Though he became the 45th President of the United States last Friday, Donald Trump on Monday took the opportunity of his first meeting with congressional leaders to again repeat the lie that he would have won the popular vote (which he lost to rival Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million people) if it wasn't for millions of undocumented immigrants he claims participated in the election.
Having also lied on this issue in the aftermath of his electoral college victory in November, people in the room during Trump's meeting with House and Senate leaders from both parties said the president was at it again Monday.
"He said 3-5 million 'illegals' voted so that's why he lost popular vote," one Democratic aide told The Hill, noting Trump's use of the derogatory phrase often used by right-wingers to describe immigrant workers or those without proper documentation to be in the country. A second source who was in the room confirmed to The Hill: "That's exactly what he said."
Trump reportedly offered no evidence for his assertion, just stated it as a fact.
As the New York Times notes,
The claim, which he has made before on Twitter, has been judged untrue by numerous fact-checkers. The new president’s willingness to bring it up at a White House reception in the State Dining Room is an indication that he continues to dwell on the implications of his popular vote loss even after assuming power.
Mr. Trump appears to remain concerned that the public will view his victory — and his entire presidency — as illegitimate if he does not repeatedly challenge the idea that Americans were deeply divided about sending him to the White House to succeed President Barack Obama.
Following a weekend when Trump's communication team, led by press secretary Sean Spicer and special advisor Kellyanne Conway, sparked an uproar by introducing the global public to the Orwellian phrase "Alternative Facts," the president's latest lie—which many noted also fits his pattern of deploying bizarre and racist conspiracy theories—also triggered a social media firestorm:
Here Trump is attempting to pass off a racist conspiracy theory that is obviously a blatant lie.
Just 1 scandal of many.
— American Carnage (@andyrosebrook) January 24, 2017
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) January 24, 2017
What piece of the puzzle am I missing? Trump tells a brazen lie to Congress members, and not a single one rises to publicly denounce him? https://t.co/H8XPgkufGq
— Tom Barksdale (@tbarksdl) January 24, 2017
In addition to the broad and troubling implications of a president so willing to dispose with facts, journalist Kira Lerner, writing for ThinkProgress, points out that Trump's mistruths on the election results are likely to have serious and negative impacts on both voting rights and immigration policy going forward.
Though the media was quick to fact check his lies, Lerner warns that "Republican governors and state lawmakers across the country, those who have the ability to change voting laws and those who are looking to their president as a guiding voice, the lie could quickly affect policy. States could use Trump’s claim as justification to make it significantly harder or impossible for millions of voters to cast ballots."