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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the U.S. election, the White House said on Tuesday, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

“The president does believe that,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

State officials in charge of the Nov. 8 election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and there is no history of it in U.S. elections. Even House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he had seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

Republican Trump won the Electoral College that decides the presidency and gives smaller states more clout in the outcome, but he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump has repeatedly said he would have won the popular vote, too, but for voter fraud. He has never substantiated his claim.

The comments were the latest in a series of distractions in the opening days of the Trump administration that run the risk of overshadowing his legislative goals and efforts to advance policy proposals.

On Saturday, the day after his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, Trump complained about media coverage of the crowds that attended his swearing-in ceremony and described journalists as “among the most dishonest people on Earth.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)

IMAGE: Citizens vote on a basketball court at a recreation center serving as polling place during the U.S. general election in Greenville, North Carolina, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

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