WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump has revived groundless claims of voter fraud, arguing in a lunch meeting with senators that he and former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte would have won in New Hampshire if not for voters bused in from out of state.
A GOP official with knowledge of Thursday's lunch conversation described the president's comments. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a private meeting.
There is no evidence of people being improperly bused into New Hampshire to vote.
Ayotte was present for the meeting at the White House with a bipartisan group of 10 senators because she is working with Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's Supreme Court nominee, to shepherd him around Capitol Hill for meetings. The discussion at Thursday's lunch partly involved Gorsuch's nomination as Trump looks for eight Democratic votes to get him over a procedural hurdle in the Senate.
In the course of the conversation Trump had a lighthearted exchange with Ayotte, who withdrew her support from Trump during last year's campaign after audio emerged of him boasting about groping women. Trump said he wished Ayotte had endorsed him like she'd endorsed Gorsuch and also made the comments about voting in New Hampshire.
"There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of major voter fraud in New Hampshire's elections," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement. "President Trump continues to spread a dangerous lie and it's long past time for Republican leadership in New Hampshire to stand up and defend our state's electoral system."
Later Friday, Ellen Weintraub of the Federal Election Commission called on Trump to "immediately share his evidence with the public and with the appropriate law-enforcement authorities so that his allegations may be investigated promptly and thoroughly."
"The president has issued an extraordinarily serious and specific charge," the commissioner said in a statement. "Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored."
Trump's comments were first reported by Politico.
It's the second time Trump has used a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers to make erroneous claims about voter fraud. Last month, during a bipartisan congressional leadership meeting at the White House, he claimed that he would have won the popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million immigrants in the country illegally voting for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
There is also no evidence of that. Trump recently vowed to set up a White House commission helmed by Vice President Mike Pence to pursue his claims of election fraud.