Trump administration insiders and security chiefs have reportedly suggested that the president could claim victory on election night even if he loses, setting the US up for weeks if not months of chaos following the 3 November poll.
White House civil servants, intelligence community figures and law enforcement officials say Mr Trump could use unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballot voter fraud to declare a Joe Biden win invalid in a desperate attempt to cling onto power.
Their warnings come just four days before millions of Americans who have not yet cast their ballots head to the polls in what is widely being described as the most important US election in history.
Last night, reports emerged that Mr Trump, 74, has scrapped plans to appear at the Trump International Hotel on election night and is instead expected at the White House.
“He has done nothing...that’s a constant, except for acting in his own interest,” one senior Senate-level government source told The New York Times. And that’s how “he’s going to be thinking, every step of the way, come 3 November," the source added.
Ellen Weintraub, a commissioner at the US Electoral Commission, warned last month that "patience" is required at this election, adding the result may not be clear until well after 3 November.
Ballot counters will be drowning in a sea of votes coming in via post and drop boxes due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed some 220,000 US lives, with new reported cases reaching record levels this week.
It is feared the president could use this delay to cast doubt on the outcome of the election, which the latest polling shows he is losing badly. But Hillary Clinton's 2016 run for the White House serves as a powerful reminder that caution is needed when considering any such surveys.
Plenty of Americans will also remember the 2000 election campaign when it took a supreme court ruling to declare that George Bush defeated Al Gore.
And with judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed on the bench, the president now has a 6-3 majority of Conservative-leaning justices should this year's result end up in court.
During his reelection campaign, Mr Trump has often used dog-whistle racism tactics to target his political opponents and whip up support among his political base. Critics have lambasted Mr Trump over his failure to distance himself Proud Boys, a far-right group also accused of inciting.
In September Mr Trump told the group to "stand back and stand by", a line some interpreted as a call to action, which the president denied.
“We are all-hands-on-deck for the foreseeable future,” one FBI source said of agency's post-election plans. “We’ve been talking to our state and local counterparts and gearing up for the expectation that it’s going to be a significant law-enforcement challenge for probably weeks or months. It feels pretty terrifying.”