The first thing I did when I cracked open White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s 30-page compilation of President Trump’s voter-fraud greatest hits was check a footnote. The introduction claimed that, as of midnight on Election Day, Trump looked to be “well on his way to winning a second term,” given that he “was already a lock to win both Florida and Ohio.”

“No Republican has ever won a presidential election without winning Ohio,” the document notes, “while only two Democrats have won the presidency without winning Florida.”

I was curious about the source for that claim, so I checked Footnote 3. And, lo and behold, the source was … me, writing in 2016.

Of course, my point wasn’t that winning Ohio and Florida was a guarantee of victory. Instead, I was pointing out that there were certain states that Democrats and Republicans usually won before winning the presidency. Navarro’s right that no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio — but plenty of Democrats have, rendering his point entirely moot. And that’s even assuming that his point was useful at all anyway, which we shouldn’t. Bill Clinton lost Florida in 1992 while winning the presidency. Joe Biden did it this year, meaning that in one-fourth of the past eight elections it has happened. Hardly something particularly remarkable.

But this, in broad strokes, is how Navarro’s document operates. It throws out as near-certainties things that are unfounded, misrepresented or unimportant.

For weeks, the Trump campaign pointed to the Dec. 14 electoral college vote as what would ultimately decide the election as it tried to overturn the results. (The Washington Post)

His claims about who won what states are actually some of his better points. First, they are accurate and, second, his source was a reputable news organization. But his footnotes cite the blatantly pro-Trump Epoch Times more than The Washington Post and the New York Times combined. In fact, he celebrates his reliance on biased and flawed sources of information.

“From Steve Bannon’s War Room Pandemic and John Solomon’s Just the News to Raheem Kassam’s National Pulse, to Newsmax, and One America News Network,” Navarro writes, “Americans hungry for facts and breaking developments have been able to find such critical information only by following this alternative coverage.”

Put another way, Americans seeking dubious or debunked information are only able to find it from outlets willing to publish and air dubious and debunked information.

One of the hallmark characteristics of rhetoric from the White House is the substitution of volume for value. Trump offers dishonest statements with abandon, hoping that his audience will accept as true at least some small percentage of his blizzard of nonsense. But the White House also uses presenting a lot of accusations as somehow being evidence supporting the accusations, as though getting 500 people to say they believe aliens invented pistachios makes it more likely to be true than if one person said it. Navarro does this exact thing explicitly at one point, in fact, hyping widespread belief that something dubious occurred — belief fostered by Trump and the above-named media outlets — as evidence that it did.

The goal of Navarro’s document was largely to elevate unfounded suspicion by creating a catalogue of various false claims about the election, many of which have been similarly elevated by Trump. That includes most of the claims that we’ve not only debunked but also compiled as having been debunked. It includes analysis of the voting in Michigan from the guy who at one point erroneously presented Minnesota data as having come from Michigan.

It’s not a report. It’s a garbage dump.

It includes statements such as this:

“At midnight on the evening of November 3, and as illustrated in Table 1, President Trump was ahead by more than 110,000 votes in Wisconsin and more than 290,000 votes in Michigan. In Georgia, his lead was a whopping 356,945; and he led in Pennsylvania by more than half a million votes. By December 7, however, these wide Trump leads would turn into razor thin Biden leads — 11,779 votes in Georgia, 20,682 votes in Wisconsin, 81,660 votes in Pennsylvania, and 154,188 votes in Michigan.”

Right. Because they counted more votes — mail-in votes, which heavily favored Biden and couldn’t be counted before Election Day in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

If you are still making claims such as the one above, you should not be taken seriously. It can’t be said more plainly than that. It is the flat-Earth theory of election fraud, something that maybe people long ago were justified in believing but that, by now, has no place being treated as a serious argument. If Navarro sincerely believes this implies questionable activity, then his “report” should be treated as inherently ridiculous, since he hasn’t done his homework. If he doesn’t believe his insinuations, then the report shouldn’t be taken seriously, because it’s obviously aimed at misleading the reader.

This is by no means the only example of Navarro presenting as nefarious something that he can’t actually prove to be anything outside the norm.

