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.

He says it’s too early to make an ironclad guarantee and he has scoffed at polls showing him lagging behind Democrat Joe Biden.

“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.”

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 honouring 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 centred on racial injustice that erupted after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the hands of police in May.

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.

“First of all, I’m not losing, because those are fake polls,” Trump said in the taped interview, which aired on Sunday. “They were fake in 2016 and now they’re even more fake. The polls were much worse in 2016.”

Trump, 74, stuck to a campaign charge that Biden, 77, is unable to handle the rigors of the White House because of his age. As for polls showing the incumbent is trailing, Trump noted he was thought to be behind for much of the 2016 contest. “I won’t lose,” he predicted.