WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump told Capitol Hill leaders Monday evening that he lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million “illegals” voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to three sources in both parties familiar with the meeting.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote in November’s election because of voter fraud. There is no evidence of this, and none that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for Clinton. It’s a fixation for Trump, who won the election because of Electoral College votes, but has had trouble accepting that Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million.
“I don’t think he was joking,” said one person familiar with what happened in the meeting. “He spent 10 minutes on his win and said he won the popular vote, except 3 to 5 million illegals voted for” Clinton.
Another source confirmed Trump used the word “illegals,” considered an offensive term for undocumented immigrants.
This was Trump’s first official meeting with congressional leaders since being sworn in as president on Friday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was among those in the room, was asked by White House reporters after the meeting if Trump made any surprising statements.
“Well, I won’t even go into that,” Pelosi said.
In addition to the electoral outcome, congressional leaders and Trump discussed an array of policy issues, including replacing Obamacare and the administration’s push for additional infrastructure spending.
According to a source familiar with the meeting, Trump “was enthusiastic” about infrastructure spending and pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ― who also was in attendance ― didn’t share that interest.
McConnell has been skeptical of federal expenditures on infrastructure, arguing that it would hurt the deficit. The source said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), McConnell’s whip, also noted that the GOP leader would be tough to sell on the idea, while Pelosi argued to the president that any infrastructure expenditure had to be in the form of real dollars and not tax breaks.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who attended the meeting with the president, said on Tuesday he had “seen no evidence” of widespread voter fraud.
“I’m a policy guy. I’m going to sit here and focus on policy,” he told reporters at a weekly briefing.
Matt Fuller contributed reporting.