Donald Trump won the election but lost the popular vote, a fact he attributed this week to unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud. His evidence? A downright bizarre tale -- about professional golfer Bernhard Langer.
President Trump hosted a friendly gathering of House and Senate leaders on Monday night, a few days before he vowed to launch a "major investigation" into supposed voter fraud, when the two-time Masters champion suddenly and surprisingly found himself at the center of the controversy.
According to The New York Times, Trump repeated his claim that three to five million "illegals" had voted in the most recent election, and when a Democratic lawmaker challenged that assertion, he responded with the following story of Langer, recounted in The Times by unidentified witnesses:
"[Mr. Langer] was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day, the president explained, when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote. Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members -- but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from. Mr. Langer, whom he described as a supporter, left feeling frustrated, according to a version of events later contradicted by a White House official. The anecdote, the aides said, was greeted with silence, and Mr. Trump was prodded to change the subject by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas."
Langer, 59, lives in Boca Raton, Fla., and has permanent residence in the U.S., but he is a German citizen, and therefore not permitted to vote in U.S. elections.
"He is a citizen of Germany," Langer's daughter, Christina, told The Times, adding that her father was busy and not able to answer questions. "He is not a friend of President Trump's, and I don't know why he would talk about him."
A senior White House staffer, who claimed to have heard Trump recount that story before, told The Times that Langer met Trump in Florida in November and that's when he relayed the story.
On Thursday, Langer released the following statement:
“Unfortunately, the report in The New York Times and other news outlets was a mischaracterization by the media. The voting situation reported was not conveyed from me to President Trump, but rather was told to me by a friend. I then relayed the story in conversation with another friend, who shared it with a person with ties to the White House. From there, this was misconstrued. I am not a citizen of the United States, and cannot vote. It’s a privilege to live in the United States, and I am blessed to call America my home. I will have no further comment at this time.”