The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has predicted “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” on a day when US allies offered their congratulations to the president-elect, Joe Biden.
Pompeo made his remarks to reporters at the state department on Tuesday, and gave a slight smile after referring to a “second Trump administration” – leaving it unclear whether he was joking.
He did not refer to the fact that Biden has been projected as the winner, and held a lead of 4.7m nationwide in the vote count so far, while being ahead in the four critical battleground states.
Instead, Pompeo focused on the various legal challenges being pursued by the Trump administration, none of which so far have been found to have any merit.
“We’re ready,” Pompeo went on. “The world is watching what’s taking place. We’re gonna count all the votes. When the process is complete, there’ll be electors selected. There’s a process – the constitution lays it out pretty clearly. The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the state department is functional today, successful today and successful with a president who’s in office on January 20 a minute after noon, will also be successful.”
The state department is not currently communicating with the Biden team and all government agencies have been told to proceed with their budgets as if Trump had been re-elected, to the outrage of Democrats.
“Secretary Pompeo shouldn’t play along with baseless and dangerous attacks on the legitimacy of last week’s election,” said Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House foreign affairs committee. “The state department should now begin preparing for President-elect Biden’s transition.”
Pompeo said he was receiving “calls from all across the world”, but did not say who from. The leaders of America’s main allies, including Canada, the UK, France, Ireland and Germany have congratulated Biden in phone calls on Monday and Tuesday.
“They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time,” the secretary of state said, comparing the situation now to the 2000 election. In 2000, George W Bush was leading by 537 votes in Florida, when the supreme court intervened to stop vote counting. Biden is ahead by tens of thousands of votes in four states.
Echoing Trump’s line – which has become the party line for Republicans – Pompeo said: “We must count every legal vote, we want to make sure that any vote that wasn’t lawful ought not be counted – that dilutes your vote, if it’s done properly. Got to get that right. When we get it right, we’ll get it right. We’re in good shape.”
When a journalist asked whether Trump’s refusal to concede discredits US promotion of democratic norms abroad, Pompeo replied irritably: “That’s ridiculous and you know it’s ridiculous, and you asked it because it’s ridiculous.”
He added: “We want the law to be imposed in a way that reflects the reality of what took place, and that’s what I think we’re engaged in here in the United States and it’s what we work on every place all across the world.”