Trump meets with congressional leaders, reiterates unsubstantiated voter fraud claims
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump privately told congressional leaders Monday he wants to move forward with an ambitious agenda, including to repeal and replace Obamacare and to pass legislation bolstering the country’s infrastructure.
But he also brought up two past grievances — mentioning his inauguration crowd size and reiterating an unsubstantiated claim that 3 to 5 million illegal votes cost him the popular vote, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.
The meeting — with the top eight House and Senate leaders from both parties — was mostly social, barely touched on the issues and didn’t go into much detail about Trump’s policy preferences, Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer told CNN shortly after the meeting.
“This is largely an opportunity for him to get to know members of the leadership that he did not already know,” Hoyer said.
Trump told the congressional leaders — including the Democrats — that it’s his intention to provide “something that is better and more affordable” than Obamacare, Republican Sen. John Cornyn said, adding that the Democratic leaders pushed back when he said that.
Trump also told the congressional leaders that in the letter that former President Barack Obama left for him, Obama said he could support a bill brought by Trump if it improved upon his signature domestic policy.
In Hoyer’s retelling, Obama said he would support Trump-backed health care legislation if it provided “greater access, greater health care assurance to people, greater quality and bring costs down.”
“Yes, President Obama said that, and we agree with that. And we told Trump that we agreed with that. But the fact of the matter is, we haven’t seen anything that does that,” Hoyer added.
Hoyer told CNN that Trump also brought up his inauguration crowd size at the gathering.
“He didn’t change his point of view on the crowd size,” Hoyer said. “It was from his perspective a very large crowd … it was clear this was still on his mind.”
Trump also reiterated the unsubstantiated claim that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes cost him the popular vote, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.
The president has previously made this claim, tweeting in November: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and at the time, many speculated Trump was referencing a series of fake stories on conspiracy websites that said he actually beat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote count.
Cornyn said that they also discussed getting his nominees confirmed; and said the group discussed infrastructure spending as an area to find “common ground.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, made “the important point” that it should be “paid for because we got $20 trillion in debt,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn added that the group did not discuss the Supreme Court.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said it was a positive meeting but not an in-depth policy discussion. It was “about building relationships.”
Nominations came up and Trump “gently pressed” on his desire to move faster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear there are nominees the Democrats just don’t think are possible at this point.
McConnell told CNN that the meeting was “pretty lighthearted.”