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

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

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMurkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Pepper spray fired during Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong The Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed MORE said Friday that former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Trump's troubles deepen as voters see country on wrong path The continuous whipsawing of climate change policy Budowsky: United Democrats and Biden's New Deal MORE’s conversations with Iran are “unseemly and unprecedented,” but would not go as far as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters 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 MonizThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve 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.