CNN Reporter on Trump: 'Maybe He Didn't Win'

By Susan Jones | January 25, 2017 | 6:55am EST
White House spokesman Sean Spicer (AP Photo)

( - At the beginning of Tuesday's White House briefing, spokesman Sean Spicer listed everything Donald Trump has done since he became president five days ago. The long list includes various meetings with business, union and congressional leaders and the signing of executive orders intended to boost the U.S. economy and job market.

But for some White House correspondents, the only thing that mattered on Tuesday was not what Trump has accomplished so far, but his offhand remark at a private reception for lawmakers Monday night, where Trump apparently repeated his belief that between three million and five million votes had been cast illegally.

Trump has said this before, even tweeting on Nov. 27, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." But suddenly, it's "news" again.

At Tuesday's White House briefing, six different reporters pressed Spicer on Trump's latest claim, paving the way for mainstream media outlets and congressional Democrats to focus on Trump's "fiction" (as CNN's Jake Tapper called it), instead of reporting what Trump has accomplished so far.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny actually told Spicer at Tuesday's briefing, "Maybe he didn't win."

Zeleny was the fourth of six reporters to ask Spicer on Tuesday about Trump's comment at the Monday evening reception.

"You said the president believes that there was voter fraud. I wonder if you believe that? You were at the Republican National Committee at the time and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was  the chairman of the RNC the time. Do you believe there was widespread voter fraud?" Zeleny asked Spicer.

"Listen, my job is not--" Spicer began. But Zeleny wasn't finished:

"And do you -- how could he be comfortable with his win if he believes...there were three million votes? Maybe he didn't win," Zeleny said.

Spicer said Trump is "very comfortable with his win."

"It's an electoral-based system," Spicer said. "He got 306 electoral votes, 33 of 50 states voted for him. I think -- look, Jeff, I've asked and answered this question twice. He believes what he believes based on the information that he's provided."

Spicer then turned to another reporter, but Zeleny continued: "What does that mean for democracy, though, Sean? What does that mean--"

"Thanks, Jeff," Spicer said.

Zeleny again: "If he does believe that, what does that mean for democracy?"

"It means that I've answered your question," Spicer said, turning away.

"Have you?" Zeleny shot back.

Five other reporters asked Spicer about Trump's belief in voter fraud:

"Does the president believe that millions voted illegally in this election? And what evidence do you have of widespread voter fraud in this election, if that's the case?" said ABC News's Cecilia Vega, the first reporter to raise the topic at Monday's briefing.

"The president does believe that," Spicer responded. "He has stated that before. I think he's stated his concerns of voter fraud, and -- and people voting illegally during the campaign, and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him."

Spicer did not say what evidence Trump has for such a belief.

A second reporter asked Spicer if the Trump administration will ask for an investigation into voter fraud.

Spicer indicated that the answer is no: "I think he was having a discussion with some folks and mentioned something in passing, which has been a long-standing belief that he's maintained. This isn't the first time that you've heard this concern of his."

Spicer also pointed to "studies," including one from Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who voted were non-citizens. "There's other studies that have been presented to him. It's a belief he maintains."

A short time later, Mara Liasson of NPR asked Spicer, "If three to five million people voted illegally, that is a scandal of astronomical proportions. Doesn't he want to restore American's faith in their ballot system? Wouldn't he want an investigation of this?"

"Well, maybe we will," Spicer finally conceded.

"The biggest scandal in American electoral history; three to five million people voting illegally," Liasson repeated.

"I -- and I think we -- I -- we'll see where we go from here," Spicer said. "But right now, the focus that the president has is on putting Americans back to work. It was a comment that he made on a long- standing belief."

NBC's  Hallie Jackson pressed Spicer on why Trump wouldn't "definitively say that he will investigate, if he believes and the administration position is that there was massive voter fraud?"

"First of all, the comment that he made was, he said three to five million people, you know, could've voted illegally. Based on the studies that he's seen. But he's very clear that he won the election based on the 306 electoral votes that he got. We're here on day two. I think let's not prejudge what we may or may not do in the future."

"If he lost, would he be upset?" Jackson asked.

"Of course he'd be upset. Who wouldn't be upset if they lost?" Spicer "He's very comfortable with the depth and breadth of the support that he got from the American people and the 33 states that voted for him, the nine of 13 battleground states, the 2,600 counties. He's very, very pleased with that."

And finally, NBC's Kristen Welker asked Spicer, "I just want to be clear about this investigation because you potentially opened the door for one. Have you discussed with the president how--"

"Which investigation are you referring to?" Spicer interrupted.

"Possibly investigating this voter fraud--" Welker said.

"No, I didn't. I did not -- no, I did not," Spicer said.

"You said it's possible," Welker replied.

"Anything's possible," Spicer said. "I -- no, I think at some point -- look, I was asked a question. There is no investigation. It's a -- I said it was possible. Anything is possible. It was a hypothetical question.

"My point to you is that to ask us on day two, he made a comment last night on something he has believed and said for a long, long time. And the question that was asked to me is whether or not -- so it's been asked and answered."

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