In the weeks after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, his aides began searching for a narrative that could explain why he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Stephen Miller, a top aide now known as the driving force behind many of the Trump administration’s most draconian immigration policies, emailed a former Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney named J. Christian Adams. According to an email discussed during testimony compelled in a 2018 defamation lawsuit, this email was terse — the subject line read “vote fraud” and asked only “can you send some info on noncitizen voting.”
On Nov. 26, 2016, Adams responded to Miller by sending a report that his organization — the Public Interest Legal Foundation (or PILF) — had recently published, titled “Alien Invasion in Virginia.” The report alleged — falsely, it would turn out — to have discovered “1046 aliens who registered to vote illegally.” Evidently, this narrative worked for the Trump team. “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted the next day. In a second tweet hours later, he highlighted Virginia, New Hampshire, and California as places with significant fraud.
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