Trump wants his unfounded claims of voter fraud investigated

US president repeats allegation that millions of ‘illegal’ voters cost him the popular vote

US president Donald Trump has said he is ordering a ‘major investigation’ into alleged  voter fraud. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP Photo

US president Donald Trump has said he is ordering a ‘major investigation’ into alleged voter fraud. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP Photo

 

US president Donald Trump will request “a major investigation” into his unverified allegations of voter fraud, acting on his claim that millions of “illegal” voters cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election.

On his fifth day in office, Mr Trump took to social media again, adding to the frenzy of controversy that has punctuated the start of his nascent administration by announcing his plan to investigate people voting in multiple states, voting by non-citizens and the names of deceased individuals on the voter rolls.

The moves follows forceful remarks by his presidential aides that they intend to fight back at what they have called “false” media reports that they view as attempts to de-legitimise his presidency.

Many anti-Trump protesters participated in the Women’s March on Washington and other cities across the US on Saturday with signs stating “Not my president” expressing their refusal to accept his presidency because he did not win the popular vote. He won the electoral college vote, sealing victory in key states.

His quest to prove the legitimacy of his presidency, beyond challenging reporters about the size of the audience that watched his inauguration last Friday, threatens to raise fundamental questions around the credibility of the democratic process and the electoral system that sent him to Washington.

Returning to the same baseless allegations that he has made in the past, Mr Trump tweeted: “I will be asking 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).”

He vowed that “depending on the results” he would strengthen the voting procedures.

The president’s remarks came two days after he repeated a claim during a private meeting with members of the US Congress that between three and five million illegal votes cost him the popular vote. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat him in the nationwide ballot by almost 2.9 million votes, by 65.8 million to 62.9 million.

‘Longstanding belief’

On Tuesday, Mr Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said that the president had a “longstanding belief” that there was widespread voter fraud – a theory held by many Republicans opposed to Democratic measures to improve voter participation – but struggled to defend the claims in the absence of any evidence. He said the president’s view was based on “studies” and “evidence that has been presented to him” but did not provide any specifics about evidence.

Mr Spicer said on Wednesday that the investigation into alleged voter fraud would not be limited to the 2016 presidential election and may look at large populated states such as New York and California where Mr Trump did not compete because his spokesman said that the Republican was focused on winning the electoral college.

“This isn’t just about the 2016 election. This is about the integrity of our voting system,” he told reporters at the daily White House press briefing.

Both New York and California lean heavily Democrat and are largely avoided by Republican presidential candidates during the campaigns because of the focus on key swing states in the contest to run up numbers in the electoral college which Mr Trump won by 306 to Mrs Clinton’s 232.

“When you look at where a lot potential, a lot of these issues could have occurred in bigger states, that’s where I think we are going to look,” Mr Spicer said.

Claims debunked

Investigations and studies by the Department of Justice, government agencies and academics have debunked claims of widespread voter fraud.

Even Mr Trump’s own legal team argued that the 2016 election “was not tainted by fraud” in response to an effort by Green Party candidate Jill Stein to force a recount in Michigan.

The National Association of Secretaries of State, which represents state elections officials, rejected Mr Trump’s claims, saying that they were “not aware of any evidence” to back up his claims.

“Easy to vote, hard to cheat,” tweeted Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, questioned how Mr Trump “should be so insecure” as to make the claims he was making, and described his undermining of the voting system as “really strange”.

“I, frankly, feel very sad about the president making this claim. I felt sorry for him,” said the Californian congresswoman. “I even prayed for him. But then I prayed for the United States. ”