Millions cast votes illegally, Trump claims

Published 24 January 2017
CAROLYN KASTER

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- President-elect Donald Trump claimed without evidence Sunday that "millions" voted illegally in the national election, scoffing at Hillary Clinton's popular-vote edge of nearly 2 million.

The president-elect tweeted that "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." He further contended that if the popular vote and not the Electoral College determined the presidency, "It would have been much easier for me to win" because he would have altered his campaign to pile up overall vote totals.

Later Sunday, he asked on Twitter why the media aren't reporting on "serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California" -- all states that Clinton won. Trump's transition team did not respond to questions seeking evidence of the claims.

There's been no indication of widespread vote manipulation, illegal voting or hacking that materially affected the outcome of the election.

[TRUMP: Timeline of president-elect’s career + list of appointments so far]

Trump and his lieutenants assailed an effort -- now joined by Clinton -- to recount votes in up to three battleground states, calling the push fraudulent, the work of "crybabies" and, in Trump's estimation, "sad."

Trump was mostly silent on the brewing recount effort until it became known that Clinton would join it, at least in Wisconsin. On Saturday, a day after Wisconsin officials said they would conduct the first presidential recount in the state's history, Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias said, "We intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides."

Elias said Clinton would take the same approach in Pennsylvania and Michigan if those states hold recounts. Donald McGahn, who on Friday was selected by Trump as White House counsel, will be the Republican point person on the Wisconsin recount.

Trump on Sunday tweeted part of Clinton's concession speech, when she told supporters they must accept that "Donald Trump is going to be our president," and snippets from her debate remarks, when she denounced the Republican nominee for refusing to say in advance that he would accept the Election Day verdict.

This came on top of his saying it was a "scam" that Green Party nominee Jill Stein was revisiting the vote count in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

He concluded: "So much time and money will be spent -- same result! Sad."

A separate statement by the president-elect focused mostly on Stein. "The people have spoken and the election is over, and as Hillary Clinton herself said on election night, in addition to her conceding by congratulating me, 'We must accept this result and then look to the future,'" he said.

Trump won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and as of Wednesday, held a lead of almost 11,000 votes in Michigan, with the results awaiting state certification today. News agencies including The Associated Press and The New York Times will call the race in that state after the results are certified. Trump's Michigan margin was 0.22 of a percent of the state's votes.

Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton's 232, not counting Michigan's 16 electoral votes. Clinton could only tip the electoral balance in her favor in the unlikely event that all three states flip to her in recounts.

Clinton's lawyer said her team has been combing through the election results in search of anomalies that would suggest hacking by Russians or others and found "no actionable evidence" of an altered outcome. Moreover, Elias said, Trump has a vote lead even in the closest states that well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.

But "we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself," he said.

Trump beat Clinton in Wisconsin by fewer than 22,200 votes, fewer than 1 percent of votes cast. He won Pennsylvania by some 70,600 votes, just more than 1 percentage point over Clinton.

Trump's incoming chief of staff, national party Chairman Reince Priebus, on Fox News Sunday called the effort a "total and complete distraction and a fraud and something that they should drop."

On NBC's Meet the Press, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Stein, "the Hillary people" and others supporting recounts have to decide whether they are going to back a peaceful transition "or if they're going to be a bunch of crybabies and sore losers about an election that they can't turn around."

Although Clinton has the nationwide popular vote lead, she fell short in 13 swing states, where Trump received a total of almost 22.2 million votes to Clinton's 21.3 million.

Conway said she was confident the recount would not change the election results in Wisconsin, where Stein received 33,000 votes.

"33,000 votes is like the number of people who tailgate at a Packers game," Conway said. "It is not a serious effort to change the election results."

Mitt Romney

Conway on Sunday expressed astonishment that 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney remained under consideration for secretary of state after his campaign-long questioning of Trump's character, intellect and integrity.

"There was the 'Never Trump' movement, and then there was Gov. Mitt Romney," Conway said on ABC's This Week. "He went out of his way to hurt Donald Trump."

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker are among other prospects to serve as the country's top diplomat.

Trump and Romney met for more than an hour Nov. 20 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where they had what Romney called a "far-reaching conversation."

"It went great," Trump said of the same meeting.

The day after that meeting, Conway described both men as accomplished job creators. But on Thanksgiving, Conway took to Twitter to say she was receiving a "deluge" of social media and private communications warning against picking Romney as secretary of state.

Trump supporters "feel a bit betrayed that you can get a Romney back in there after everything he did," Conway said Sunday. "We don't even know if he voted for Donald Trump. He and his consultants were nothing but awful to Donald Trump for a year." She added that she was "reflecting what the grassroots are saying."

"I'm all for party unity, but I'm not sure we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position," Conway said.

On CNN's State of the Union, host Dana Bash asked Conway whether she thought Romney would be loyal to Trump if selected.

"I would hope so," she said, noting that she had also shared her concerns privately with Trump. "If President-elect Trump chooses Mitt Romney, that will have the full support and backing of all of us."

Priebus acknowledged that Romney would represent "a team of rivals concept."

Opening to Cuba

Priebus also said Sunday that Trump would "absolutely" reverse President Barack Obama's opening to Cuba unless there is "some movement" from the Cuban government.

"Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners -- these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships, and that's what President-elect Trump believes, and that's where he's going to head," Priebus told Fox News Sunday.

Conway said any diplomatic deal will have to benefit American workers.

"To the extent that President Trump can open up new conversations with Cuba, it would have to be a very different Cuba," she told This Week.

She added: "He wants to make sure that when the United States of America, when he's president, engages in any type of diplomatic relations or trade agreements ... that we as America are being protected and we as America are getting something in return."

The comments followed the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Castro's younger brother, 85-year-old Raul Castro, took control in 2006 and later negotiated with Obama to restore diplomatic relations.

Conway said nothing on Cuba has been decided. But she said the "first order of business" is to rally the international community around trying to free political prisoners.

While Obama opened some U.S. investment and travel to Cuba through executive order, restrictions tied up in the trade embargo remain at the insistence of Congress.

Separate memorial services have been scheduled for Tuesday and later in the week in Cuba for Castro, and some world leaders and celebrities were expected to attend. As of Sunday, the White House had not said whether anyone from the U.S. government would attend.

During the campaign, Trump said he would reverse "concessions" to the Cuban government by Obama unless the Castro government meets his demands. After Castro's death, Trump released a statement noting his administration "will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty."

Trump returned to New York late Sunday after spending Thanksgiving weekend at his West Palm Beach estate. His transition team said the president-elect had scheduled a series of meetings today with prospective administration hires.

Information for this article was contributed by Steve Peoples, Calvin Woodward and Anne Flaherty of The Associated Press; by Amy B. Wang and Kristine Guerra of The Washington Post; and by Steven T. Dennis, Kevin Cirilli and Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 11/28/2016