Part of his report, for example, includes the claim that “outright voter fraud” occurred in each of the six states — fraud such as “bribery,” for which he includes a citation to a legal definition of the crime. (This is another feature of the Trump-world effort to prove fraud: making things seem more serious by injecting unnecessary efforts to demonstrate authority.)

Navarro alleges that bribery occurred in Arizona and Nevada. His evidence? Well, a report that, in Nevada, a group held a raffle that anyone who had voted could enter. This, he says, was an attempt to buy votes from Native American voters. The organization holding the raffle responded by pointing out that such raffles are legal. The Trump campaign included this allegation in a lawsuit in Nevada — one of the campaign’s numerous legal losses since the election. The judge in the case ruled that the campaign didn’t prove the allegation.

That happened two weeks ago, yet there was the claim in Navarro’s document.

Anyway, that’s just Nevada. What about the claim it also happened in Arizona?

“According to the Epoch Times, such vote-buying schemes also may have occurred in eight other states, including Arizona and Wisconsin,” the report states. Oh, well, if the Epoch Times says so.

The document just goes on at length in the same way, picking out the sort of cruft that’s been littering Trump’s Twitter feed since Nov. 3 and tying it all into one stinky package. It’s sincerely not worth running through the entire litany again; simply consider The Post’s Fact Checker articles as an effective rejoinder.

What we should do, though, is consider the broader context for Navarro’s claims. He focuses on the six states that have been targeted by Trump since the election. We’ve labeled them as the “irregularity” states below, to translate them to Navarro’s document, but one could also call them “swing states” — except that Michigan wasn’t really all that close.

Anyway, the point is that, if these were states where something demonstrably unusual happened, if there was some exceptional fraud at play, they would look different from other states. But, as we’ve repeatedly demonstrated, they don’t.

For example, Trump and his allies like to claim that it was fraud in big cities that led to Trump’s defeat in states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania — except that this demonstrably isn’t what happened. In the swing states, the shift to Biden relative to the 2016 vote was larger in more-suburban counties than in urban ones. This is the trend that gave Democrats the House in 2018 — an erosion of support for Trump among college-educated voters in the suburbs.

If we compare the average shifts in counties in each kind of state, the average shifts to Biden relative to Hillary Clinton were much larger in heavily urban counties in states that voted narrowly for Biden or Trump (meaning a statewide margin under 10 points) or heavily for Trump. But most of the shifts were to Biden, save in the most rural areas.

There’s similarly not any obvious difference in the county-level shifts when one considers education. We took the density of college degrees among those 25 or older in each county and put them in eight evenly sized buckets. In the counties with the highest density of college-educated voters, Biden saw bigger gains; in those with the lowest density, Trump did. (There are only three states that Biden won by less than 10 percent that aren’t in Navarro’s “irregularity” list, so consider that line a bit iffy.)

Again, the “irregularity” states don’t stand out.

Where things are interesting is when considering race. The most densely White and the most densely non-White counties shifted to Trump nationally, in part thanks to shifts in states that backed Trump. It also holds true in Biden’s best states, thanks to Trump’s better-than-2016 performance in some cities such as New York City.

But there’s nothing exceptional about the “swing states.” There’s no obvious pattern showing that particular places overdelivered for Biden in any particular way.

Of the 1,495 counties where the margins for Biden improved relative to Clinton’s margins in 2016, more than half were in states that voted for Trump. About two-thirds of counties in non-swing blue states shifted to Biden, as did 58 percent of swing-state counties. About 4 in 10 counties in red states did.

The burden of proof here lies with Trump and Navarro, the ones claiming fraudulent activity for which they have presented no credible evidence. The key word there is “credible,” of course — they’ve presented lots of evidence that is the electoral equivalent of shadowy photos of the Loch Ness monster. Navarro’s report is the functional equivalent of one of those shows where ghost-hunters bring various homemade electronic devices into abandoned townhouses before declaring authoritatively that the photo they took of a dust mite is, in actuality, a poltergeist.

And if you don’t believe me, allow me to prove my credentials: Navarro finds my analysis so reliable that he cites it in his report.