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WH: Trump believes millions voted illegally

President Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday.

The spokesman doubled down on the false claim after the president raised it Monday night during a reception with congressional leaders.  

“The president does believe that. He has stated that before,” Spicer told reporters at the daily press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

The spokesman stopped short of saying the claims are true.

“He continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.”

The fact that Trump raised the issue with congressional leaders during a Monday meeting intended to pave the way for legislation work raised eyebrows. It suggested to many that Trump continues to be bothered by the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE by 3 million votes. 

It gave ammunition to Democrats, who pounced on the comments Tuesday. Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump attacks ‘Crazy Bernie’ Sanders over Medicare plans Overnight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE (I-Vt.) proclaimed Trump "delusional."

"That is a total nonsensical statement," he told reporters at a weekly press conference, 

Spicer at his first full briefing on Monday won strong reviews from the media after he was harshly criticized over the weekend for falsely claiming from the White House rostrum that more people attended Trump's inauguration in person than any previous inauguration.

It was part of a shaky weekend for the White House that also included a trip by Trump to the CIA that came under criticism when the president used the visit to talk about the size of the inaugural crowd. 

Despite the explosive nature of Trump’s continued references to voter fraud, Spicer said the president has no interest in pursuing a formal investigation.

“No, I think he won very handily with 306 electoral votes, 32 states," the spokesman said. "I think he is very comfortable with his win. … It’s a belief he maintains.”

With reporters continuing to pepper Spicer about why the administration would not want to investigate if it believed that millions had committed voter fraud, Spicer said, "Let's not prejudge what we may or may not do in the future."

But when asked if he was opening the door to an investigation, Spicer added that while "anything is possible," there is "no investigation."

"My point to you is, to ask us on day two, he made a comment last night on something he's believed for a long, long time," Spicer said.

Spicer later added that it's not his job to say whether he personally believes millions of ballots were illegally cast.

While Trump maintains his view on rampant voter fraud, other Republicans have debunked his claims.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that he’s seen “no evidence” of voter fraud.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was critical of Trump during the campaign, urged the president to stop making the claims.

“I am begging the president: Share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it,” Graham said.

Transition officials have previously pointed to a 2012 Pew Research study, estimating that one out of every eight voter registration forms is either inaccurate or not valid. However, fact-checkers have cautioned that does not mean that those people are fraudulently voting.

A few weeks after the 2016 election, a transition official provided The Hill with a 45-page memo showing accusations of voter fraud in the past several election cycles. It reports up to 20 “potentially fraudulent” voter registrations in Virginia last year and 430 criminal convictions of election fraud by last October from conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.

But the memo only cites a handful of potential cases and doesn’t account for the claims that millions of people have committed voter fraud.

Lisa Hagen and Ben Kamisar contributed.