Christopher Miller

Correspondent for BuzzFeed News and others. 10+ years in Ukraine. Focused on Eastern Europe, US foreign policy and national security issues.

Nov 11, 2020
Published on: BuzzFeed News
1 min read
Jacquelyn Martin / Getty Images
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refuses to recognize President-elect Joe Biden's victory during a briefing on Nov. 10.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has on dozens of occasions delivered public comments urging free and fair elections and peaceful transitions of power in countries around the world.

Just Monday, the United States’ top diplomat praised Myanmar for conducting free and fair elections, saying they “mark an important step in the country’s democratic transition.” In October alone, he or a State Department spokesperson delivered similar pro-democracy messages about Africa, Bolivia, and Seychelles.

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But on Tuesday, Pompeo refused to accept the results of his own country’s presidential vote and suggested President-elect Joe Biden’s victory could be reversed through the courts, despite elections officials representing both Democrats and Republicans in nearly all states saying there has been zero evidence of voter fraud or other irregularities found.

“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said with a smirk from the State Department podium, where, since being appointed in April 2018, he has praised foreign leaders who have gracefully accepted election defeats and condemned those who have not.

“The world is watching what’s taking place. We’re going to count all the votes,” he added, in what appeared to be a reference to President Donald Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims.

.@SecPompeo: "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration." Full video here: https://t.co/6Rou91HQxv

In the week since Election Day, Trump has refused to concede and has pushed bogus claims of fraud to cast doubt on Biden’s victory. He has also reportedly ordered staff not to comply with Biden’s requests for resources and briefings typically offered by the outgoing administration to the incoming one’s transition team.

The remarks from Pompeo, one of Trump’s most loyal cronies, sparked immediate criticism from former and current US diplomats, some of whom said his words undermined efforts to promote democracy abroad and opened a door for foreign adversaries to criticize American hypocrisy.

“This is incredibly reckless, dangerous, and damaging to US security,” tweeted Samantha Power, the former US ambassador to the United Nations under Barack Obama.

A current US diplomat in a European post told BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution, that Pompeo’s remarks traveled instantly through the ranks of foreign service officers whom the diplomat described as being “furious.”

The diplomat suggested their jobs would be made harder and their words would carry less weight after Pompeo’s comments.

“It’s a sideshow in a sense, but yet another degraded norm that could be a problem in the future [for the US],” said the diplomat.

If there is a silver lining, the US diplomat added, it is that “I don’t think any of our interlocutors take almost anything from this administration seriously anymore.”

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Pompeo’s suggestion that the US election was yet to be decided came as global leaders sent congratulatory messages to Biden, whose 279 electoral votes, even with Georgia and Arizona yet to determine a winner, were enough to call the race in his favor.

It also came as the secretary prepared what could be his last big foreign trip before Biden takes office Jan. 20. Beginning Wednesday, Pompeo will visit France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

A big question after his comments is how will he be greeted by officials in those nations.

An EU diplomat from a country that has already congratulated Biden on his election victory told BuzzFeed News, on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters, that the mood when Pompeo visits will likely be "tense."

“We will keep up appearances, of course … but we will be glad when he leaves,” the diplomat said, referring both to Pompeo departing from their country and his post.