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Politics

Capitol Journal: Trump should forget the time-wasting voter fraud claims and focus on keeping — not making — America great

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump has alleged that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Maybe President Trump is delusional and really believes that Hillary Clinton received more votes than him only because millions were cast illegally.

That would include hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots in California, which virtually no one who knows anything about the voting process thinks is remotely possible.

Or maybe Trump is just spewing “alternative facts” — his White House’s gift to the national lexicon and comedy — and hoping people will buy the fiction.

It could also be because he’s setting up an excuse for the Republican-controlled Congress to further dilute voting rights by erecting more hurdles between Democrats and the ballot box. But I don’t think so.

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That would mean that Trump was actually trying to help the Republican Party. And, as we’ve seen, he is really all about himself.

What got him all hot and bothered after being sworn in? The inaugural crowd size. It couldn’t possibly have been smaller than Obama’s. The media was lying. But, of course, it certainly was smaller, and by a lot. Aerial pictures were proof.

His other nagging aggravation: More Americans voted for Clinton than him. That’s embarrassing. Enemies were challenging the legitimacy of his election, he believed, although I haven’t heard of one Democrat really doing that.

One thing we know: Trump becomes unhinged at the thought of receiving roughly 2.9 million fewer votes than Clinton nationally. And he thinks it’s largely because of illegal voting in California and other blue states.

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Californians cast roughly 4.3 million more votes for Clinton than for Trump. He drew a smaller percentage of the California vote — 31.6% — than any GOP presidential nominee in 160 years.

Trump must be the biggest sore winner in the history of American politics. You’d think he’d graciously accept winning the electoral vote — all that matters — and bask in goose bumps while walking into the Oval Office, then clam up about himself and focus solely on solving problems Americans care about. Temper the egotistic self-obsession.

But in his first meeting with congressional leaders, the president told them he lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally.

Later Trump tweeted he would seek “a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

OK, my hands are up. I surrender.

Updates from Sacramento »

A long time ago, 36 years, I moved to Virginia from California to cover the Reagan White House. As a native Californian who planned to return, I kept my voter registration. I wanted to vote in California elections. But I also planned to vote in Virginia elections, so I registered there, too. (They made me take an illegal Jim Crow-era reading test.)

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So I was registered in two states. Not illegal. But I never voted twice, which would have been illegal. Maybe I’ll escape the Trump inquisition, as presumably will his daughter, son-in-law, a Cabinet member and a strategist — all of whom also have been registered in two states simultaneously.

What’s truly scary is a commander in chief who sees things that don’t exist: record inauguration crowds, hordes of illegal voters, thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11. The danger for the nation is he’ll envision a false threat and squeeze the trigger.

We’ve already had a president who thrust us into a war chasing phantom weapons of mass destruction.

Moreover, bellowing wild charges about illegal voting threatens to tarnish American democracy in troubled countries that we’re hoping will become more like us.

It’s 180 degrees from how Republican Richard Nixon treated credible allegations of voter fraud in Illinois and Texas after he barely lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960. Tombstones voted for Kennedy in Mayor Richard Daley’s Chicago, journalists reported. In Democratic running mate Lyndon Johnson’s Texas, Nixon votes apparently were stolen.

Nixon was urged to challenge the election’s validity. But he refused, saying it could create a constitutional crisis and sully the United States’ image abroad.

Since then, election systems have developed effective cross-checks because of technology.

“We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump,” the bipartisan National Assn. of Secretaries of State declared in a statement last week.

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“The idea that you could have millions of noncitizens engaging in a vast conspiracy across many states — some of them run by Republicans — is beyond crazy,” says Richard Hasen, a UC Irvine law professor who is an election law expert.

So far in the 2016 election, he says, “four cases of voter fraud have been uncovered across the whole country, including a Trump supporter who voted twice.”

It’s unfathomable that immigrants here illegally would risk being nabbed by federal agents and deported just to vote for some politicians.

I asked Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County voter registrar, whether there was a problem of noncitizens trying to vote.

“I’ve never seen any incident of that,” he said. “There are severe penalties. It’s a felony.”

“It’s a lie,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said of Trump’s allegations, using a favorite word of the president. “President Trump’s statements are outrageous because he has no evidence.”

Do dead people still vote? “It’s all urban legend,” Padilla told me.

This is a time-wasting subject for a new president.

Trump needs to focus on keeping — not making — America great.

george.skelton@latimes.com

Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter

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