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USA

Trump reiterates claims of widespread voter fraud

US President Donald Trump still believes millions of people voted illegally in the November election, the White House has confirmed. The president also hinted at a major announcement on national security on Wednesday.

In a tweet on Wednesday, newly-inaugurated US President Donald Trump, said he would be asking for a "major investigation into voter fraud."

According to Trump, the investigation would include anyone "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]."

"Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!" Trump said.

The tweets on Wednesday came just hours after a press conference in which White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump's belief that millions of people had voted illegally in the November election was based on "studies and evidence." He did not, however, provide examples.

"I think he's stated his concerns of voter fraud, and people voting illegally during the campaign, and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him."

During the transition period after the November vote, Trump claimed he would have won the popular vote as well as the Electoral College vote that secured his victory had it not been for people voting illegally.

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Trump repeated the claim at a reception with members of Congress on Monday evening where he told attendees that between 3 million and 5 million people cast ballots illegally, the "New York Times" reported.

State officials in charge of the election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and there has been no history of it in US elections. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he had seen no evidence to back up Trump's claims.

Fact-checking website Politifact debunked the claims in November, and other independent studies found that incidents of voting fraud were likely isolated and were unlikely to occur on such a large scale.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic Party nomination to Hillary Clinton, said Trump was sending a message to Republican state governors to go forward with voter suppression.

"The great political and democratic crisis we face now in this country is not voter fraud, it is voter suppression. And it is my belief we have to do everything we can to make sure that everybody in this country who is legally able to vote is able to vote," Sanders told ABC News.

Series of policy decisions

Trump's comments came as he made significant policy decisions in the opening days of his administration.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump signed presidential memorandums to advance construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the United States and the Dakota Access pipeline, both of which had been blocked by his predecessor Barack Obama over environmental concerns.

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Since taking office on Friday, Trump has sent directives to curb the flow of information from several government agencies involved in environmental issues, issuing a media blackout for federal agencies.

On Saturday, he signed an executive order directing that the permitting process and regulatory burden for domestic manufacturers be streamlined to fix an "incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible" system.

On Monday, he officially pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and raised the prospect of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As well as reinstating a ban on abortion advice by beneficiaries of US funding, the president massively expanded the ban to any international organization receiving US funds for health programs.

On Wednesday, Trump said he planned to sign executive actions relating to limits on immigration and his proposed wall along the US-Mexico border, multiple reports said.

On Twitter, he promised a "big day for national security."

Trump is also poised to restore the Supreme Court's conservative majority, saying he would announce his choice next week to fill the seat left vacant since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia more than 11 months ago. Three federal appeals court judges are among those under close consideration.       

aw/cmk (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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