‘An uncomfortable silence’ momentarily overtook the room, said one participant.
resident Donald Trump can’t stop—won’t stop—talking about the election.
On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.
As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or “Sherpa,” on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil
The president claimed that he and Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from neighboring Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire.
According to one participant who described the meeting, “an uncomfortable silence” momentarily overtook the room.
Hillary Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire’s four electoral votes over Trump by nearly 3,000 votes. Ayotte’s margin of defeat was even slimmer: 743 votes.
The former senator could not be reached for comment Friday, but a GOP source familiar with the meeting noted that Trump also thanked Ayotte twice during the meeting for agreeing to serve as a congressional emissary for Gorsuch.
Trump also teased Ayotte, who distanced herself from him last summer after he attacked the parents of a Muslim Gold Star soldier for criticizing him during the Democratic Convention. “He told her, ‘You’d have won if you’d been on my train,’” one participant said.
During the meeting, Trump also reacted to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren being silenced on the Senate floor while trying to read a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King and in objection to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions before he was confirmed as attorney general. According to participants in Thursday’s meeting, Trump referred to Warren several times as “Pocahontas,” the moniker he gave her during his campaign, and told the Democrats he was glad Warren is becoming the face of “your party.”
His persistent and unfounded fraud claim is a sign that Trump, who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, continues to see himself as a victim of widespread voter fraud.
Just days after taking office last month, Trump tweeted a claim that as many as 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in the November election, enough to account for his popular vote deficit. He has not followed through on his vow to oversee a federal voter-fraud investigation.
Republicans and Democrats who oversee elections at the state level have repeatedly said there is little evidence of fraud and no need for such an investigation.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pressed about Trump’s unfounded claims during a White House briefing after Trump’s inauguration, press secretary Sean Spicer defended the president’s right to make such claims without explaining why he does so.
“The president does believe that,” Spicer told reporters. “It’s a belief that he’s maintained for a while, a concern that he has about voter fraud. And that’s based on information that’s provided.”
Thursday’s meeting was an attempt to foster bipartisan support for Gorsuch, whose confirmation requires 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats. Attending were: Sens. Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Lamar Alexander, Chris Coons, Shelley Moore Capito, John Cornyn, Chuck Grassley, Joe Donnelly and Michael Bennet.
Ayotte and White House counsel Don McGahn also took part, along with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.