In his first public comments on the tight 2020 presidential race, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that he believes President Trump will emerge as the winner of last week’s election when the votes are all counted, despite the multiple media calls that Democrat Joseph R. Biden has won the race.
Mr. Pompeo became the latest top administration official to back Mr. Trump’s claims he will ultimately prevail in the race, even as his lawyers scramble to find evidence to back the president’s claims of fraud and vote-rigging.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Mr. Pompeo told a press briefing Tuesday when asked whether his department is preparing to engage with the Biden transition team.
The comments came amid heated arguments over the question of whether formal transition processes — such as sensitive U.S. intelligence briefings — should begin for Mr. Biden.
Asked specifically about Mr. Pompeo’s comments later in the day, Mr. Biden answered more generally that Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the race was not hampering his ability to conduct an orderly transition to power. Democrats and some influential Republicans claim the delay of such processes while Mr. Trump pursues legal challenges to the vote could undermine national security.
“Our adversaries aren’t waiting for the transition to take place,” said former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Texas Republican, who tweeted that Mr. Biden should begin receiving intelligence briefings immediately.
Mr. Pompeo, however, rejected a reporter’s suggestion that national security could be harmed as the election disputes are litigated, adding that Mr. Trump was within his rights to ensure all votes cast were legally.
“I am very confident that we will do all the things that are necessary to make sure that the United States government will continue to perform its national security function as we go forward,” the secretary of state said.
He also bristled a question over whether the president’s stance was at odds with the State Department’s mission of encouraging other countries to follow democratic norms and accept the results of democratic elections.
“That’s ridiculous, and you know it’s ridiculous, and you asked it because it’s ridiculous,” Mr. Pompeo said.
“We often encounter situations where it’s not clear about a particular election,” he added. “… We want every one of those votes to be counted in the same way that we have every expectation that every vote here in the United States will be counted, too. It is totally appropriate.”
Mr. Pompeo said people around the world are “watching our election. They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time. Right?” he said, comparing the current situation to the 2000 election dispute between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
“It took us 37-plus days in an election back in 2000,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We conducted a successful transition then. I’m very confident that we will count every legal vote.”
But outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, New York Democrat, criticized Mr. Pompeo’s remarks, saying the nation’s top diplomat “shouldn’t play along with baseless and dangerous attacks on the legitimacy of last week’s election.”
The secretary of state appeared to be anxious to set out a legacy of achievement for his tenure Tuesday. Appearing in the morning for the virtual launch of the Ronald Reagan Institute’s Center for Freedom and Democracy in Washington, Mr. Pompeo highlighted the administration’s efforts to rally NATO and others to “wake up” to the threats posed by China.
Describing the Chinese Communist Party as a “Marxist-Leninist monster” and the “world’s No. 1 threat to freedom today,” he said the Trump administration has success over the past four years at strengthening international efforts to confront Beijing.
In his press conference later, Mr. Pompeo ticked off a list of recent successes by the administration, including the placement of an American representative on the U.N.’s key budget advisory board overseeing nearly $10 billion in spending on operations and peacekeeping missions.
“Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big deal,” said Mr. Pompeo.
“Our diplomats made the case to our allies and partners on why having an American voice on this committee for the first time in an awfully long time is crucial to ensuring the money is spent responsibly.”