Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the State Department would “honor” the Trump administration’s “promise” earlier this week to begin the transition with the incoming Biden administration, weeks after suggesting the President would win a second term.
“Those things that are required that the President has directed us to do in compliance with the decision that the GSA made yesterday, we’ll do all of those things,” Pompeo said, referring to the General Services Administration, which provides a presidential transition team with office space and coordinates its access to federal agencies to plan the shift from one administration to another.
“It’s a legal requirement, and we’ll always honor that promise,” Pompeo said during an interview on Fox News that was conducted earlier this week and aired on Thursday.
In the same interview, the top US diplomat alluded to the Trump administration’s willingness to deal with terrorists and perceived threats by assassination — just days before Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was killed on Friday outside the capital Tehran, according to Iran’s state media IRIB and the semi-official news agency Tasnim. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing.
The State Department and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment.
Iran’s Defense Ministry confirmed the death. “During the conflict, the security team protecting Iranian scientists were also injured and transferred to hospital. Iranian Defense Ministry in a statement condoled with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian nation over the unfair assassination of a committed manager and an expert,” state-news agency IRNA said on Friday.
‘Take him out’
Pompeo said it was important not to conflate security with the number of soldiers on the ground in any one place, and that the US keeps an eye on terrorist threats beyond Afghanistan’s borders as well.
“The threat from terrorism around the world — from Islamic extremism, Islamic terrorism — is real. It doesn’t just emanate from Afghanistan,” Pompeo said. Referring to the senior Iranian military leader the US assassinated in January 2020, and an al Qaeda leader killed by a US airstrike in 2019, Pompeo said, “if Qassem Soleimani is a problem, we’ll go crush them. If Hamza bin Ladin presents a risk, we’ll take him out.”
Pompeo was also asked whether President Donald Trump would order a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan before his term ends on January 20. Pompeo said getting to that number is the “mission set,” but declined to say whether it would happen before the end of Trump’s term.
“Well, the President will obviously make the decision on that,” Pompeo said. “The President to date has said that we’re going to go from where we are today, something just over 4,000, to around 2,500.”
The interview excerpts published Thursday began with a question about the transition, which Trump has yet to clearly and publicly accept, instead, continuing to tweet lies and baseless accusations about voter fraud.
Fox News’ Bret Baier asked Pompeo about a statement he had made just over two weeks earlier, in which he refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory as President-elect and said instead that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” triggering criticism and confusion among his own staff.
Pompeo’s remarks at the State Department on November 10 added to confusion generated by Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election and a growing concern that a chaotic transition period could undermine national security. Some measures by his State Department seemed pettier.
Traditionally, the State Department supports all communications for the President-elect during a transition period. But when many countries began sending messages to State to congratulate Biden, the Trump administration prevented the president-elect from accessing them, according to State Department officials familiar with the messages.