President Donald Trump declined in an interview that aired Sunday to say he would accept the results of the 2020 election, adding that he will "have to see" and claiming without evidence that mail-in voting will "rig the election."
Trump's comments came during a wide-ranging interview with "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace in which he criticized so-called cancel culture and repeatedly downplayed the coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.7 million people in the U.S. and killed at least 140,131, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
During the interview, which was conducted earlier in the week, Wallace debuted the results of Fox News' latest national poll, which showed Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden leading Trump by 8%. The poll showed Biden leading on specific issues as well, including a 1% lead over Trump on the economy.
When presented with the results, Trump downplayed the findings as "fake polls."
"First of all, I'm not losing because those are fake polls," he said. "They were fake in 2016 and now they're even more fake."
Later in the interview, when Wallace asked whether Trump is a "gracious" loser, the president responded that "it depends" and repeated claims he has made in the past that mail-in voting could lead to widespread voter fraud.
With the coronavirus spreading rapidly across large swaths of the U.S., some states have made efforts to more readily accommodate mail-in voting to reduce the risk of infection at in-person voting locations come November. Trump has previously attacked efforts made by officials in Michigan and Nevada to expand vote-by-mail access, repeatedly saying that they will lead to voter fraud, though he hasn't presented evidence to back up that claim.
"I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election," he said in the interview. "I really do."
Wallace pressed Trump on whether he will accept the results of the 2020 election, but Trump declined to answer the question directly.
"I have to see. Look, you—I have to see," he said. "No, I'm not going to just say yes. I'm not going to say no."
Asked for comment on Trump's remarks, Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump's reelection campaign, said in a statement to CNBC on Monday that mail-in voting is just one way Democrats are trying "to eliminate protections for election integrity."
Earlier in the interview, Trump downplayed the coronavirus pandemic, attributing the recent surge in cases to increased testing and saying that many infected people "automatically" recover from the virus. Health officials have repeatedly pointed out that new cases have outpaced the increase in testing, which indicates that the virus is spreading rapidly in communities across the country.
When Wallace pointed to the European Union, which he said is reporting about 6,000 new cases per day, Trump said it's because "they don't test" and declined to acknowledge differences in policy responses between Europe and the U.S.
The U.S. has reported on average 66,498 new cases of the coronavirus per day over the past seven days, up more than 15% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Hopkins. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have reported growth in cases by at least 5%, on average over the past week. And Covid-19 deaths, which lag the diagnosis of cases, have begun to tick up nationally, driven by a number of states with expanding outbreaks.
"No country has ever done what we've done in terms of testing. We are the envy of the world," Trump said. "You look at other countries, they don't even do tests. They do tests if somebody walks into the hospital."
When asked about his relationship with White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation's top infectious disease experts, Trump said he had spoken with Fauci the day before the interview, but added that "he's a little bit of an alarmist." Trump also said that he doesn't agree with Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield, who said earlier this week that if everyone wore a mask, the U.S. could bring the virus under control in one to two months.
The president continued to tout the strength of the economy before the virus arrived in the U.S. in January, adding that Democratic officials are "purposefully" keeping the economy shutdown to hurt his reelection effort. Many states have implemented costly public health measures to curb the spread of the virus such as shutting down bars and other businesses, closing schools and banning large gatherings. Trump specifically bemoaned his campaign's inability to host campaign rallies in Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada.
"The Democrats are purposely keeping their schools closed, keeping their states closed," he said. "We're not allowed to have rallies in these Democrat-run states."
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly reported when Trump made his remarks in the interview. The interview aired Sunday but was recorded last week.