US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” and dismissed as “ridiculous” a suggestion that the president’s refusal to concede after his election loss undercuts the message that Washington’s top diplomat delivers to other countries.
Since most US news outlets, including the usually Trump-friendly Fox News, called the election in favour of Democrat Joe Biden on Saturday, Pompeo joined Trump and many of his allies in suggesting, without evidence, that unlawfully case ballots must be weeded out before a result can be declared.
Pompeo made the remarks at a State Department news briefing in Washington.
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“It took us 37-plus days in the election back in 2000,” he said, referring to the contest that ushered George W Bush into his first term after a dispute over vote counting in the swing state of Florida. “Conducted a successful transition then. I’m very confident that will count and we must count every legal vote we must make sure that any vote that wasn’t lawful will not be counted.”
Biden leads the popular vote count by almost 5 million and in the Electoral College by 290 to 214, with 270 votes needed for victory, according to Associated Press.
Besides Pompeo’s comments, there are other signs that Trump is digging in against calls for him to begin the transition of the US government to the president-elect, who was declared the winner after vote tallies in key battleground states including Michigan and Pennsylvania swung in his favour late last week.
Citing anonymous sources, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the White House budget office has instructed federal agencies to prepare for the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which is usually issued in February. The next president will be inaugurated on January 20.
Meanwhile, Biden said from his home base of Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday that “nothing going to stop” his transition plans despite Trump’s refusal to concede the race, which he said was “not of much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20”.
The non-partisan Centre for Presidential Transition issued a statement on Sunday urging the government to begin the formal transfer of power from Trump to Biden, a process that must be given the green light by Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed administrator of the US General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA said again on Tuesday that it had yet to do so.
Asked by a reporter in Tuesday’s State Department briefing whether Trump refusal to concede discredits efforts by US diplomats abroad to advocate for free and fair elections, Pompeo said the journalist deliberately asked a “ridiculous question”.
“You know, it‘s ridiculous. 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.”
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