Trump: Bernie Sanders 'missed his time' for White House

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE on Tuesday downplayed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Ocasio-Cortez, progressives trash 'antisemitic' Politico illustration of Bernie Sanders 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding MORE's (I-Vt.) chances in the 2020 presidential race, telling reporters he believes the Vermont senator "missed his time" to capture the Democratic nomination.

Trump was asked during an Oval Office announcement on space policy for his reaction to Sanders announcing his presidential bid earlier in the day.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Personally I think he missed his time," Trump told reporters. "But I like Bernie because he is one person that, you know, on trade he sort of would agree on trade. I'm being very tough on trade, he was tough on trade."

"The problem is he doesn’t know what to do about it," Trump continued. "We’re doing something very spectacular on trade. But I wish Bernie well. It will be interesting to see how he does."

The president criticized the Democratic Party's treatment of Sanders during his White House bid four years ago, when former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Hillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE ultimately secured the nomination.

Party leadership drew scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2016 primary after it emerged that the Democratic National Committee had an agreement with the Clinton campaign to allow it to control the party’s finances and fundraising. The arrangement sparked outrage from Sanders's supporters, who alleged the primary had been rigged against him.

"What happened to Bernie maybe was not so nice," Trump said Tuesday. "He ran great four years ago and he was not treated with respect by Clinton and that was too bad."

Sanders joins a growing list of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020. Among those to launch a bid are Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSan Francisco police chief apologizes for raid on journalist's home Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar to roll out policy priorities for farmers in Iowa 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Samantha Bee slams 2020 Democrats who go on Fox News MORE (D-Minn.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan MORE (D-N.J.).

Trump's campaign said Tuesday morning that Sanders "has already won" the Democratic primary debate "because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism."

The Trump campaign also announced a round of staffing hires as the operation gears up for the 2020 cycle.

Trump on Tuesday shrugged off the mounting field of potential challengers.

"You’ve got a lot of people running but only one person’s going to win. I hope you know who that person is,” he said with a smile before shooing reporters out of the room.