WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump, who has claimed without evidence that his opponent Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the election last year because of fraud, has signed a directive establishing a commission to examine improper voting and voter suppression in federal elections.
The presidential commission will be led by Vice-President Mike Pence and will include current and former secretaries of state and election officials appointed by Mr Trump, said White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday.
The commission, which will have as many as 15 members, will provide a report on voter irregularities by next year.
Mr Trump said in February that he would establish a voter fraud task force led by Mr Pence, but there has been no public action or report by that task force.
Although Mr Trump won a majority of the electoral college votes that determine the winner of the presidential election under the Constitution, his Democratic opponent, Mrs Clinton, won the popular vote by three million ballots.
Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed that her tally was inflated by voter fraud, including by undocumented immigrants who are not eligible to cast votes.
During a private Jan 23 meeting with top congressional leaders, Mr Trump claimed that between three million and five million undocumented immigrants illegally voted in November's election. He reiterated the claim. "They all voted for Hillary. They didn't vote for me," Mr Trump said on Jan 25. "I don't believe I got one."
State election officials across the US have disputed his claim. Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union criticised the commission, saying it will likely lead to more barriers for minority and low-income voters.
Mr Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Centre for Justice, called the commission "a sham and distraction", alleging that the announcement was an attempt by Mr Trump "to pivot" from his firing this week of FBI director James Comey.
The League of Women Voters said: "The real purpose of this effort is to justify President Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 elections."
And Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: "This voter commission is a clear front for constricting the access to vote to poor Americans, and - above all - African Americans and Latinos."
BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST