Donald Trump falsely claimed that “John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, was quoted in WikiLeaks as saying, illegal immigrants could vote as long as they have their driver’s license.” Podesta said no such thing.
Trump made the claim at a rally in Delaware, Ohio, the day after the third presidential debate, which was headlined by Trump’s refusal to say whether he would accept the results of the election.
The Republican nominee has repeatedly in recent days made false claims about rampant voter fraud, which we debunked in our story “Trump’s Bogus Voter Fraud Claims.” In Ohio on Oct. 20, Trump again brought up voter fraud, saying, “We have to have fairness.” And he added a new bogus bit, telling his supporters that Podesta, whose alleged hacked emails are being made public by WikiLeaks, had talked about illegal immigrants voting as long as they had driver’s licenses.
Trump told the crowd: “What I’m saying is don’t be naive folks. Don’t be naive.”
We wholeheartedly agree with that notion.
And, in fact, it wouldn’t take a skeptical voter long to find the Podesta email in question online and learn that it says not one word about illegal immigrants. Nor does it say anything about encouraging fraudulent votes.
Instead, the apparent email chain, from early 2015, is a discussion about whether the campaign should propose ways to make it easier for people to register to vote. The email is based on a poll one of the staffers sent on millennials, who said they favored online voting.
We note that the Clinton campaign hasn’t confirmed the accuracy of the emails released by WikiLeaks.
But in the email, Podesta voices support for the idea of online voter registration and then adds his thoughts on the larger issue of voter identification.
Podesta, WikiLeaks email, Feb. 3, 2015: I think Teddy’s idea [online registration] scratches the itch, is pretty safe and uncomplicated. On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a drivers license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in Federal elections.
So, how does Trump twist that into a comment about illegal immigrants voting, and the suggestion that the Clinton camp is encouraging it? Well, the claim is circulating on conservative blogs, such as The Gateway Pundit, which made the false claim on Oct. 19 and provided a link to the full email. Fox Business host Stuart Varney even picked it up, telling viewers on Oct. 20 that Podesta “thinks it’s OK for illegal immigrants to vote. Just get them a driver’s license.”
The full email chain — and even Podesta’s comment on its own — doesn’t show Podesta saying that.
The email shows Clinton supporters — this was before her campaign was launched — discussing a poll of millennials, which found the Democrats polled favored Clinton for president. Mandy Grunwald, now a senior communications adviser to the Clinton campaign, writes on Feb. 3, 2015: “I think the millennial support for voting online is really interesting. Might make a good proposal for the campaign. Good counterpoint to all the roadblocks GOP is putting up to making voting harder.”
The poll, by Fusion, a media company geared to young people, had found that 49 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote if they could do so online.
Then, Teddy Goff, another adviser, responds: “I agree with that – though there are some security/fraud and some ‘big brother’ type concerns that we would need to expect some blowback on. An easier place to start would be universal online voter registration – right now only 20-some-odd states allow online registration, with the rest requiring delivery of a paper form. What an anachronism – how many millennials do you know with easy access to a printer, envelopes, and stamps?”
A few more staffers make comments on millennials and voter registration.
Then Podesta weighs in with his comment: “I think Teddy’s idea scratches the itch, is pretty safe and uncomplicated. On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a drivers license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in Federal elections.”
And from that, conservative bloggers and now Trump make the false leap that “John Podesta … was quoted in WikiLeaks as saying, illegal immigrants could vote as long as they have their driver’s license.” He wasn’t quoted saying any such thing.