US president Donald Trump has refused to publicly commit to accepting the results of the upcoming White House election, recalling a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote, as he scoffed at polls showing him lagging behind his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Mr Trump said it is too early to make such an iron-clad guarantee.
“Look ... I have to see,” Mr Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on Fox News.
He added: “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes’. I’m not going to say ‘no’, and I didn’t last time either.”
The Biden campaign responded: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Mr Trump also hammered the Pentagon for favouring the renaming of bases that honour Confederate military leaders — a drive for change spurred by the national debate about race after George Floyd’s death.
“I don’t care what the military says,” the American commander in chief said.
The president described America’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, as a “a little bit of an alarmist” about the coronavirus pandemic, and Mr Trump stuck to what he had said back in February — that the virus is “going to disappear”.
On Fox, Mr Trump said: “I’ll be right eventually.” The United States tops the global death toll list with more than 140,000 and confirmed infections, with 3.7 million.
It is remarkable that a sitting president would express less than complete confidence in the American democracy’s electoral process.
But for Mr Trump, it stems from his tactics of four years ago, when in the closing stages of his race against Hillary Clinton, he said he would not commit to honouring the election results if the Democrat won.
Pressed during an October 2016 debate about whether he would abide by the voters’ will, Mr Trump responded that he would “keep you in suspense”.
The president’s remarks to Fox are certain to fuel conversation on Capitol Hill, where members of congress had already been airing concerns in private about a scenario in which Mr Trump disputes the election results.
Mr Trump has seen his presidential popularity erode over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and in the aftermath of nationwide protests centred on racial injustice that erupted after Mr Floyd’s death in Minneapolis nearly two months ago.
The president contends that a series of polls that show his popularity eroding and Mr Biden holding an advantage are faulty. He believes Republican voters are under-represented in such surveys.
“First of all, I’m not losing, because those are fake polls,” Mr Trump said in the recorded interview, which aired on Sunday.
“They were fake in 2016 and now they’re even more fake. The polls were much worse in 2016.” – PA