While answering reporters’ questions at a press briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined the chorus of Trump administration officials and other Republicans disputing the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results. The nation’s top diplomat echoed the all-too-familiar call to only count “legal votes,” which has now become a fear-mongering dog-whistle suggesting voter fraud (but only in the Presidential race, where Trump lost, and not in the Senate race, of course).
When asked by a Fox News reporter whether the Trump administration will initiate a smooth transition process, Pompeo refused to acknowledge Biden as the president-elect. “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said. He then chuckled, despite the fact that Trump lost both the electoral college and popular vote.
Pompeo then elaborated on his comment: “The world is watching what’s taking place here. We’re gonna count all the votes. When the process is complete, there will be electors selection. There’s a process; the Constitution lays it out pretty clearly,” he said. “The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is function today, successful today, and successful with a president who’s in office on January 20, a minute after noon, will also be successful.” Refinery29 contacted the U.S. Department of State for further context, but they did not respond at the time of publication.
Already, Democratic officials are refuting Pompeo’s claim of a second term for Trump. “Secretary Pompeo shouldn’t play along with baseless and dangerous attacks on the legitimacy of last week’s election,” Democratic chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, Eliot Engel, told the Guardian. “The state department should not begin preparing for President-election Biden’s transition.”
During his own press briefing, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer also responded, saying, “Look at reality. Secretary Pompeo, Joe Biden has won. He’s won the election,” Schumer continued. “Now move on. Let’s bring this country together and get things done. We have a COVID crisis raging. We don’t have time for these kinds of games.”
But it's also not the first time Pompeo has made these types of remarks about the election. When a Reuters reporter asked if Trump’s refusal to concede to Biden was hurting the State Department’s messaging to other nations, Pompeo lost it. “That’s ridiculous, and you know it’s ridiculous, and you asked it because it’s ridiculous,” repeating, “You asked a question that is ridiculous.”
It’s not ridiculous, though. In his role as secretary of state, Pompeo has frequently had harsh words for countries that fail to respect the democratic process, and yet he continued to defend Trump, who has already proven to not have enough evidence in his claims of voter fraud. How can the U.S. tell other countries to aspire to democracy and tolerate an administration that doesn’t?
At best, Pompeo's initial response was a tasteless and extremely inappropriate. But in reality, it's frightening to many to see the person who is literally responsible for promoting American democracy to other nations stoke fear and confusion in our own. According to the Guardian, the State Department is not currently communicating with Biden’s team. All government agencies have been told to process with their budgets as if Trump had been re-elected. And Pompeo is just another symptom of the disease that is Trumpism.