The profile pages for President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence on the US State Department‘s website were briefly updated on Monday to say that their terms were ending on January 11, nine days ahead of schedule, in an apparent hack.
BuzzFeed News and journalist Hugo Longwell both reported that updates showing that Pence’s term would end on January 11 at 7.44pm Washington time and Trump’s ending five minutes later were made by a “disgruntled employee”.
Within minutes of the hack, news of which was amplified on social media, the pages returned 404 errors with the message: “We’re sorry, this site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments.”
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
The website breach occurred around the same time that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was delivering remarks at the Washington headquarters of the US-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA).
Along with a repeat of comments he often makes about the threat that the Chinese government poses to the US, Pompeo’s remarks also included the need for more favourable coverage about the US by the VOA and a swipe at Twitter, Facebook and Apple, which recently took steps to block Trump, and Parler, a social media platform dominated by conservative viewpoints.
Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores for what both companies said were insufficient measures to block posts that encouraged violence and crime after violent Trump supporters laid siege to the US Capitol to try to stop the Congress’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’ victory.
“Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction: authoritarianism cloaked as moral righteousness, similar to what we‘re seeing at Twitter and Facebook and Apple, and on too many university campuses today,” Pompeo said. “It’s time that we simply put woke-ism to sleep.”
“We want to reorient VOA to its mission of truth and unbiased reporting,” he said.
“This isn’t the ‘Vice of America’, focusing on everything that’s wrong with our great nation, it’s the Voice of America. It certainly isn’t the place to give authoritarian regimes in Beijing or Tehran a platform,” he added.
Pompeo also commended the VOA’s Hong Kong reporting team for their coverage of opposition activists and demonstrators in the city, some of whom turned violent after issuing demands that Hong Kong’s government refused to acknowledge.
Pompeo did not bring up the attack on the Capitol during his address or the discussion afterward with VOA director Robert Reilly, who was appointed to his position by Trump last year in a shake-up of the top leadership of US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which controls the Voice of America.
USAGM’s CEO, Michael Pack, who introduced Pompeo and Reilly, did refer to the fight against misinformation in his opening remarks, but in the context of accusing other governments of the activity.
“There are regimes bent on preventing people from accessing objective news and information to keep power, they manufacture and propagate false realities, seeking to control thought and belief and ultimately action,” Pack said.
Pompeo “ordered an internal investigation into the matter, beginning with interns and employees leaving Foggy Bottom this week and next ahead of the transition to the Biden administration”, according to BuzzFeed News.
Trump’s term ends at noon on January 20, when Biden is inaugurated.
The president has faced growing calls for his removal before then, after his supporters staged a violent siege on the US Capitol on Wednesday, an attack Trump has been accused of inciting by repeatedly seeking to overturn the results of the November 3 election.
A number of administration officials have resigned since then, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and, most recently, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf.
More from South China Morning Post:
This article Donald Trump’s page on US State Department website changed to show his term ending early first appeared on South China Morning Post