President Trump’s capacity to make things up is one of the defining features of his presidency. His loose adherence to the truth, when it suits his political purposes, seems to know few limits.
The president was at a roundtable discussion in West Virginia on Thursday for an event designed to highlight the new tax law, which Republicans are counting on to hold down expected losses in the November midterm elections.
Theatrically, he tossed aside the pieces of paper that were to be the highlights of his message. In going off script, he wandered into territory he had explored earlier in his presidency — the claim that there were millions of illegal votes cast in the 2016 election. It’s the reason, he said, that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
But if his bottom line was unchanged, remarkably, he had a revised claim about what happened on Election Day. His earlier charge was that 3 million to 5 million people had voted illegally. He offered no evidence, and White House advisers were flummoxed when asked to back up what the president said because there was no proof.
Eventually, Trump used the baseless claim to order up a national commission to investigate what he insisted was widespread voter fraud in the United States. The commission was chaired by Vice President Pence, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serving as vice chair, principal administrator and chief advocate of Trump’s assertion.
The commission quickly devolved into a pool of partisan wrangling and some months later was dissolved by the president. No evidence was ever discovered that the election had been marred by significant voter fraud.
Trump, however, cannot let go. On Thursday, he found his way back to the issue during a rambling discussion of illegal #immigration, border security and his plan to send the National Guard to police the U.S. border with Mexico.
He argued that Democrats have a vested interest in the current immigration system, particularly the provision that allows family members of immigrants to apply for admission. “This is what the Democrats are doing to you,” he told the audience. “And they like it because they think they’re going to vote Democrat. Okay? Believe me, they’re doing that for that reason.” The audience applauded.
Trump said immigrants allowed into the country under the so-called chain or family migration provision would overwhelmingly vote for Democrats rather than Republicans. And then came this: “In many places, like California, the same person votes many times.” The audience laughed. “You probably heard about that. They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.”
So now the claim is not just that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally, but that millions and millions of people are voting many times each, in California alone.