Here are some facts about the presidential election. Donald Trump won thanks to electoral votes. He has a majority. Recounts in a handful of states are considered very, very unlikely to change that. Another fact is that Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report vote tracker puts Trump behind by about 2.2 million votes as of the latest count. In response to that fact, the president-elect last night made a claim, without evidence, that millions of illegal votes were cast against him. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is on the line now to talk about that and more. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: Why would the president-elect say that with no evidence?
LIASSON: Well, we don't know why. He doesn't like losing. He lost the popular vote, and it seems that's really bothering him. But, you know, the saga of the rigged election by Donald Trump has taken a lot of twists and turns. In the summer, he said he could only lose if the election was stolen. He predicted massive voter fraud before any votes were cast. Then, when Jill Stein, this — one of the third-party candidates — started a recount in several states, he issued a statement saying the results of the election should be respected instead of challenged.
Now, in a series of tweets, he seems to have reversed himself completely and is claiming without any evidence that he would have won the popular vote except for these millions of undocumented immigrants casting illegal votes. There is no evidence for this. It's being pushed by a right-wing website called Infowars, run by Alex Jones, who's a big supporter of Trump.
This website promotes a lot of conspiracy theories, including one that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was faked in order to promote gun control legislation. So it is remarkable to have a president-elect make unfair, unfounded claims that don't even matter. As you said, Donald Trump won the election.
INSKEEP: And the few cases of fraud that were caught during the election season included a person who tried to vote twice for Donald Trump. There's just no evidence here whatsoever.
LIASSON: Not at all. You know, he did say in some of his tweets that there was massive fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California — three states he lost. If that's the case, wouldn't he want a recount in those three states, or even a national recount? You know, there are a lot of theories about why he's doing this. One, maybe he's not secure in his victory. Two, maybe he's trying to distract from stories about his business dealings with foreign governments abroad, which might prove unconstitutional, or that he's falsely sowing this voter fraud story to lay the groundwork for more restrictive voting laws.
INSKEEP: Well, now, there is this recount going on. It's been requested by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton's campaign is beginning to get involved. Where does all that stand?
LIASSON: Well, it's been requested by Jill Stein, as you said. Hillary Clinton's lawyers are participating in Wisconsin and any other states that might grant one. The Clinton campaign said they would never have started this recount. They don't have any evidence of hacking or irregularities, but this is due diligence on their part, as long as this recount has been started. No one expects the recount to change the result. Hillary Clinton has conceded, and that is not changing.
INSKEEP: Let me ask about one other thing, Mara Liasson, you mentioned Trump's business dealings abroad. It's become clear that he's discussed business and public policy. He acknowledges he might have done that on the same phone call already as president-elect. How is the White House intending to handle this?
LIASSON: We don't know yet. They say that the White House counsel will resolve this issue. They've said in the past that he's going to turn his business over to his children. I don't really know how that separates him from it, but he does have business dealings all over the world. And in some cases — the Philippines — his business partner is a special envoy to the United States.
INSKEEP: And federal ethics laws do not apply to the president, as Trump has pointed out.
LIASSON: Well, conflicts of interest laws don't, but there is the Emoluments Clause, which said that the president cannot take anything from any foreign government that would be considered a benefit. And, of course, if he's getting revenue from foreign governments or foreign government-owned businesses, that could be a problem.
INSKEEP: And that is a clause of the United States Constitution. Mara, thanks very much.
LIASSON: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.