A few weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Gregg Phillips, a conservative who "investigates" election fraud claimed he had identified more than 3 million illegal voters.
His nonsense accusation immediately picked up steam among the people looking to explain away Trump's popular vote loss. Alex Jones, the right's favorite conspiracy nut, took Phillips' tweet and ran an article about it on his site InfoWars. Jones' article was then picked up by the conservative news aggregator site The Drudge Report and shortly thereafter became one of the then president-elect's favorite excuses.
On November 27, without seeing any data to support Phillips' claim (he refused to release it when asked) Trump tweeted:
“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.”
Over the ensuing weeks, and as recently as Tuesday evening, Trump cited the "illegal voters" for his popular vote loss even though he has still not provided any evidence to support such a claim. However, now Phillips is claiming to know the names of the people who cost Trump his popularity contest and says he may release the names.
This week Phillips told The Daily Beast that he is "committed" to outing the voters:
“I committed from the outset to publish all of this data to the public. I’m gonna let the public see everything we’ve done. Our analysis, everything, will be published. We will also give copies to the federal government,” he said. “We’re gonna publish the entire data set.”
He claims that he obtained the "data" by working with True the Vote, a right-wing vote-monitoring group that is affiliated with the Tea Party King Street Patriots. Both of the groups were founded by Texas Republican organizer Catherine Engelbrecht.
The King Street Patriots and True the Vote don't exactly have a record of supporting free and fair elections, though. In 2012 True to Vote was under congressional investigation for voter suppression, and King Street Patriots have been successfully sued by the Texas Democratic Party for voter intimidation.
Although Trump has not specifically cited Phillips as his source for the voter fraud claim, Engelbrecht connected the dots for The Daily Beast, She said,“Months ago, [Phillips] sent out a tweet based on his independent analysis. It went viral. Suddenly it appeared in a story in Drudge, which was linked to the then-PEOTUS and… it was a surreal experience. No reporter ever contacted him until his connection to all of this had gotten way, way, way out of hand.”
Phillips did not lay out a timeframe for the release of the names because he claims he doesn't want to "hurt anybody," but he said they will be released. He claims to have 100,000 volunteers helping him "investigate" voter fraud.
It really comes as no surprise that President Trump seems to have gathered the information for his dangerous illegal voters claim from some random guy on Twitter. After all, this is a man who threatened to declare martial law on a city because of something that was said on television. Trump cites the elusive "they" to support their claims: "They said that...." or "they reported," without ever explaining who "they" are. And that would be fine except he is now in charge of what is arguably to most powerful and influential country in the world.
Instead of just getting a good laugh out of his obvious stupidity, we now have to fear that an unknown Twitter user is going to release the names of 3 million innocent Americans and Trump is going to retweet the list.
Welcome to Trump's America, where people have to live in fear of their own president. Isn't it great?
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