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Pompeo: Kerry's conversations with Iran 'unseemly and unprecedented'

Pompeo: Kerry's conversations with Iran 'unseemly and unprecedented'
© Anna Moneymaker

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden loves the Georgia boycott — So why won't he boycott the Beijing Olympic games? The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Five things to watch for at the GOP's donor retreat MORE said Friday that former Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCO2 tax support is based in myth: Taxing essential energy harms more than it helps Kerry says he's 'hopeful, not confident' that China will cooperate on emissions Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit MORE’s conversations with Iran are “unseemly and unprecedented,” but would not go as far as President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE in saying they are illegal.

“I’ll leave the legal determinations to others,” Pompeo told a press briefing Friday. “But what Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented. This is a former secretary of State engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

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Trump withdrew in May from the 2015 nuclear deal between the United States, Iran and five other world powers that gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

As secretary of State in the Obama administration, Kerry played a significant role in crafting the agreement. During the negotiations, he developed a working rapport with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

While on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show this week promoting his new book, Kerry said that he has met with Zarif “three or four” times since leaving office for discussions on the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.

“What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better,” he said.

Later on Fox News, asked if he is advising the Iranians to wait out the Trump administration, Kerry said, “I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump.”

On Thursday, Trump accused Kerry of having “illegal meetings.”

“John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people. He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!” Trump tweeted.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires agents representing the interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationships with international governments and their related activities and finances.

While Pompeo would not go as far as Trump, he said Kerry’s behavior is “beyond inappropriate” and “actively undermining U.S. policy.”

That behavior, Pompeo added, is “literally unheard of” for former secretaries, adding that Kerry and other former secretaries “ought not to” engage in it.

A spokesperson for Kerry pushed back on Pompeo's comments Friday in a fiery statement blasting "alternative facts" from the Trump administration.

"There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts. Secretary Kissinger has done it for decades with Russia and China. What is unseemly and unprecedented is for the podium of the State Department to be hijacked for political theatrics," the Kerry spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that Kerry "stays in touch with his former counterparts around the world just like every previous Secretary of State, and in a long phone conversation with Secretary Pompeo earlier this year he went into great detail about what he had learned about the Iranian’s view. No secrets were kept from this administration."

The Kerry spokesperson added that the former secretary of State was "advocating for what was wholly consistent with US policy at the time," referring to Iran's commitments under the Obama-era nuclear deal.

During his appearance Friday, Pompeo also recalled seeing Kerry, former Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Moniz: Texas blackouts show need to protect infrastructure against climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran MORE and former under secretary of State Wendy Sherman at the Munich Security Conference this year.

“I am confident that they met with their troika counterparts, although one can perhaps ask Secretary Kerry if my recollection with respect to that is accurate,” Pompeo said, referring to the European signatories of the nuclear deal. “I wasn’t in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of U.S. policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Sherman pushed back on Pompeo's comments on Twitter, claiming he was trying to "gain points" with Trump by going after the former Obama administration officials.

Updated: 6:29 p.m.