Guest Opinion: Trump’s illegal voter claim hurts him
President Donald Trump would do himself, and his ambitious agenda, much good if he could find a way to quickly get comfortable with the fact that he is, after all, the president.
Unfortunately, he seems to have deep-seated doubts. How else to explain his astonishing statement to congressional leaders Monday night — and repeated by his spokesman on Tuesday — that millions of non-citizens had voted in the November election? It was a claim he first made via Twitter in late November, apparently to rebut the fact that Hillary Clinton, despite losing the election in the Electoral College, had won nearly 3 million more votes.
The assertion, made without a scrap of evidence, was roundly debunked and left the president-elect diminished just as he ought to have been ebullient.
One hoped at the time that he would grow comfortable with the reality of his victory, and the awesomeness of his responsibility, and wear the presidency with more dignity once he took the oath of office on Jan. 20. He dashed that hope at a White House reception for congressional leaders on Monday night, when he repeated his lament about millions of illegal voters having stolen the popular vote from him.
Whatever other message he had hoped to convey was overshadowed by such an astounding claim — this time straight from the sitting president’s mouth.
Senior members of Congress, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, confirmed the report of his renewed allegations. And, unsurprisingly, the claim took center stage at a White House press conference on Tuesday. Press secretary Sean Spicer was asked if the president really believed such massive voter fraud was present in the election.
Yes, said Spicer: “The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he has stated his concerns of voter fraud … and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him,” he said.
But exactly what evidence? The claims have been debunked. On Tuesday, Speaker Paul Ryan said so. The National Association of Secretaries of State has said so.
“I think the president has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has,” Spicer repeated — and then moved on.
That’s absurd. Voter fraud is a felony. Why would the president make such a claim, and insist on it, without any evidence he’s willing to share?
A reporter pressed Spicer on this point. If 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast, that would be the biggest scandal in U.S. electoral history. Why wouldn’t the justice department be investigating if the president have evidence to support that?
“Maybe we will,” Spicer said.
This is a regrettable way to begin a presidency. Trump’s thin skin is more than a personality quirk. It threatens to rob his agenda of the energy it needs, even on a day that began with a critical meeting with captains of the automotive industry and included orders by the new president to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.