night, President Donald Trump was reported to have told leaders in Washington that he lost the popular vote in the US election because three million to five million “illegals” voted for Hillary Clinton, a renewal of the voter fraud claim he made in the aftermath of his victory.
To be clear, Trump was was once again raising questions about the legitimacy of his own triumph.
So in the latest must-watch White House press conference of the Trump-era, it was only natural questions would be asked by reporters about the claim.
In response, Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump believes millions of people voted illegally in November’s election - despite a total absence of evidence to support this view. He told reporters:
“The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he’s stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.”
Pressed for evidence to support the claim, Spicer said: “I think the president has believed that for a while, based on studies and information he has.”
Spicer referred to a Pew study, and claimed it showed that 14% of non-citizens were registered to vote. It doesn’t show that. What it does state is that dead people are on electoral rolls and other records are out-of-date - but it makes no reference to voter fraud. A study claiming non-citizens were registered to vote has also been debunked. Both are detailled here.
Asked why Trump had not prioritised an investigation into an issue that would be “a scandal of astronomical proportions”, Spicer said: “Maybe we will. We’ll see where we go from here.”
The erroneous claim comes as Trump appears obsessed with reports of the diminished turn-out to his inauguration.
On Saturday, he sent out Spicer to hold an impromptu and now infamous news conference and make a series of eyebrow-raising claims - including that Trump attracted the biggest audience to “ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and around the globe”.
Trump won the presidency with a majority of the Electoral College, though Clinton won nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump did.