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Pompeo Fuels Administration's Baseless Claims Of Election Fraud

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

World leaders have been congratulating President-elect Joe Biden, but America's top diplomat is not ready to start a transition. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is fueling President Trump's baseless claims of fraud. Here's what Pompeo said at a State Department news conference today when he was asked about the transition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration, all right? We're ready.

SHAPIRO: Joining us from the State Department is diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Hi, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us more about how the secretary is dealing with these questions about the election results.

KELEMEN: Well, he certainly toed the president's line, saying all legal votes need to be counted. And when one of my colleagues asked whether the fact that Trump has not yet conceded is undermining America's image as it tries to promote democratic values abroad, he was quite dismissive. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POMPEO: That's ridiculous. And you know it's ridiculous, and you asked it because it's ridiculous.

KELEMEN: He often calls questions ridiculous if there are questions that could lead to any daylight between him and the president. And by the way, Ari, the secretary talked about the great work the U.S. does along with international election observers overseas. Well, some of those observers were here in the U.S., and they criticized President Trump for undermining democratic institutions with what they called baseless allegations of widespread fraud.

SHAPIRO: Well, I know President-elect Biden was asked about this today. What did he say?

KELEMEN: Yeah. He was asked specifically about Pompeo's remarks and basically said that the transition is moving ahead. Take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: And nothing's going to stop that. And so I'm confident that the fact that they're not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning and what we're able to do between now and January 20.

KELEMEN: Biden says he's been getting calls from world leaders, and he's moving ahead with his plans to name cabinet officials. He said it would be nice to have access to classified information, as is usual during such a transition. But he says that's not critical.

SHAPIRO: Did Secretary Pompeo address whether a delayed transition is a risk to national security?

KELEMEN: Well, that was pretty interesting because he actually cited 2000, the Bush versus Gore race, and said though it was delayed by the courts, the transition went smoothly. But, Ari, the 9/11 Commission said that the Bush administration was slow to get its national security team in place, and that was a problem as al-Qaida was planning that attack. Now, with Biden, he has a lot of foreign policy experts on his team, so he's sounding pretty confident.

SHAPIRO: In addition to all of this back-and-forth, I understand Pompeo also had some other foreign policy news today. Tell us about that.

KELEMEN: Yeah. Well, for instance, he announced more than $23 billion in arms sales with the United Arab Emirates. That includes 50 F-35s. It's a deal that followed the UAE's decision to normalize ties with Israel. Pompeo also announced that he's going to be visiting UAE and Israel as well as France, Turkey, Georgia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar on a trip starting Friday. And the rest of his news conference sounded a bit like a swan song. He talked about his accomplishments that he's most proud of, like promoting religious freedoms and joining a group of countries that oppose abortion rights.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Michele Kelemen reporting from the State Department.

Thanks very much.

KELEMEN: Sure thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "FANSHAWE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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