Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has clarified his comments about a presidential transfer of power after earlier saying in apparent jest that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
Pompeo's apparent joke during a press briefing sparked some concern, prompting Fox News' Brett Baier during an interview on Nov. 10 to ask the secretary of state to clarify his remarks.
"Were you being serious there?"
“Whoever is in office on noon on Jan. 20 has all of the tools readily available so we don’t skip a beat with the capacity to keep Americans safe,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo made the original remark in response to a question from reporters about whether the Department of State is preparing to engage with Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s transition team. After uttering the statement about a potential second term for President Donald Trump, Pompeo later said that if Biden prevails in the presidential contest, there would be a successful transition.
“We’re ready. The world is watching what’s taking place here. We’re going to count all the votes. When the process is complete, there will be electors selected. There’s a process, the Constitution lays it out pretty clearly,” Pompeo told reporters on Nov. 10.
“The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with the president who’s in office on Jan. 20 a minute after noon will also be successful,” he added.
In a separate interview with conservative radio host Tony Perkins, Pompeo was more explicit in making reference to a potential Biden victory.
“Our adversaries should know that we’re ready, we’re continuing to work, we’ll work all the way through January. And then on Jan. 20, we’ll have a transition, whether it’s to a Trump administration—a second Trump administration as I spoke about today—or to an administration led by former Vice President Biden.”
A number of mainstream news outlets on Nov. 7 called the race for Biden, who later claimed victory in a speech.
Biden’s claim to the title of "president-elect" prompted pushback from Trump, who in a statement claimed that some media outlets are seeking to downplay claims of election irregularities in order to prematurely cement a Biden victory.
“We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: They don’t want the truth to be exposed,” Trump said.
“The American people are entitled to an honest election: That means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots. This is the only way to ensure the public has full confidence in our election,” Trump added.
Baier also asked Pompeo about reports that members of Biden's transition team have reached out to foreign diplomats, asking whether this raises concerns in light of the Logan Act, which makes it illegal for citizens to negotiate with foreign officials without the consent of the White House.
"I'm always worried when people are engaging in activity speaking with foreign leaders in a way that ... might be representing things that aren't true, or might be attempting to influence American foreign policy in ways that are inconsistent with what the law requires," Pompeo replied.
"I hope that all those folks who are out there having these conversations aren't violating that law," Pompeo said, referring to the Logan Act. "I'm sure the Department of Justice will be keeping a good eye on that for us."
Pompeo said his chief concern about Biden's foreign policy is that it would represent "a return to a policy of appeasement" and "leading from behind," which he associated with former President Barack Obama's administration.
Asked about the biggest threats to American security, Pompeo singled out the Chinese Communist Party.
"When I think about the challenges that America has presented over the next 5 or 10 years, the Chinese Communist Party is absolutely the central threat," he said.
"They're here," he added. "They are influencing the way we think about the world. They have technologies that are very capable. They have stolen intellectual property that's destroyed millions of jobs in places like Kansas and Iowa and Michigan, in our heartland, we cannot let that continue to happen. And President Trump has made real progress and getting the world to recognize this threat."
Asked about whether Biden should be receiving the presidential daily security brief, Pompeo said, "I'll leave that to others to sort out whether that's appropriate or not at this point."