In a speech last week, the president returned to one of his go-to campaign lines, insisting that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election. When asked about his remarks on Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested voter fraud did indeed impact the 2016 election, but didn't offer any proof of it.
"The president still strongly feels there was a large amount of voter fraud and attempted to do a thorough review of it. A lot of the states didn't want to cooperate and participate," Sanders told reporters at a press conference, according to The Hill.
She continued, "We certainly know there were a large number of incidents reported but we can't be sure exactly how much because we weren't able to conduct the full review that the president wanted because a number of states didn't want to cooperate and refused to participate." In other words, it's the states' fault she doesn't have proof.
Before taking office, Trump said that if he lost the election, it would be because of of fraudulent votes cast for his opponents. "The election is going to be rigged — I’m going to be honest," Trump said at a rally in August 2016, just months before the election, according to The New Yorker. "People are going to walk in and they’re going to vote 10 times, maybe." He repeated similar notions dozens of times while on the campaign trail.
When Trump ultimately won the election but still lost the popular vote, he insisted that voter fraud was the reason why. Using an executive order, Trump established the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate his concerns. However, after several states refused to cooperate with the commission's demands for data, the group was ultimately dissolved. Despite a lack of evidence, however, the president has continued to insist that illegal voting is a rampant issue in U.S. elections.
Last Thursday, speaking in West Virginia at a roundtable discussion that was intended to focus on taxes, Trump revived his claims about voter fraud. According to The Washington Post, he reached the topic by making a series of comments that landed him on the subject of so-called "chain migration." (Chain migration, which Trump often derails, is the notion that people who move to the United States assist their family members in immigrating after they have settled down themselves.) From there, he reportedly asserted that Democrats support chain migration because they believe that new immigrants will vote for their party.
"They are doing it for that reason, because they aren’t going to be voting with us for the most part. A lot of them aren’t going to be voting,” he said, according to The Post. "A lot of times, it doesn’t matter, because in many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that."
His remarks did not stop there, however. He actually directly addressed the idea that his concerns are based on a conspiracy theory.
"They always like to say, 'Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory!'" he said. "Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people, and it’s very hard because the state guards their records. They don’t want to see it." Sanders essentially backed that claim of his on Monday.
Trump's Thursday remarks were not the first time he's said voter fraud was particularly rampant in California, either. Just after winning the presidential election, he tweeted about the issue. "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!" he wrote on November 27.
Despite Trump's insistence that voter fraud is a rampant issue, no credible studies or research has backed him up. Instead, as Philip Bump writes in the Post report, those who push the idea often rely on misconstrued data and faulty math. Politifact bolsters this analysis.