Trump Claims Voter Fraud, FEC Commissioner Wants Administration's Evidence
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's hear a challenge to the Trump administration's latest false claims about voter fraud. POLITICO reported that last week President Trump in a closed door Senate meeting said that illegal votes cost Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte her seat in the Senate and prevented him from carrying the state during the election. Last weekend, White House adviser Stephen Miller claimed that thousands of people were bussed from Massachusetts to vote illegally in New Hampshire although he had no evidence. Here's Miller with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking you as the White House senior policy adviser. The president made a statement saying he was the victim of voter fraud, people being bussed...
STEPHEN MILLER: And the president was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any evidence?
MILLER: And if this is an issue - the reality is is that we know for a fact you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country. Nobody disputes that.
INSKEEP: Actually, many people dispute that including Ellen Weintraub, who spoke with our colleague Rachel Martin. Weintraub is a commissioner with the Federal Election Commission. She was appointed by President George W. Bush. And she is asking the administration to turn over its evidence.
ELLEN WEINTRAUB: I've heard from thousands of people. And there are office holders, including Republican office holders in the state of New Hampshire, who's have already come out and said that there was no such fraud in that election.
RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: How do they know?
WEINTRAUB: Nobody has complained about it. Nobody's come forward with any evidence so far. And people have looked into it. There have been massive numbers of studies about voter fraud in the last number of years. The Southern Poverty Law Center has looked into it. Courts have looked into it. The National Association of Secretaries of States have looked into it. And nobody can find any evidence of this, which is why it would be so alarming if this was going on and there was evidence out there that nobody else had uncovered.
The concern is on the part of a lot of these people that allegations of voter fraud that may or may not have backup will be used to enact more stringent voter restrictions that will interfere with bonafide legitimate American citizens exercising their right to vote. And that is the voter fraud that we ought to be alarmed about.
MARTIN: It's my understanding the FEC doesn't actually investigate voter fraud, right?
WEINTRAUB: That is true.
MARTIN: So how would you like to see this unfold?
WEINTRAUB: I think first of all let's get the facts straight. And if we don't have a shared set of facts that everyone can agree to, then we are not going to be able to find common ground on what policies to adopt going forward. So let's start with the allegations that have been made and see if there's any backup for them. If there isn't, then I think a lot of people - I've heard from people in New Hampshire who say they want an apology. If there have been allegations that there was massive fraud in their election and there weren't, then they're offended by that.
MARTIN: Stephen Miller, the White House aide who we heard that clip from at the top, was not the first in this administration to claim widespread voter fraud, but this is the first time you have chosen to speak out. What was it about those comments? I mean, why now?
WEINTRAUB: Well, it's fairly early in the administration. There were comments made before the administration actually took office. And I would never speak out during the candidate phase. But I think when the president of the United States speaks out on an issue that goes to the very integrity of our elections, that really caught my attention, and I felt compelled to speak out as somebody who's spent my entire career trying to ensure government integrity and accountability.
And American citizens continue to have faith in our democracy and in our electoral integrity. If there are facts underlying this, then we need to get to the bottom of those facts. But if there aren't, then we should not be making policy decisions based on facts that don't really exist.
MARTIN: Ellen Weintraub is a commissioner with the Federal Election Commission. She talked to us in our studios in Washington. Thanks for coming in.
WEINTRAUB: Thank you so much.
INSKEEP: And she was talking with our colleague Rachel Martin.
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Correction Feb. 15, 2017
Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, spoke to NPR on her own behalf. A headline on an earlier Web version of this story incorrectly said she was speaking for the FEC.