WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump on Sunday claimed without any evidence that “millions” of people had illegally voted for his opponent in the election, renewing the crazy versus crazy-like-a-fox debate about the next president.
Even as Trump’s critics pointed to the statements as yet more proof that he is in way over his head, a leading Republican National Committee member said Trump had once again reframed the debate to favor himself.
Instead of waiting on recounts in three states that could drag on for weeks and continue to delegitimize his victory, Trump had minimized that story with his own headline-grabbing allegation, the RNC member said on condition of anonymity. “Trump is several chess moves ahead,” he said.
Trump sent a tweet mid-afternoon Sunday saying that he would have won the popular vote over Democrat Hillary Clinton had it not been for “millions of people who voted illegally.” Four hours later, after flying back to New York from a Thanksgiving break in his Palm Beach resort, he claimed that New Hampshire, Virginia and California had all experienced “serious voter fraud,” and that the media have covered up the story.
In fact, there is zero evidence that any of what Trump said Sunday is correct.
Officials working on his transition team did not respond to Huffington Post queries about the president-elect’s statements.
On a Monday morning media conference call, though, transition team spokesman Jason Miller pointed to a Washington Post blog post that said non-citizens could be voting and a Pew study that said millions of voter registrations were erroneous. “So many have voted that were not legally supposed to,” Miller said.
But the blog post was quickly and roundly debunked by other political scientists as relying on flawed data, and the Pew study was speaking about people who die or move into new states. It recommended modernizing registration systems. It did not state that illegal immigrants were voting.
Trump’s critics said his latest remarks were yet more evidence that Trump lacks the emotional maturity or temperament to perform the duties of the office he is about to hold.
Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for his Art of the Deal best-seller that was the basis for his reality TV show “The Apprentice,” answered Trump’s Sunday tweets with: “Trump loses it whenever he feels vulnerable, which is often. Must recognize reality: We have a president-elect who is mentally unbalanced.”
And Evan McMullin, a Republican who ran as an independent candidate, responded to Trump’s “millions” of illegal votes tweet with the warning: “It should not go unrecognized that @realDonaldTrump’s effort to inflate his election performance without cause is typical of autocrats.”
But the RNC member ― who like most in the RNC was not originally a fan of the New York City businessman ― said he has come to see that Trump is a master of reading the national landscape and manipulating it to his own ends.
“It’s clear to me, at this moment, that he understands the public, the media, and the left better than I ever imagined,” he said, adding that “the left’s” push for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were designed to weaken Trump. “He is concerned that weeks will drag on with discussions about the legitimacy of his presidency. ... So once again he changes the discussion.”
Green Party candidate Jill Stein is asking for recounts in those three states. The Clinton campaign has stated that it believes the results, while close, will not change in a recount, and that it has seen no evidence to question the tallies.
This article has been updated with comments from Jason Miller.