WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference Tuesday there would be a smooth transition to "a second Trump administration" and made no reference to handing over power to President-elect Joe Biden.
Pompeo also said it was "ridiculous" to suggest President Donald Trump's refusal to concede defeat in last week's election could undermine U.S. efforts to promote free elections and peaceful transfers of power overseas.
Asked by Fox News correspondent Rich Edison if the administration was working with Biden's team on a presidential transition, Pompeo said with a smile, "There will be a smooth transmission to a second Trump administration."
Then he added, "We're ready. The world is watching what's taking place. We're going to count all the votes. There is a process."
Asked about allegations of voter fraud and whether there was evidence that could change the outcome of the election, Pompeo said every "legal vote" needed to be counted.
"I'm very confident that we'll count, and we must count every legal vote, we must make sure that any vote that wasn't lawful might not be counted, that dilutes your vote, if it's done improperly," he said. "We've got to get that right. When we get it right, we'll get it right."
Trump has refused to concede defeat and made unproven allegations of voter fraud, even though state election officials from both parties have rejected the allegations. The president and his surrogates have launched lawsuits in several key states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, and have vowed to press for recounts in some races.
Phone calls made to global leaders by a president-elect would normally be facilitated by the Department of State transition team, which usually briefs the incoming commander in chief ahead of each conversation. President-elect Biden has already spoken with the leaders of France, Britain and Canada without the critical insight provided by career U.S. diplomats.
U.S. diplomats posted abroad have received no clear guidance from Washington about how they should communicate with foreign governments about the election and Trump's decision not to concede electoral defeat, according to two U.S. officials in overseas posts familiar with the matter.
After the 2016 election, when Trump prevailed against Hillary Clinton, the then-Secretary of State John Kerry promptly congratulated Trump on his win, wished him well and instructed State Department staff to assist in the "time-honored tradition of a very peaceful and constructive transfer of power within administrations."
Pompeo cited the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore that took more than a month to be resolved, saying a successful transition took place in that case.
"I'm getting calls from all across the world. They understand we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time," he said.
"I am very confident that we will do all the things necessary that the United States government continues to perform its national security functions as we go forward," Pompeo said.
Pompeo bristled when a reporter asked if Trump's decision not to admit defeat at the polls could discredit the State Department's efforts to encourage free and fair elections and peaceful transfers of power abroad.
"You asked a question that is ridiculous. This department cares deeply to make sure that elections around the world are safe and secure and free and fair," Pompeo said. "My officers risk their lives to ensure that happens. They work diligently on that."
In his opening remarks, Pompeo pointed to recent diplomatic activity as a sign of what he called the administration's successful track record in foreign policy, and said he had recently spoken to the newly elected president of Bolivia, Luis Arce, and congratulated him on his "historic victory."