Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing ‘chaos’ Top US official for Syria and ISIS to retire this month Trump administration readies new sanctions against Iran: report MORE battled reporters over President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence to attend Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday Biden transition team to mull legal action over agency’s transition delays: reports Trump campaign lawyers worry about pushing lawsuits that could undermine election: report MORE’s refusal to accept the results of the presidential election, predicting “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” despite the fact that former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence to attend Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday Biden transition team to mull legal action over agency’s transition delays: reports Manchin shoots down chance that Senate Democrats nix filibuster, expand court MORE is the projected winner of the race.
The comment from Pompeo, a top ally of the president, came during a combative news conference at the State Department on Tuesday when the Cabinet member was asked whether the agency is prepared to engage with Biden’s transition team.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo replied.
“We’re ready,” Pompeo continued. “The world is watching what’s taking place. We’re gonna count all the votes. When the process is complete, there’ll be electors selected. There’s a process. The Constitution lays it out pretty clearly. The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today … and successful with a president who’s in office on Jan. 20, a minute after noon, will also be successful.”
Pompeo appeared to smirk after delivering the line about a “second Trump administration,” though it was unclear from his remarks themselves whether he was joking. The State Department did not immediately respond to an inquiry about his comments.
The secretary of State’s remark quickly drew widespread attention and could signal to U.S. allies and enemies alike how to handle results in their own elections.
#BREAKING: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” pic.twitter.com/7PPAwHFNCX
— The Hill (@thehill) November 10, 2020
Pompeo, who is seen as a possible 2024 presidential contender, also dismissed as “ridiculous” a separate question on whether he has given guidance to diplomats to refer to Biden as “president-elect” and whether Trump’s refusal to accept the results undermines the State Department’s frequent statements calling for free and fair elections in other countries.
“That’s ridiculous, and you know it’s ridiculous, and you asked it because it’s ridiculous,” Pompeo said. ”This department cares deeply to make sure that elections around the world are safe and secure and free and fair, and my officers risk their lives to ensure that that happens. They work diligently on that. We often encounter situations where it’s not clear about a particular election. We work to uncover facts, we work to do discovery, to learn whether in fact the outcome, the decision that was made reflected the will of the people. That’s our responsibility.”
“The United States has an election system that is laid out deeply in our Constitution, and we’re going to make sure that we get that right,” he added. “You want every vote to be counted. You want to run the process. We want the lot to be imposed in a way that reflects the reality of what took place, and that’s what I think we’re engaged in here in the United States and that’s what we work on every place all across the world.”
Pompeo then ended the news conference.
The Associated Press and other major news outlets called the race for Biden on Saturday after he took insurmountable leads in states such as Pennsylvania with additional mail-in votes. The race was called four days after Election Day, as votes were tallied in multiple states.
Trump and his campaign have made accusations of electoral fraud that have not been substantiated.
The campaign has filed a handful of lawsuits related to the election, including one in Pennsylvania on Monday that alleged the commonwealth implemented an illegal “two-tiered” voting system in which voters were held to different standards depending on whether they voted in person or submitted their ballots by mail.
Some of the lawsuits have been dismissed, and legal experts have doubted their merits. It does not appear that the lawsuits, even if successful, would change the result of the election.
Asked later about Trump, Pompeo and other Republicans’ refusal to accept his victory, Biden said Tuesday that he does not think the transition process will be impeded.
“We’re going to be moving along in a consistent manner, putting together our administration, the White House, and reviewing who we’re going to pick for the Cabinet positions, and nothing’s going to stop that,” Biden said. “So I’m confident that the fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and Jan. 20.”
Biden also dismissed the possibility of legal action to force the Trump administration to start the transition process.
“I don’t see a need for legal action, quite frankly,” the president-elect said. “I think the legal action, you’re seeing it play out, the actions he’s taking, and so far there is no evidence of any of the assertions made by the president or Secretary of State Pompeo.”
Even as Trump and other officials have refused to acknowledge Biden’s win, world leaders have called Biden to congratulate the former vice president.
Pressed Tuesday whether he believes there was voter fraud in Michigan and Pennsylvania that could change the outcome of the election, Pompeo did not directly answer the question.
“I’m the secretary of State. I’m getting calls from all across the world. These people are watching our election. They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time,” Pompeo said, referencing the length of time it took to call the 2000 election.
“I’m very confident that will will count, and we must count, every legal vote. We must make sure that any vote that wasn’t lawful ought not be counted. That dilutes your vote if it’s done improperly. Got to get that right. When we get it right, we’ll get it right. We’re in good shape,” he said.
—Updated at 3:11 p.m.