Donald Trump is currently engaged in an unprecedented attack on his own country's democracy, denying the legitimacy of election results, and fighting to disregard the votes he doesn't like. It was against this backdrop that a reporter asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if his office is preparing to engage with the incoming Biden administration to ensure a smooth transition.
His answer made a bad situation worse.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laughed off a question about the transition of power during a press briefing on Tuesday, instead saying there "will be a smooth transition to our second Trump administration."
If you watch the clip, it seems pretty clear that the cabinet secretary was trying to be coy, delivering the line with a smirk -- as if the incumbent president's efforts to delegitimize a national election he lost should somehow be the basis for comedy.
It's should not. The overarching dynamic is increasingly quite serious -- and not at all amusing. As world leaders continue to congratulate and speak directly to President-Elect Joe Biden, the outgoing president and his political party are pretending the Republican incumbent may have a legitimate claim to defying the will of his own country's voters, democracy be damned.
It was against this backdrop that the nation's ethically challenged secretary of State -- an official whose responsibilities include promoting the value of democracy around the globe -- thought it'd appropriate to reference "a smooth transition to our second Trump administration."
He thought wrong.
Pompeo went on to tell reporters today, "The world is watching what's taking place." Indeed, it is, and it probably wasn't lost on international audiences that as heads of state extend their best wishes to the new Leader of the Free World, the United States' chief diplomat joked publicly about his boss keeping the reins of power for himself, despite having lost a free and fair election.
What's more, despite the cabinet secretary's attempt at humor at the State Department's podium, Pompeo never did get around to acknowledging a simple truth: Joe Biden is his country's president-elect.
In the same press conference, Pompeo was asked whether Trump's refusal to concede undermines the State Department's traditional principles about promoting fair elections. The Kansas Republican dismissed the question as "ridiculous."
I wish it were, but alas, this where the United States finds itself as Team Trump writes its final chapter.