Sunday, December 17, 2017
Politics

PolitiFact: Donald Trump's Pants on Fire tweet about illegal voters

Nearly three weeks after Election Day, President-elect Donald Trump continues to lash out against what he calls a rigged election system — one that nonetheless carried him to the presidency despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Trump tweeted Sunday.

Trump's camp stood by the statement Monday, but there remains no credible evidence or substantial investigations into fraud to back it up.

The alarming claim earned the rebuke of academics and all-day fact-checking by journalists around the world. Even a member of his own party, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Monday on CNN's New Day, "I don't know what he was talking about on that one."

Trump's claim was even more interesting with the announcement by a Michigan elections board certifying he won the state's 16 electoral votes, widening his Electoral College lead to 306 over Clinton's 232.

For a ridiculous claim without a shred of proof, there's just one rating: Pants on Fire.

In addition to his lament about fraudulent votes, Trump's Sunday tweets offered a cornucopia of assertions we've already debunked, including the notion that Trump won the Electoral College in a "landslide" (False), that he won the popular vote (Pants on Fire), and that 3 million votes were cast by illegal aliens (False).

We found zero evidence for Trump's charge about "millions" of illegal votes separating him and Clinton in the popular vote.

The ballots are mostly, but not entirely, counted.

The most comprehensive vote-tracking analysis is published by David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. As of noon Monday, according to Wasserman's calculations, Clinton led Trump by roughly 2.24 million votes — specifically, 64.65 million for Clinton, 62.41 million for Trump, and 7.19 million for other candidates.

Late ballot tabulations in some states are trickling in — many of them states, such as California, where Clinton fared overwhelmingly well. For this reason, Wasserman said Clinton seems to be on track to win the popular vote by 2.5 million to 2.7 million votes, or a margin of about 2 percentage points over Trump.

So to erase Trump's popular-vote deficit, there would need to be almost 3 million votes for Clinton that were cast illegally. And that assumes that all 3 million of these "illegal votes" went to Clinton and not a single one went to Trump.

For a sense of scale, 3 million votes is more than were cast for any presidential candidate in 36 states plus the District of Columbia. And 3 million people is more than a quarter of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States — a group that the conspiracy website InfoWars specifically singled out as the source of illegal votes.

Evidence lacking

Trump's team did not respond to queries from PolitiFact. In a conference call with reporters Monday, Trump spokesman Jason Miller mentioned two pieces of evidence that Trump had also cited earlier in the campaign.

One was a 2012 Pew Center on the States study whose author denies that it found any evidence of voter fraud. The other was a 2014 article posted on the Monkey Cage blog hosted by the Washington Post; it prompted multiple articles by other political scientists casting doubt on its accuracy. In any case, neither study offers analysis of the 2016 electoral returns.

Alex Jones' InfoWars and similar websites have posted articles claiming that 3 million votes in the presidential election were "cast by illegal aliens." We have rated that False.

As evidence of its claim, InfoWars' headline referred to a report from VoteFraud.org and tweets from Gregg Phillips, whose Twitter profile says he's the founder of VoteStand, a voter fraud reporting app.

However, there is no report from VoteFraud.org, and Phillips told PolitiFact he is not affiliated with that website. Tweets by Phillips on Nov. 11 and Nov. 13 said that "we have verified more than 3 million votes cast by noncitizens" and that Phillips had "completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations. Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team."

Phillips has not provided additional information to PolitiFact. He told us previously that he has chosen not to release more information because he is still working on analyzing the data and verifying its accuracy. Phillips would not say what the data is or where it came from, or what methodology he used. He said he would release the information publicly once he is finished.

True the Vote, a group that has argued that election fraud is widespread, gave Trump's comment rhetorical support but did not provide specific evidence.

Lankford, the Oklahoma senator, added that while there may be irregularity "on the edges," he has "not seen any voter irregularity in the millions."

Fraud uncommon

Credible research suggests that voter fraud is not widespread. Some examples:

• News21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found just 56 cases of noncitizens voting between 2000 and 2011.

• A report by the liberal Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that most cases of noncitizens voting were accidental. "Although there are a few recorded examples in which noncitizens have apparently registered or voted, investigators have concluded that they were likely not aware that doing so was improper," reads the 2007 report.

• In 2012, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration started an effort trying to crack down on noncitizens voting by comparing drivers' license data against voter rolls. The state created a list of 182,000 potential noncitizens that had voted. That number was whittled down to 2,700, then to about 200 before the purge was stopped amid criticism that the data was flawed given the number of false positives. Ultimately, only 85 people were removed from the rolls.

Meanwhile, ProPublica, an investigative journalism project, tweeted it had 1,100 people monitoring Election Day activity and saw no evidence of rigging and "no evidence that undocumented immigrants voted illegally."

Experts dismissed the substance of Trump's tweet.

"This is patently false," said Costas Panagopoulos, a Fordham University political scientist. "There would need to be a massive national conspiracy and coordination effort to do this, and illegal aliens would need to be on the voter rolls in states across the country months earlier to be eligible to vote. It is also very convenient the estimated fraudulent vote is just enough to give Trump the popular vote. Not likely a coincidence."

Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz added, "If Mr. Trump seriously believes that there was significant vote fraud in any state, he should file a formal protest and ask for an investigation. He does not — he is simply repeating baseless claims."

University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket said the claim is short on basic logic.

"It's bizarre to claim that Clinton had the ability to generate millions of illegal voters but not use them to help her win the Electoral College," Masket said.

Comments
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Published: 12/16/17
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Published: 12/16/17
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Published: 12/16/17
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Published: 12/15/17
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Published: 12/15/17
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17