President Donald Trump reportedly told congressional leaders a story he heard from golfer Bernhard Langer to back his unsubstantiated claims that 3 million to 5 million "illegals" voted in the 2016 election.
Trump repeated his claim about widespread voter fraud, which is backed by no evidence, in a Monday meeting with lawmakers. When Democrats called foul, Trump relayed a story that he said Langer told him, The New York Times reported, citing three staff members who were in the room.
Trump said that Langer, a two-time Masters champion, waited in line to vote in Florida on Election Day before an official said he was not allowed to, witnesses told the Times. Trump went on to say that Langer stood next to people who did not look like they should be allowed to vote but who were able to cast provisional ballots, the newspaper reported.
Trump then floated the Latin American countries those voters could have hailed from, according to the Times. The report said the story "was greeted with silence" and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus urged Trump to change the subject.
A White House official disputed that version of events, saying Trump told a story passed to Langer by one of his friends, according to the newspaper. Langer's daughter told the Times that her father is a German citizen who cannot vote in the United States and is not a friend of Trump.
In a statement Thursday, Langer said the story was mischaracterized and stressed that he cannot vote.
"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," Langer said in a statement.
Trump has used his unsubstantiated belief that millions voted illegally to call for a "major investigation" into voter fraud.