As we all know by now, Donald Trump would have won the popular vote in the presidential election last November if it weren't for "the millions of people who voted illegally." More recently, at a meeting with 10 senators last Thursday, Trump claimed he would have won New Hampshire, which he lost by 2,736 votes, if it weren't for "thousands" of people who were "brought in on buses" from Massachusetts to vote "illegally." During his interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, presidential adviser Stephen Miller declined to provide evidence of such massive voter fraud in New Hampshire but averred that it is a matter of common knowledge there:
Stephanopoulos: President Trump again this week suggested in a meeting with senators that thousands of illegal voters were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, and that's what caused his defeat in the state of New Hampshire, also the defeat of Senator Kelly Ayotte.
That has provoked a response from a member of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, who says, "I call upon the president to immediately share New Hampshire voter fraud evidence so that his allegations may be investigated promptly." Do you have that evidence?
Miller: I actually haven't worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire. I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who's worked in New Hampshire politics. It's very real. It's very serious. This morning, on this show, is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence….
Stephanopoulos: You just claimed again that there was illegal voting in New Hampshire, people bused in from the state of Massachusetts. Do you have any evidence to back that up?
Miller: I'm saying anybody—George, go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire…
Stephanopoulos: I'm asking you as the White House senior policy adviser. The president made a statement, saying he was the victim of voter fraud, people are being bused from [Massachusetts]…Do you have any evidence?
Miller: If this is an issue that interests you, then we can talk about it more in the future. And we now have our government is beginning to get stood up. But we have a Department of Justice and we have more officials.
An issue of voter fraud is something we're going to be looking at very seriously and very hard….
Stephanopoulos: Just for the record, you have provided absolutely no evidence. The president's made a statement…
Miller: The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud, with respect to people being registered in more than one state, dead people voting, noncitizens being registered to vote. George, it is a fact and you will not deny it, that there are massive numbers of noncitizens in this country, who are registered to vote. That is a scandal….
Stephanopoulos: But for the record, you have provided zero evidence that the president was the victim of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire….You have provided zero evidence [for] the president's claim that he would have won the…popular vote if 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants hadn't voted, zero evidence for either one of those claims.
The New York Times rounded up statements from prominent New Hampshire Republicans contradicting Trump's tale of bused-in Hillary Clinton voters:
Steve Duprey, a former Republican state chairman and current national Republican committeeman, wrote on Twitter: "Repeating: there is no voter fraud in NH. None. Zip. Nada. Hundreds of lawyers, poll workers, watchers, press—no buses rolled in." Thomas D. Rath, a former state attorney general, tweeted: "Allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless, without any merit—it's shameful to spread these fantasies." And Fergus Cullen, a former Republican state chairman, wrote: "I will pay $1000 to 1st person proving even 1 outofstate person took bus from MA 2 any NH polling place last ElectionDay."
There are two schools of thought when it comes to such preposterous Trumpisms. According to one theory, he knows very well that thousands of Clinton voters were not systematically transported from Massachusetts to New Hampshire so she could claim the latter state's four electoral votes. He told that story not because he thinks it's true but because he wanted to irk his enemies in the press, tickle his supporters, and distract people from more serious issues. According to the other theory, Trump is a vain, petty, credulous man who readily believes anything that flatters his ego. Allow me to cite some evidence in favor of the latter explanation.
The Times notes a couple of possible sources for Trump's story. Before the election, Chris Sununu, the Republican candidate for governor of New Hampshire, claimed Democrats were being bused into the state "all over the place." But Sununu retreated from that assertion when asked for evidence, and after winning the election and taking office as governor he now says, "I'm not aware of any widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire." A more plausible source, for Miller as well as Trump, is former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, a Trump supporter who claimed in a radio interview after the election that 100,000 residents of his state had voted illegally in New Hampshire. "It's well-known," Brown said. "It's no secret."
It is quite plausible that Trump, who is not known as a skeptic of crackpot theories, latched onto these reckless rumors, which help him make the case he is always trying to make: that he does not get the credit and acclaim he deserves. The fact that Trump opened a meeting with senators that was supposed to be about his Supreme Court nominee by whining about an election he won does not make much sense if we view him as a Machiavellian manipulator, but it makes perfect sense if we assume he is a needy, hypersensitive blowhard with a constant need for recognition and approval—an assumption that is consistent with the reputation he has maintained for decades. Did Trump deliberately create that public persona so that one day, when he ran for president, his opponents would underestimate him? If so, I totally fell for it.
Update: In a CNN interview, Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said of Miller, "Perhaps he has been misinformed. Perhaps he is delusional. I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here and suggest he has been misinformed. Same thing with the president who has made these claims repeatedly now." Cullen noted that so far no one has taken him up on his offer of $1,000 for proof that any Massachusetts residents rode on buses to vote illegally in New Hampshire: "So far, shockingly, no one has been able to come up with any evidence. No pictures of any of these magic buses delivering hundreds or thousands of people from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. No one has any evidence at all."