President Donald Trump used the first 10 minutes of a reception with congressional leaders Monday to press lies about voter fraud and his loss in the popular vote in the presidential election, the Washington Post reported, insisting between 3 million to 5 million people illegally voted Nov. 8 despite a lack of evidence.
"Two people familiar with the meeting said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the start of the bipartisan gathering rehashing the campaign," citing 3 million to 5 million supposedly fraudulent votes; a third source confirmed Trump did broach the topic at the meeting, according to the Post.
According to the New York Times, Trump additionally suggested the millions of illegal votes were cast by undocumented immigrants.
In reality, reliable counts demonstrate Trump lost the popular vote by just short of 2.9 million ballots.
In-person voter fraud on an individual level is rare, let alone systemic. A 2014 investigation by Loyola Law School constitutional law expert Justin Levitt found 31 credible incidents across the country from 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion votes cast. It happens less than people get hit by lightning. If anything, Republican-backed measures across the country to make voting requirements stricter, close down polling places and redistrict voting precincts to isolate Democrats have rigged the game in favor of Trump's party.
Instead, Trump's statement reflects his and the GOP's long-running obsession with voter fraud, which, since it does not exist, seems more about undermining the legitimacy of Democratic candidacies than the security of the nation's voting systems. Throughout the election, Trump often told crowds about the "rigged" election and painted Clinton supporters as poised to steal the election in increasingly racially hostile terms. His rhetoric on the issue has at times been so heated it has brought it into conflict with Republican leaders.
What has changed is that Trump now holds the power of the presidency, along with all its potential powers to harass and attack his political opponents, undermine civil rights law and mobilize against imaginary enemies. What has not changed is the his preoccupation with trying to expose a conspiracy to steal his popular vote victory, despite the fact neither the conspiracy nor the popular vote victory ever existed in the first place.
Jan. 23, 2017, 10:51 p.m.: This article has been updated.