Trump stands by baseless claim millions voted illegally, vows investigation

From Reuters, AP and WiG reports

President Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the U.S. election, the White House said, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

“The president does believe that,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

On Jan. 25, his Twitter account said Trump is ordering a “major investigation” into voter fraud, specifically his belief that people voted in more than one state or “those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

Officials in charge of the Nov. 8 election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and there is no history of it in U.S. elections.

Even House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he has seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

Trump won the Electoral College that decides the presidency and gives smaller states more clout in the outcome, but he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump has repeatedly said he would have won the popular vote, too, but for voter fraud. He has never substantiated his claim.

Also, Trump’s attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan last year. “On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

Secretaries of state across the country also have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims as baseless.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said invented claims such as Trump’s are used to undermine the advancement and enforcement of voting rights laws.

“The White House is bashing immigrants, undermining voting rights, and playing to bigotry all at once,” Henderson said. “Sen. Jeff Sessions once made up fraud charges to wrongly prosecute voting rights activists and the White House appears to be using the same anti-civil rights playbook. Peddling these lies just drives this administration farther from reality and from the people it claims to govern.”

Henderson added, “This conspiracy theory raises serious doubts about whether our new president can be trusted on anything.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)