Asked about N.C. ballot scandal, Trump condemns all voting fraud, especially by Democrats

President Trump, who has made combatting election fraud one of his signature issues, didn’t want to discuss the most egregious example in recent American history, the documented instances of ballot tampering that on Thursday led North Carolina officials to invalidate the results of the 2018 election to Congress from the Ninth District.

“I condemn any election fraud,” said Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, where he was asked about the North Carolina case, in which operatives for the Republican candidate illegally collected and altered or destroyed absentee ballots.

But Trump quickly turned to discussing unproven allegations of voting irregularities that hurt Republicans. “When I look at what’s happened in California in the votes, there was just a case of where they found a million fraudulent votes…”

Trump and his administration have pushed the conspiracy theory that there were millions of illegal votes in California to explain why he lost the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Republicans have raised suspicions about the results of the 2018 midterms, when election-night leads by some GOP candidates evaporated after additional ballots were counted. There is no evidence historically to support Trump’s assertion, and multiple studies have found instances of voting fraud to be vanishingly small. A comprehensive 2014 report examining years of elections turned up 31 instances of credible fraud out of 1 billion votes cast. A survey of news reports after the 2016 election by the Washington Post turned up four reported instances. In February 2017, White House adviser Stephen Miller told ABC News that there was evidence that voters from other states were bused into New Hampshire. So far the administration not provided such evidence.

In May 2017, the president set up a commission to investigate voter fraud, which disbanded less than a year later without issuing a report.

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A pile of government pamphlets explaining North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law sits on table at a polling station as the law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary in Charlotte, North Carolina March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students head to their precinct to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The university provided bus transportation throughout the day to the precinct. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: A lone North Carolina State University student, right, votes in the primaries at the provisional ballot booth at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The Board of Elections will review voter's reasonable impediment form submitted with their provisional ballots to determine if their vote counts. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students stand in line to receive their ballots at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students wait in line to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The Board of Elections will review voter's reasonable impediment form submitted with their provisional ballots to determine if their vote counts. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images )
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images) *** Local Caption
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University senior Jonathan Powell reviews sample ballots before voting in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The Board of Elections will review voter's reasonable impediment form submitted with their provisional ballots to determine if their vote counts. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
A worker carries a sign that will be displayed at a polling place that will inform voters of the new voter ID law that goes into effect in 2016 at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Am election worker checks a voter's drivers license as North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary election at a polling place in Charlotte, North Carolina March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
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It is unclear which case Trump was referring to when he cited “a million fraudulent votes,” but PolitiFact did debunk a Facebook rumor in November that 1.7 million people had voted illegally in California.

The president also mentioned Texas, where Republican officials raised, and then largely retracted, claims of large-scale voter fraud. On Jan. 25, Texas officials reported that 95,000 registered voters had at one point identified themselves as noncitizen, legal residents and that 58,000 of them had voted at least once since 1996. A few days after those numbers made headlines and earned a Trump tweet, officials began to question their own numbers, contacting Texas counties to tell them there was flawed data and some of the residents on the list had already provided proof of citizenship. The state is facing three federal lawsuits over the botched attempt to review the rolls.

A similar 2012 effort in Florida initially found 180,000 names on a list that ended up revised down to 198.

Last year a Texas woman was given a five-year prison sentence for attempting to vote in the 2016 presidential election despite having been stricken from the rolls owing to a previous felony conviction. She cast a provisional ballot that was not counted.

Trump had said nothing in public about the race in North Carolina’s Ninth, where an operative working for the Republican candidate has been accused of tampering with absentee ballots. There have been no criminal charges filed in the case but the state election board voted unanimously to throw out the results, in which the Republican, Mark Harris, was originally declared the winner by 905 votes. Harris’s victory was never certified and he never took the seat. A new election has not yet been scheduled.

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