Senate Republicans Won’t Refute Trump’s Lie That Millions Voted Illegally

WASHINGTON Republican Senate leaders on Tuesday appeared too afraid to call out President Donald Trumps lie that he lost the popular election because 3 million to 5 million illegals voted in the election, procuring new ways to dodge questions about whether they agreed with the new head of their party.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell( R-Ky .) wouldnt dispute Trumps statement, which Trump induced in a private meeting with congressional leaders Monday evening.

Trump has repeatedly said he lost the popular election due to voter fraud, but there is no evidence of this , nor any evidence that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state won the popular election by more than 2.8 million votes.

Asked point-blank if Trumps claim was true, McConnell refused to say.

I can just tell you that on the whole issue of election fraud, which our Democratic colleagues always argue is just fiction: There are people literally in jail in Kentucky for this kind of activity, McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

It does pass there are always arguments on both sides about how much, how frequent, all the rest, he continued. Most states have done a better task on this front, but the notion that election fraud is a fiction is not true.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, third-ranking Republican in the upper chamber, also wouldnt call Trumps statement a lie.

I dont know the answer to that, he said when asked if he agreed that as much at 5 million voted illegally. I dont know what that number is, and I guess youll have to get that info from[ Trump ].

Thune pointed to McConnells answer , noting that there are always some irregularities that go on in an election.How you quantify that, Im not sure. But[ Trump] must have his methodologies.

Pressed on if he thought millions committed voter fraud, Thune said, I dont know the answer to that.

Thune also dismissed the idea that Trumps repeated false asserts about voter fraud and crowd sizes would take away from Republicans is currently working on policy issues.

White House press secretarySean Spicer confirmed Tuesday that the president does believe millions voted illegally, but offered no proof to support that view.

Sen. Cory Gardner( R-Colo .) offered a more direct answer than his colleagues when asked about the presidents comments.

Look, I havent considered evidence of that but I know in Colorado we have tried to do everything we can to root it out, he said, but added fraud happens, we have to eliminate it.

Asked if Trumps refusal to accept that he lost the popular election and peddling in inaccurate information hurts the republic, Gardner said the public is interested in different issues.

I think what the American people are more interested in is that we have a Supreme Court justice that we can fill the court with whos going to do their best as legal guardians of the constitution, he said. I think theyre worried about tax reform; theyre worried about health care reform.

House Speaker Paul Ryan( R-Wis .) told reporters hes considered no proof to that effect when asked about Trumps comments.

Sen. Lindsey Graham( R-S.C .) was one of the only Republican lawmakers to give a real denunciation of Trumps voter fraud claims on Tuesday.

I would exhort the president to knock this off; this is the greatest republic on earth, were the leader of the free world, and people are going to start doubting you as a person if you maintain making accusations against our electoral system without justification, Graham told CNN in an interview. This is going to erode his ability to govern this country if he does not stop it.

Sen. John McCain( R-Ariz .) also dismissed the presidents erroneous affirmation Tuesday, adding that he learned to disregard some of Trumps most outrageous commentsa long time ago.

I patently have considered no evidence of illegal voting, McCain told CNNs Anderson Cooper. Honestly, Ive stopped reacting to everything that the president has stated and tried to work on the issues and the people that hes going to surround himself with.

Senate Democrats railed against Republicans for not forcefully rebuking Trump.

When these falsities are told, our Republican colleagues have an obligation to reject them , not to skirt around them, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer( D-N.Y .).

It remained unclear heading into Tuesday if anyone had challenged Trump when he told congressional leaders during the Monday night meeting that millions voted illegally, but Schumer said he addressed it.

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi( D-Calif .) told Trump thats not true where reference is said it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders( I-Vt .), who joined Schumer at Democrats leadership press conference, said Trumps statement should worry everyone.

What I dread about that statement … is that when Trump talks about 3 to 5 million people voting illegally, he is sending a message to every Republican governor in this country to go forward with voter suppression, Sanders said.

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