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 PompeoTrump calls Iran claim that it arrested CIA spies 'totally false' The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Pompeo: There's 'no indication' Iran will change direction MORE said Friday that former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryJohn Kerry: Pressley's story 'more American than any mantle this president could ever claim' Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence Trump threatens Iran with increased sanctions after country exceeds uranium enrichment cap MORE’s conversations with Iran are “unseemly and unprecedented,” but would not go as far as President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' 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 MonizBiden under pressure from environmentalists on climate plan Pelosi, Clinton among attendees at memorial reception for Ellen Tauscher 2020 is the Democrats' to lose — and they very well may 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.