Presidential contender Donald Trump gestures to the media on the 17th fairway on the first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, July 30, 2015.
Photo by Scott Heppell/AP

Trump offered bizarre evidence to back up voter-fraud falsehoods

Why in the world does Donald Trump believe millions of illegal votes were cast in the presidential election? The New York Times reported overnight on the evidence the new president presented to congressional leaders during a meeting earlier this week. In many respects, this one story tells you practically everything you need to know about Donald Trump.

As the Times’ Glenn Thrush reported, the president, resentful about coming in second in the popular vote, repeated the delusional idea that he secretly came in first after accounting for votes from undocumented immigrants. When Democrats at the meeting balked, Trump shared his proof: an anecdote he heard from Bernhard Langer, a professional golfer the president characterized as a friend.
The witnesses described the story this way: Mr. Langer, a 59-year-old native of Bavaria, Germany – a winner of the Masters twice and of more than 100 events on major professional golf tours around the world – was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day, the president explained, when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote.

Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members – but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from.
The story was reportedly greeted with silence from congressional leaders. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus quickly encouraged Trump to change the subject.

Why is this the perfect Donald Trump story? Because it checks so many boxes: Trump got to brag about knowing a celebrity, who shared a bizarre and racially charged anecdote, which the president believed because he lacks anything resembling critical-thinking skills, which then led the president to concoct a broader conspiracy theory about immigrants, which in turn helped soothe Trump’s bruised and unhealthy ego.

Rachel described the story as “insane,” which it clearly is. It’s also Donald J. Trump in a nutshell.

The closer one looks at the details, the crazier the story becomes. It turns out, Bernhard Langer’s family says he’s not friends with Trump, and in an ironic twist, the golfer is a German citizen who can’t legally vote anyway. (Whether Langer actually tried to cast an illegal ballot is unclear; it’s possible Trump just made-up the entire scenario.)

What’s more, the Times’ article quoted White House sources saying Langer wasn’t the voter in question, but rather, he shared an anecdote with Trump about someone he knows.

In other words, the president believes undocumented immigrants cast in upwards of 5 million votes last year in part because of a story he heard second-hand from a German golfer about people “who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote” because of their skin color.

Trump not only accepted all of this at face value, he’s also prepared to use the machinery of the federal government to pursue imaginary fraud because of the anecdote.

This man is now the Leader of the Free World.

I’m reminded anew of something Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote in March: “Among the most important tasks the president has is knowing what to believe, whom to listen to, which facts to trust, and which theories to explore. Trump’s terrible judgment in this regard is one of the many reasons he’s not qualified for the office.”

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wonder if the president’s issues are gradually getting worse.