When Trump said Monday in a meeting with congressional leaders that millions of undocumented immigrants had voted in the election for Hillary Clinton and cost him the popular vote, it wasn’t the first time he’d made such a claim.
It was the first time, however, he’d made it from the White House as the President of the United States.
It was just another blip on the crowded radar for congressional Republicans who have found themselves simultaneously exhilarated by the idea of a Republican presidency and deeply worried that Trump could pull them off course with his unpredictability and tendency to fixate on his own popularity.
“I think we should be talking about the future. We have lots to do. You know tax reform and regulatory relief and replacing the Affordable Care Act with something better,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), when asked about Trump’s comments that millions had voted illegally in the election. “The election is behind us. You know he won.”
It has been a roller coaster few days. After talking about “American Carnage” during his inauguration, Trump’s bizarre appearance at the CIA is still baffling to many. White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s performance a few hours later went felt more like the closing statements against the media in a courtroom than an inaugural briefing.
The Sunday shows were a strange display of Trump’s foot soldiers trying to win the already lost first day in office.
But, Republicans have also watched Trump take action on some key priorities they have long been waiting for. On Monday, Trump moved ahead with three executive orders. One, abandoning the Trans Pacific Partnership, which was met with praise by some Republicans and criticism by others. And, another executive order that put a freeze on federal hiring. On Tuesday, Trump revived the Keystone Pipeline, another key priority for many Republicans.
“If he weren’t getting so many other things done, maybe I’d wonder whether or not that was taking away from him hitting the ground and moving pretty quickly, but this is Tuesday. This is his second full day on the job. He’s got a lot of meaningful things done,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) who praised Trump’s executive actions.
Tillis called Trump’s comments about crowd size and undocumented immigrants voting “irrelevant” in the grand scheme of things.
For Republicans, Trump may be unorthodox, but he’s more closely aligned with them than President Barack Obama was and that makes it easy for them to look past his tenuous relationship with the truth.
“I’m just not concentrating on that. I’m looking at the policies he’s putting forward, and they look good to me,” Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) said, when asked about Trump’s claim that millions of undocumented immigrants had committed voter fraud.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said he wasn’t even paying that close attention to Trump’s first days.
“I’ve been working on health care. Truly health care,” Cassidy said. “I don’t want to be like in a bubble, but I’m thinking about health care and getting our plan across.”
Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to down play Trump’s comments.
“There are always arguments on both sides about how much, how frequent and all the rest,” McConnell said about Trump’s voter fraud accusations Tuesday.
Other Republicans – two who pulled their support for Trump during the election– however, vehemently pushed back on the notion that Trump had been robbed of votes.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he had “no evidence of it” when asked about voter fraud.
“I don’t think there is any evidence to support that. He won the election. Move on,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said. “I’m not going to tell [Trump] what to do. I’m just saying he won the election, we ought to move on.”