US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to leave on Friday for Europe and the Middle East, a seven-country trip that will include a stop at a West Bank settlement, making him the first top US diplomat to visit one of the Israeli outposts considered illegal under international law.
Pompeo is leaving Washington in chaos, as President Donald Trump continues to refuse conceding the election, fires Cabinet-level and senior security officials, and is widely expected to send more heads rolling in the days to come, all while COVID-19 infections continue to ravage White House staff, reported CNN.
Pompeo’s stops in France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia could prove almost as challenging, as each country has congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory, while the Secretary recently stated in a press briefing that there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration, a position he recently had to explain to Austria’s foreign minister.
According to CNN, during a phone call earlier this week, the Austrian official diplomatically asked Pompeo about his failure to recognize Biden’s win, as per two diplomatic sources familiar with the call, who said the minister was looking for some clarity and reassurance from Pompeo.
While Pompeo did not say he was joking, despite a few of his aides claiming that was his intent, he did appear to distance himself from his assertion earlier in the week, the sources said, explaining that the transition process takes time, laws must be followed and election results have to be certified in the states, according to the sources.
In Turkey, where Pompeo will discuss religious freedom with the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, neither the President nor the foreign minister is making time to see him.
When asked about the trip in relation to the presidential transition, one senior official said in a call with reporters that they have continuity of government and Secretary Pompeo remains focused on the mission, our diplomacy, and engagement, and that he remains the secretary of state, and he and the team are very focused on that mission, and that’s the purpose of this travel.
Earlier, CNN reported that US State Department officials and diplomats had been left shocked, confused and outraged after Pompeo stated that there will be a smooth transition to a “second Trump administration” when asked if the State Department will cooperate with the Biden transition.
Biden, in his third attempt at the White House, defeated Trump in a closely contested election, which was refuted by Trump, who refused to concede defeat, saying that the election was “far from over”, and promised legal challenges by his re-election campaign.