Trump not ready to commit to election results if he loses

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President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks during an event on regulatory reform on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is refusing 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 scoffs at polls showing him lagging behind Democrat Joe Biden. Trump says it's too early to make such an ironclad guarantee.

“I have to see. Look ... I have to see,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on ”Fox News Sunday." “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.”

Trump also hammered the Pentagon brass for favoring renaming bases that honor 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 commander in chief said.

The president described the nation's top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as a “a little bit of an alarmist” about the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump stuck to what he had said back in February — that the virus is “going to disappear.” On Fox, he said, “I'll be right eventually.” The United States tops the global death toll list with over 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 Trump, it comes from his insurgent playbook of four years ago, when in the closing stages of his race against Hillary Clinton, he said he would not commit to honoring the election results if the Democrat won.

Pressed during an October 2016 debate about whether he would abide by the voters' will, Trump responded that he would “keep you in suspense.” The president's remarks to Fox are certain to fuel conversation on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers had already been airing concerns in private about a scenario in which Trump disputes the election results.

Trump has seen his presidential popularity erode over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and in the aftermath of nationwide protests centered on racial injustice that erupted after Floyd's death in Minneapolis nearly two months.

Trump contends that a series of polls that show his popularity eroding and Biden holding an advantage are faulty. He believes Republican voters are underrepresented in such surveys.