Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the department he leads are trolling President Donald Trump on Twitter. It’s almost certainly unintentional, but it’s happening nonetheless.
President Donald Trump is fighting the 2020 election result tooth and nail, filing lawsuits against key states and urging officials to stop counting legally cast votes. It’s deeply undemocratic — and, some would argue, autocratic — and it’s the precise kind of behavior the US State Department would loudly and publicly condemn if it were happening in any other country.
The thing is, Pompeo and the State Department are doing that exact thing at this very moment: calling out other countries and their leaders on Twitter and elsewhere for attempting to rig their elections and undermining the democratic process.
It’s causing a noticeable split-screen moment: Pompeo, a staunch Trump ally who has openly campaigned for the president’s reelection while in office, is blatantly ignoring his boss’s undemocratic behavior while criticizing it elsewhere.
And the unintentional result is that it looks like Pompeo and the State Department are basically just subtweeting Trump all day long.
Take Pompeo’s tweet on Thursday afternoon. A new report released by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a global democracy-promoting body, found that Belarus’s August election wasn’t free or fair. Pompeo, as the top American diplomat, called attention to it.
While he touched on post-election violence directed mainly by President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who is doing whatever he can to keep his grip on power, his real message came in the final line: “Belarusians deserve the right to determine their own path through free and fair elections.”
The @OSCE Moscow Mechanism report details rampant abuses in Belarus related to the fraudulent August 9th election. We call for an end to violence against peaceful protesters. Belarusians deserve the right to determine their own path through free and fair elections.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 5, 2020
Let that sink in: That’s Pompeo — who has defended Trump time and time again — saying the United States calls on Belarus to let the public’s votes count and determine the result of the election. That would be a milquetoast, pro forma statement in any other context; it’s one secretaries of state make all the time.
But with Trump delegitimizing the American election in real time, Pompeo’s tweet smacks of hypocrisy.
It’s not the only time Pompeo has done this. On Monday, right before Election Day in the US, Pompeo condemned efforts by Tanzania’s president to rig his country’s election. “We urge authorities to fully address concerns of irregularities and will review allegations of the use of force against civilians,” Pompeo wrote.
We are deeply concerned by reports of election irregularities, politically motivated arrests, and violence during Tanzania’s elections last week. We urge authorities to fully address concerns of irregularities and will review allegations of the use of force against civilians.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 2, 2020
Again, that’s pretty rich coming from a Trump crony. Trump has said nothing about armed protesters gathering at the Maricopa County polling center in Arizona to demand a continued vote count, even though officials safely inside were doing just that.
That’s not the violence happening in Tanzania — not by a long shot — but it is intimidation. Pompeo would likely express concern about such an event if it were happening in Tanzania, but is silent about it happening in Arizona.
And then there’s a statement by the US Embassy in the Ivory Coast on Wednesday, which “condemns the violence of the election period” in that country. It’s good for the US to do that, but it’s the first line in the second paragraph that reads like a straight-up troll of America’s situation.
“The United States calls on Cote d’Ivoire’s leaders to show a commitment to the democratic process and the rule of law,” it reads, using the official name of the country.
It’s hard to read that sentence and not think of what Trump is doing: suing states to subvert the vote and even prematurely declaring victory, despite not having won (at least not yet).
Put together, it’s an unintentionally bad look for Pompeo. Here he and his agency are, criticizing the world’s poor handling of democracy while watching the US president do the same thing at home.
It’s also a bad look for America. Trump’s behavior means it’ll be harder for the US to tell other countries to abide by democratic norms. If the US doesn’t follow those norms, why should others?
The tweets, then, are amusing in what they represent: a Trump ally unaware of the blistering critique he’s unleashing. But what’s not funny is what it says about the US right now: Its own president isn’t doing much better than the undemocratic leaders its State Department is lambasting.