Three weeks after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was struggling badly to accept the fact that he received far fewer votes than his opponent. The Republican's discomfort was so intense, he started making up claims that bordered on delusion."In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide," Trump said, referring to a landslide that exists only in his imagination, "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." He soon after started referring to "the so-called popular vote."Two months later, the new president still has a tenuous relationship with reality.
At the top of President Donald Trump's agenda for his discussion with congressional leaders Monday night: relitigating the campaign, including saying "illegals" voting deprived him of a victory in the popular vote.The claim of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election, which Trump argued in late November, has been widely debunked.Two sources confirmed to NBC News that Trump spent about the first 10 minutes of his bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders at the White House talking about the campaign and about how 3 million to 5 million "illegals" voted in the election, causing him to lose the popular vote.
The rationale for the president's brazen lying is easy to understand. Americans were given a choice between two major-party candidates; Trump lost by nearly 3 million votes; and he lacks the tools necessary to deal with the implications of the results.As a result, the president apparently finds it necessary to keep reality at arm's length, because the truth hurts his feelings. It leads him to embrace a comforting, albeit ridiculous, lie -- or to use the Trump White House's preferred parlance, alternative facts.That said, this is the sort of lie that should give pause to all Americans, including Trump's most ardent Republican followers.The idea that Trump secretly won the popular vote after excluding illegally cast ballots is plainly bonkers. After he made the claim the first time, it was thoroughly researched and proven to be demonstrably wrong. Trump's own lawyer said, in print, under penalty of court sanction, that the claim isn't true.Trump, comforted by the fiction he created, nevertheless still believes his lie, raising as-yet-unanswered questions about the new American president's critical thinking skills, discipline, and capacity for evaluating evidence.But even if Republicans are inclined to look past those questions for purely partisan reasons, there's still another reason to be alarmed: Trump has now publicly questioned -- twice -- the integrity of the voting process in the 2016 election, which is the exact opposite of what GOP officials and leaders should want to hear.In other words, as many of the White House's top officials push back against concerns about Trump's legitimacy, Trump himself keeps questioning the legitimacy of the election that put him in office.And even if Republicans are prepared to ignore this aspect of the controversy, too, there's no real upside for the party to have its new president throw the GOP off-message right now, relitigating systemic voter fraud that doesn't actually exist.White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters yesterday that when it comes to this administration, “sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” Whether he realizes it or not, that's a recipe for deliberate self-delusion.I keep thinking the Trump presidency has nowhere to go but up. I keep being proven wrong.