"... calling on Wednesday for an investigation into voter fraud, even though his own legal team has argued that no such fraud occurred," says the NYT.
I disapprove of the use of the phrase "false claim" in a news article. Trump deserves criticism if he is purporting to know things that he does not know, but the NYT is also asserting that it knows something it does not know. Trump's allegation could be true. How can you know for certain without a thorough investigation?
It would be much stronger for the NYT to say that Trump's statement is unsupported and merely a suspicion (a suspicion that supports his political interests).
The obvious reason for choosing to call it a false claim rather than an unsupported claim is that if we actually already know it's false, then no investigation is needed.
So the question is why would the NYT want to take that position? It makes me suspect that they are afraid something will turn up — if not 3 million illegal immigrants* voting, then other voting problems that are damaging to the Democratic Party.
I can see another reason to want to avoid an investigation: If there is an ongoing investigation, it will keep the question of illegal voting in the public eye. The NYT might want to say: There's no significant illegal voting, so let's just move on (or just talk about how dangerously delusional Trump is). But if there is an investigation, it prolongs our attention to the issue, and people's feelings about illegal voting are kept raw. There's no closure.
And there is resonance with other immigration issues. People hearing about the allegation and the investigation may feel stimulated to see the presence of illegal immigrants as a bigger problem than it actually is and they may increase their support for deportations and wall-building. Whatever the investigation eventually shows, those policies are going forward now and depend on public acceptance.
An investigation takes the pressure off Trump. We needn't dwell on whether he got it completely wrong or just alternative-factishly wrong. We can wait to see what the investigation says. And if the investigation says there is no illegal voting, Trump can take credit for finding that out for us (as he took credit for solving the mystery of whether Obama was born in the United States). The investigation, however, is likely to find at least some problems, and the focus can easily shift to those, causing us to forget about the precise allegation that got the investigation started. (I'm thinking about how the Whitewater land deal started Ken Starr's investigation into President Clinton but led to other things that completely distracted us from the question whether anything was corrupt about Whitewater.)
*I would normally avoid using the phrase "illegal immigrants," because I
think some people find it offensive, but the NYT used it!