Donald Trump continues to insist that 3 million people voted illegally on Election Day. He still hasn’t cited any hard evidence for that, but he’s now invoking a source that offers no public proof.
On Friday, the president of the United States tweeted that “Gregg Phillips and crew” would soon be publishing their final results showing that illegal ballots had been cast en masse:
Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2017
Trump has been pushing the 3 million figure since November, but this appears to be the first time he’s cited Phillips directly. The head of a group of conservative volunteers called True the Vote, Phillips claims that he’s collected 184 million “voting records” over time and built an algorithm that identifies how many of them are fraudulent.
Phillips hasn’t released any evidence in support of the claim, told reporters how his algorithm works, or explained how he detected a widespread voter fraud conspiracy that nobody else noticed. In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi, Phillips says he hasn’t provided his list of fraudulent voters because he’s still verifying his results — and doesn’t want to wrongly accuse someone of illegally voting — but that he will soon.
“I’m gonna let the public see everything we’ve done. Our analysis, everything, will be published. We will also give copies to the federal government,” he told Nuzzi. “We’re gonna publish the entire data set.”
Trump’s bogus claim
The idea that 3 million people illegally voted is impossible to square with reality. Vox’s German Lopez has a thorough debunking of the myth here, and almost every major media organization — the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, even Fox News — has said there’s zero reason to believe the allegation.
“The claim that there were millions of illegal voters in this past election is false and unsupported by any credible evidence,” Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California Irvine, wrote at Slate. “The National Association of Secretaries of State, made up of the chief election officers of all 50 states, just issued a statement saying so.”
The real story here is who Trump decides to trust
Trump first rested his claim on his reading of a Pew report — a figure that was later contradicted by the author of the report himself.
Now he is publicly turning to Phillips, 55, who was once the Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner and described himself to Nuzzi as “a regular guy.” His volunteer organization, True the Vote, was a splinter organization from the Tea Party group the “King Street Patriots,” which has been accused, somewhat ironically, of itself conducting voters suppression at polling sites.
Phillips identifies as a conservative, and on social media he blames Obama for things like “Darkness” and “Iran:”
Obama's legacy:— Gregg Phillips (@JumpVote) December 10, 2016
Fast & Furious
The first time Phillips tweeted the 3 million claim was on November 14, 2016. He provided no explanation. When reporters began asking Phillips to provide any of the voter data being used to make his claims, he refused. “We will release it in open form to the American people. We won’t allow the media to spin this first,” he told the Daily Beast.
Phillips’s claims of voter fraud began even before states had compiled their full voter files. As the Washington Post noted at the time, most states hadn’t decided which provisional ballots cast in the election were valid.
Still, Alex Jones, the prominent right-wing conspiracy theorist who has said he thinks Clinton and Barack Obama are literal demons from hell, circulated Phillips’s claim on Twitter. It was then shared more than 10,000 times, which is when it apparently caught Trump’s attention.
As Vox’s Ezra Klein has written, Trump is remarkably gullible. Back in March 2016, Trump began retweeting the entirely false allegation that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of JFK.
“[Trump’s] tendency to solicit, repeat, and retweet self-serving falsehoods served up by sycophants and hangers-on should be taken seriously. Among the most important tasks the president has is knowing what to believe, whom to listen to, which facts to trust, and which theories to explore,” Klein wrote. “America can't hand over its nuclear arsenal to someone who will believe any conspiracy theory he's presented with as long as its confirms his priors.”
But America did. And we’re just beginning to see what that looks like in the Oval Office.