At the beginning of Tuesday's White House briefing, spokesman Sean Spicer listed everything Donald Trump has done since he became president five days ago. The long list includes various meetings with business, union and congressional leaders and the signing of executive orders intended to boost the U.S. economy and job market. But for some White House correspondents, the only thing that mattered on Tuesday was not what Trump has accomplished so far, but his offhand remark at a private reception for lawmakers Monday night, where Trump apparently repeated his belief that between three million and five million votes had been cast illegally.
Trump has said this before, even tweeting on Nov. 27, "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." But suddenly, it's "news" again. At Tuesday's White House briefing, six different reporters pressed Spicer on Trump's latest claim, paving the way for mainstream media outlets and congressional Democrats to focus on Trump's "fiction" (as CNN's Jake Tapper called it), instead of reporting what Trump has accomplished so far. CNN's Jeff Zeleny actually told Spicer at Tuesday's briefing, "Maybe he didn't win."
Zeleny was the fourth of six reporters to ask Spicer on Tuesday about Trump's comment at the Monday evening reception. "You said the president believes that there was voter fraud. I wonder if you believe that? You were at the Republican National Committee at the time and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was the chairman of the RNC the time. Do you believe there was widespread voter fraud?" Zeleny asked Spicer. "Listen, my job is not--" Spicer began. But Zeleny wasn't finished: "And do you -- how could he be comfortable with his win if he believes...there were three million votes? Maybe he didn't win," Zeleny said.
Spicer said Trump is "very comfortable with his win." -- "It's an electoral-based system," Spicer said. "He got 306 electoral votes, 33 of 50 states voted for him. I think -- look, Jeff, I've asked and answered this question twice. He believes what he believes based on the information that he's provided." Spicer then turned to another reporter, but Zeleny continued: "What does that mean for democracy, though, Sean? What does that mean--" -- "Thanks, Jeff," Spicer said. -- Zeleny again: "If he does believe that, what does that mean for democracy?" -- "It means that I've answered your question," Spicer said, turning away. "Have you?" Zeleny shot back.