Donald Trump has claimed the Democratic Party “cannot legitimately win” the 2020 presidential election, in an angry tweet condemning congressional oversight of his administration.
“The Democrats in Congress yesterday were vicious and totally showed their cards for everyone to see,” Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday morning.
“When the Republicans had the Majority they never acted with such hatred and scorn! The Dems are trying to win an election in 2020 that they know they cannot legitimately win!”
The US president’s comment, in response to a grilling of his acting attorney general by the House judiciary committee, echoed similar ones he made in 2016 when he threatened to not accept the results of the “rigged” presidential election should he have lost.
Ned Price, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, accused Mr Trump of launching an early bid to sow doubts about the legitimacy of next year’s vote.
“The first two sentences are laughable. The third is frightening—especially the use of the adverb “legitimately”, he tweeted.
“He’s setting the stage, months in advance, to be able to say the 2020 election was stolen. It’s fair to start asking whether Trump would cede power peacefully.”
Prominent lawyer and Trump critic David Leopold accused the president of attacking “the legitimacy of the 2020 election which he increasingly expects to lose”.
“That’s what thugs in power do,” he added.
Sam Vinograd, a former director on the National Security Council, said Mr Trump was aligning with Russia in “undermining confidence” in American democracy.
Mr Trump went on to claim on Twitter, without providing evidence, that America would be in recession if he had lost the election to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“We have a great economy DESPITE the Obama Administration and all of its job killing Regulations and Roadblocks,” he wrote. “If that thinking prevailed in the 2016 Election, the U.S. would be in a Depression right now! We were heading down, and don’t let the Democrats sound bites fool you!”
The president’s outburst came the day after Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, was repeatedly pressed by judiciary committee members on his relationship with the White House and his views on Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.
Mr Whitaker, an appointee of Mr Trump, at one point caused the committee and audience members to gasp in disbelief when he avoided answering a question from the chairman by telling him his time had run out.
“Mr Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up,” he said in response to Jerrold Nadler.
The heated exchange arrived after the committee chairman asked Mr Whitaker whether he had “ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel”.