NEW YORK (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump is claiming, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the election he won, issuing the baseless claim as part of his angry response to a recount effort led by the Green Party and joined by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted Sunday. He later alleged “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.”
Trump’s transition team did not respond to questions seeking evidence of the claims.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said Monday that he had “not seen any voter irregularity in the millions.”
“I don’t know what he was talking about on that one,” Lankford said of Trump on CNN’s “New Day.”
Indeed, there has been no evidence of widespread tampering or hacking that would change the results of the presidential contest between Trump and Clinton. The Democrat’s team said it had been looking for abnormalities and found nothing that would alter the results.
Still, Clinton’s campaign was joining a recount led by Green Party candidate Jill Stein in up to three states. Wisconsin election officials are expected to meet Monday to discuss a possible timeline for a recount of that state’s presidential votes; recounts are possible in Pennsylvania and Michigan as well.
“We intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias said.
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and, as of Wednesday, held a lead of almost 11,000 votes in Michigan, with the results awaiting state certification Monday. All three would need to flip to Clinton to upend the Republican’s victory, and Clinton’s team says Trump has a larger edge in all three states than has ever been overcome in a presidential recount.
Still, Trump and his lieutenants assailed the effort, calling it fraudulent, the work of “crybabies” and, in Trump’s view, “sad.” Clinton leads the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, but Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, not counting Michigan.
Trump spent the Thanksgiving holiday at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida and returned to New York Sunday night. He was scheduled to hold a series of meetings with prospective administration hires Monday as he seeks to build out his Cabinet and senior White House staff.
Trump’s team was divided over his pick for secretary of state, one of the most prominent and powerful Cabinet posts. The president-elect is said to be choosing between former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee who fiercely criticized Trump throughout the presidential campaign.
In an unusual public airing of internal machinations, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway warned Sunday that the president-elect’s supporters would feel “betrayed” if he tapped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as secretary of state. Romney was “nothing but awful” to him for a year, she said.
The spectacle of close aides who speak frequently with Trump in private being so explicit about their personal opinions in public raised the possibility that Conway was acting at Trump’s behest. Romney denounced Trump in scathing terms during the campaign, prompting Trump to call him a “choker” who “walks like a penguin.”
People involved in the transition process said Trump’s decision on his secretary of state did not appear to be imminent. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and John Bolton, a former ambassador to the U.N., have also been under consideration.
Even with major administration decisions looming, Trump seems preoccupied by the prospect of a recount.
“Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in,” He tweeted Sunday. “Nothing will change.”
He quoted from Clinton’s concession speech — “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead” — and he concluded: “So much time and money will be spent – same result! Sad.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Conway said Stein, “the Hillary people” and others supporting recounts have to decide whether they are going to back a peaceful transition “or if they’re going to be a bunch of crybabies and sore losers about an election that they can’t turn around.”
Clinton’s lawyer said her team has been combing through the results since the election in search of anomalies that would suggest hacking by Russians or others and found “no actionable evidence.” But “we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” he said.
Pace reported from Washington. AP writers Laurie Kellman and Cal Woodward contributed to this report from Washington.