Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he would seek a probe into what he calls widespread voter fraud in the election that brought him to power, hammering away at allegations widely dismissed as baseless.
No public evidence has emerged of large-scale illegal voting in the November election, and Trump and the White House have failed to substantiate the president's claim, which he repeated this week.
Trump's own lawyers have stated in legal filings that there was no evidence of fraud in the November 8 election.
Even as major US media branded Trump's allegation an outright lie and lawmakers urged him to drop the subject and move on, the president stuck to his guns on Wednesday.
"I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time)," Trump wrote in the latest of his early morning tweet storms.
"Depending on the results we will strengthen up voting procedures!" Trump added.
Trump has dwelled at length on the results of an election he won, against all expectations.
He argues that were it not for illegal immigrants voting, he would have won not just the state-weighted electoral college but also the popular vote, which was taken by Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by around 2.9 million votes.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted Wednesday that there is a problem with the names of deceased people being on voter registration lists and with people being registered to vote in two or even three states.
Spicer dodged a question as to whether Trump was questioning the legitimacy of an election he won.
The spokesman said "taking the necessary steps" to study those voter registration anomalies and prevent them from happening again was "clearly in the best interest."
Hours after Trump told congressional leaders that as many as five million people could have voted illegally back in November, Spicer said Tuesday that this belief was based "on the studies he's seen."
"I think the president has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has," Spicer said, without providing documentation.
If proven, it would be an enormous political scandal.
Spicer said the Republican president nonetheless had confidence in the election outcome.
- 'Knock this off' -
The president has previously cited a Pew report from 2012 that concluded more than "1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters."
That report provided no evidence to support Trump's claim, first made in October, that "people that have died 10 years ago are still voting," or that others voted in their name.
David Becker, the primary author of the Pew report, tweeted in response to the Trump team's claims that he "can confirm that report made no findings re: voter fraud."
Trump has also cited an Old Dominion University study which suggested 14 percent of non-citizens said they were registered to vote.
But that study has been dismissed as having flawed methodology, with a sample size of under 1,000 and no link between being registered to vote and actually voting.
Even Trump's lawyers have stated there is no evidence of fraud in the 2016 election.
In a filing late last year against Green Party candidate Jill Stein's efforts to force a recount of votes in Michigan, they wrote: "All evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."
In Congress, Trump is not finding much backing for his claims.
Asked about alleged fraud, House speaker Paul Ryan said Monday, "I've seen no evidence to that effect."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina urged Trump to provide evidence for his allegations or "knock this off."
"This is going to erode his ability to govern this country if he does not stop it," Graham told CNN.