WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted his Obama-era predecessor on Friday for engaging in talks with Iranian government officials, saying it was “beyond inappropriate.”
John Kerry, who served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, said in a pair of recent interviews that he had met with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, “three or four times” since leaving his post.
Kerry said they discussed the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by the U.S. and five other world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from that agreement, which was intended to block Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions. Kerry was deeply involved in those negotiations during the Obama administration and he’s been sharply critical of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact.
“What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented,” Pompeo told reporters during a news conference in Washington. “This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
Pompeo said Kerry’s actions were aimed at “actively undermining U.S. policy” as directed now by Trump. “It is beyond inappropriate,” he added.
In an interview this week with FOX News host Dana Perino, Kerry did not directly answer when asked if he told Iranian government officials to wait out President Trump until he leaves office.
“I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump,” Kerry responded.
Pompeo’s comments came after Trump weighed in with a tweet that accused Kerry of holding “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime.” Trump posted that message just after 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Trump suggested Kerry’s talks would require him to register as a lobbyist for a foreign country.
In the Fox interview, Kerry dismissed questions that he was acting inappropriately.
“When I met with the Iranians, the policy of the United States was still to be in the Iran deal because the president had not decided and not pulled out,” he said. “Secondly, every secretary of state, former secretary of state continues to meet with foreign leaders, goes to security conferences, goes around the world. We all do that.”
Kerry said the meetings should not be confused with negotiations or interference with current policy directives.
Pompeo did not answer a question about whether he agreed with Trump that Kerry’s meetings were potentially “illegal.”
Contributing: Sergio Bustos
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