United States President Donald Trump refused to publicly commit to accepting the results of the upcoming presidential election in November, while also declining to say if the Confederate flag was an offensive symbol.
In an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace broadcast on Sunday, Trump said it was too early to make such an ironclad guarantee, echoing a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote and scoffing at recent polls that show him lagging behind presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
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“I have to see. Look … I have to see,” Trump said. “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.”
While considered remarkable that a sitting president would express less than complete confidence in American democracy’s electoral process, the statement follows Trump’s 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 he would “keep you in suspense”.
During the interview, Trump also declined to say whether the Confederate battle emblem, which has come to represent racial oppression and slavery for many Americans, was an offensive symbol.
“It depends on who you’re talking about, when you’re talking about,” Trump responded. “When people proudly had their Confederate flags they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South. They like the South… I say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.”
Trump has also promised to veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act over an amendment to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases within a year. The position breaks with several of his fellow Republicans in Congress.
“We won world wars out of these, out of these military bases, no I’m not gonna go changing. I’m not gonna go changing.” Trump said in the interview, which was taped on Friday.
Trump also defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the US leading the world in both numbers of cases and deaths, and a renewed surge in states that tried to reopen their economies early.
Trump said the US is “the envy of the world” on testing, while repeating his opposition to any national mandate for mask wearing.
“I want people to have a certain freedom,” he said.
Referring to what he called an early prediction that the virus would someday disappear, he said, “I’ll be right eventually. It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”
Attack on Biden
Trump assailed Biden as “not competent” to lead the United States, speaking as polls over the weekend showed deepening voter disenchantment with his own handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“He’s shot, he’s mentally shot,” Trump said about Biden, adding if the former vice president is elected on November 3, he will “destroy this country”.
Facing the multiple challenges of a spreading pandemic, racial unrest and a struggling economy, Trump made several unfounded or highly speculative accusations saying Biden would “triple your taxes” and “defund the police”.
He added broadly “religion will be gone” – referring to Democratic officials banning large church services to stem the virus spread.
Wallace told the president a new Fox opinion poll showed Biden with a substantial lead over Trump, not only on his ability to manage the pandemic (with a 17-point edge) and to deal with racial unrest (by 21 points), but even – by a single point – on handling the economy, long a Trump strong point.
And a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has Biden leading Trump among registered voters nationwide by a resounding 15-point margin, 55-to-40 percent.
Trump dismissed such polling as “fake” saying White House surveys show him winning both nationally and in key swing states.
“Let Biden sit through an interview like this, he’ll be on the ground crying for Mommy. He’ll say, ‘Mommy, Mommy, please take me home,'” the president added.