Experts and elected officials on Monday dismissed Donald Trump’s claim that “millions” of Americans voted illegally on Election Day, as the Green Party redoubled efforts to organize ballot recounts in three key swing states.
The Republican billionaire’s shock victory on November 8 saw him clinch the crucial Electoral College count, which determines the presidency, but lose the popular vote to rival Hillary Clinton by more than two million votes.
Cloistered in his Florida resort for the long Thanksgiving weekend, the 70-year-old tycoon who has never previously held elected office took to Twitter to indulge in one of his customary tweet storms.
On Sunday, before returning by private jet to New York to resume meetings with potential cabinet picks, he claimed he would have won the popular vote if it were not for “the millions of people who voted illegally.”
“Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California — so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!” he followed up later.
His outburst came with steps being taken toward recounting votes in three swing states which Trump won: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The campaign of Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who won a tiny fraction of the vote in each state and where Trump beat Clinton by thousands of votes, announced Monday that voters had filed recount requests in more than 100 precincts in Pennsylvania and said more would follow.
The party requested a statewide recount in Wisconsin last Friday and plans to request a recount in Michigan on Wednesday, the campaign said.
But observers say there is no evidence of widespread fraud and few expect recounts to change the outcome of the vote, which former secretary of state Clinton conceded to Trump in an early-hours phone call on November 9.
Trump won 306 Electoral College votes, compared to 232 for Clinton after officials in Michigan on Monday certified the state’s election results.
Elected officials from both major parties dismissed Trump’s claims as totally unsubstantiated and some experts warned they set a dangerous precedent by potentially undermining trust in democracy or confidence in his leadership.
“I have not seen anything in the millions, I don’t know what he was talking about,” Republican Senator James Lankford told CNN.
At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said: “There has been no evidence produced to substantiate a claim like that.
“I think he’s trying to plant a seed of doubt in the American public to negate against the things advanced on the other side of the aisle about potential irregularities or even fraud that are the basis for the recounts,” said Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at Fordham University.
Trump spent weeks during the campaign warning that the result might be “rigged” and is now — with his aides — pushing back hard against proposed recounts.
Clinton’s campaign has said it would join the process, but has also said it does not so far see any evidence of hacking or vote tampering.
The dispute roils what is already been a rough transition period, with Trump in back-to-back meetings with people he is considering for cabinet posts.
On Monday, he also threatened to end the thaw in US relations with Cuba, following the death of Fidel Castro, unless Havana makes concessions on human rights and opening up its economy.
Discord has flared in the Trump camp over the pick for secretary of state, the most prestigious job in the cabinet — in particular over the candidacy of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
Other potential candidates are outspoken former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani; David Petraeus, the celebrated general who later resigned as CIA director and pleaded guilty to showing classified material to his mistress; and Bob Corker, a Republican lawmaker and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Petraeus arrived at Trump Tower to meet the president-elect on Monday. Trump was to meet Romney for a second time on Tuesday, in addition to a planned meeting with Corker.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was one of Trump’s most outspoken critics during the campaign, and Trump aide Kellyanne Conway declared, in an unusual public statement by a senior political aide, that she had received “a deluge” of concern from supporters warning against Romney.
Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties, and Paul Atkins, former commissioner of the security and exchange commission, were among those who arrived for scheduled meetings with Trump on Monday.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Monday revised its forecasts to say that Trump’s big-spending plan and tax cuts are expected to help double the US economic growth rate by 2018.