WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans are discovering that with Donald Trump in the White House, they may be spending a lot of time answering for false claims from their president.
Eager to dive into a packed legislative agenda in a new era of GOP governance, Republicans instead found themselves confronting questions Tuesday about Trump’s claim he would have won the popular vote but for 3 million to 5 million ballots cast by immigrants in the country illegally.
No evidence supports that assertion, which Trump made in a private meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders at the White House on Monday night. Trump has also made incorrect claims about crowds at his inauguration and his feud with the CIA in the four days since taking office.
For many lawmakers, Trump’s comments raised the frustrating prospect that even as they face daunting policy challenges starting with repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, their new president could knock them constantly off track.
Trump should “get to the serious business of governing,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. “The election is over.”
The election may be over, but Trump and his administration have stuck with a strategy that he once described as “truthful hyperbole.” In public appearances and private meetings, the president has repeated several falsehoods from his campaign and transition period. Campaign aide Kellyanne Conway described the inaccurate remarks as “alternative facts” in a Sunday interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Critics simply call them lies.
Trump’s claim that immigrants voting illegally had robbed him of a popular vote majority was similar to a statement he made on Twitter in November that he had “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes and there is no indication significant numbers of voters cast illegal ballots for either candidate.
That claim followed an effort by Trump to blame strained relations with the intelligence community on “dishonest” journalists during a Saturday visit to CIA headquarters, despite repeated remarks during his transition period questioning the integrity of the country’s intelligence services. He also wildly overstated the number of people who gathered on the National Mall as he took the oath of office.
Republican leaders are desperately trying to ignore the untrue remarks. Trump’s remarks in the Monday meeting went unchallenged.