Lester Holt in 2012. (Charles Sykes/Associated Press/NBC)

Count on Donald Trump to try and work the referee of Monday’s upcoming presidential debate.

Trump started that tactic early last week when he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that the debate is rigged against him with NBC’s Lester Holt as moderator.

“By the way, Lester is a Democrat,” Trump said. “It’s a phony system. They are all Democrats. It’s a very unfair system.” Trump’s aim? Force moderator Holt to bend over backward to not appear partisan and hostile to Trump, thus allowing the Republican nominee to get away with the inevitable lies and insults that will come out of his mouth during the debate.

Makes no difference that Holt is actually a Republican, having registered in 2003.

It’s all about getting the calls to go your way. Kneecapping Holt is a way to do it.

On Thursday, Trump took his manipulation a step further. Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” his soapbox on-demand, Trump warned Holt to not fact-check him or Hillary Clinton. Trump’s public argument being that Holt will throw off the debate if he tries to correct Trump. Trump’s objective: reduce Holt to a potted plant in the moderator’s chair.

Trump’s going to do all he can to win more favorable treatment.

Lester Holt’s been around for a long time. He’s handled presidential debates — in a primary contest at least. He ought to be ready for Trump and Clinton. Holding them both to the same standard should do the trick. Anticipating tricks from Trump, a master trickster, is Holt’s challenge. Good refs know the game, and the characters out to game the system.

Trump-Holt, hopefully, won’t overshadow Clinton-Trump.

With Trump, who knows? Monday night at Hofstra University could end up being a three-way.