President-elect Donald Trump must be one of the first candidates in history to question the legitimacy of an election he won. Although we’ve gotten used to Trump, let’s say, stretching the truth, the president-elect took things to a new level on Sunday, using his platform to push a fringe conspiracy theory that has absolutely no basis in fact. As part of his Twitter rampage against the recount being pushed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Trump said he would have won the popular vote if it weren’t for widespread voter fraud. "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” he wrote.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
The latest numbers show that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.2 million votes and that apparently is gnawing at the president-elect who won a convincing Electoral College victory, which is all that really matters anyway. But the numbers aren’t to be believed because of all the illegal votes, according to Trump who doesn’t cite any evidence to back up his explosive claims.
He then goes on to repeat his oft-repeated claim that it would have been "much easier" to win the popular vote than the Electoral College. And then, a few hours later, Trump went back on Twitter with more details that didn’t clarify a thing, claiming there was “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.”
Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2016
Trump never cites any sources and his campaign wouldn’t go into details about the claims but the information the president-elect is citing appears to have originated with the website InfoWars, which often pushes fringe far-right conspiracy theories. The story that claimed there were 3 million illegal votes was based on a couple of tweets that someone sent with absolutely no evidence.
Little wonder then that PolitiFact seemed to have little doubt about rating the claim of millions of illegal votes as “false.” And it didn’t do that today, but on Nov. 18, yet that didn’t stop the man who will soon be the commander in chief from tweeting about it as if it were the truth. The Washington Post’s fact checker rated Trump’s claims with “four Pinocchios.”
Many were quick to raise the alarm at Trump’s tweets not just because the president-elect is expressing doubts about the integrity of the electoral system but also because they suggest that he may continue to peddle unproven conspiracy theories pushed by the far right when he is sitting in the Oval Office.
The tweets claiming millions of illegal votes were cast in an election were part of a Twitter rampage that began on Saturday night with Trump calling the recount efforts a “scam.” In a 24-hour period, Trump sent 13 tweets (and a statement) about the recount. “This is a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded,” Trump said in a statement, “and the results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused.”
Yet that sentiment seemed to not quite square away with what the president-elect tweeted Sunday night. After all, as the New York Times notes, “if millions of people voted illegally, presumably officials across the country would want to pursue large-scale ballot recounts and fraud investigations.”