Mike Pompeo contributed in his own special way to the chorus of President Trump’s loyalists who keep insisting that the president was not defeated in last week’s election. Instead of foaming at the mouth like Rudy Giuliani did at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, the secretary of State opted for a lighter touch in Foggy Bottom.
During a press conference at the State Department on Tuesday, Pompeo was asked if his employees were preparing to engage with Joe Biden’s transition team. Pompeo inhaled deeply and shook his head soberly, conveying the gravity of the matter in question, then declared, “There will be a smooth transfer of power … to a second Trump administration.” He flashed a razor-thin smile and chuckled so quietly it could have been mistaken for a sniffle. I’m just kidding, he seemed to say.
If he meant it as a joke, then the butt of the joke is the United States.
Not all jokes are funny, but all jokes are stories, and they tell you who has power. The story Pompeo seemed to be telling was, “I recognize your anxiety about a president who declares the election stolen and refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. This amuses me.” Pompeo didn’t soothe any anxiety with the more serious side of his answer, either. When asked about whether he believed false allegations by Trump and Republicans of massive voter fraud, he demurred.
“We must make sure that any vote that wasn’t lawful ought not be counted,” he said, parroting specious GOP insinuations about voter fraud. “That dilutes your vote if it’s done improperly. Gotta get that right. When we get it right, we’ll get it right, we’re in good shape.”
Pompeo would have you believe there is a legitimate question as to whom the next president of the United States would be. There is not. Britain’s pro-Trump prime minister Boris Johnson called Biden to congratulate him on winning the election. Even Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, released a statement hailing Biden’s victory. Erdoğan won his own reelection campaign two years ago in what the Pompeo State Department said was basically a sham. In other words, a dictator has expressed more faith in the U.S. election’s integrity than the U.S. secretary of State or the American president. The joke’s on us.