Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday blasted his predecessor, John Kerry, for holding “beyond inappropriate” private meetings with Iranian officials, alleging that Kerry was undermining U.S. foreign policy in an “unprecedented” manner.
Pompeo’s comments came after President Donald Trump alleged in a tweet that Kerry’s meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were “illegal,” an assertion Kerry has dismissed.
“What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented,” Pompeo said in a press conference. “This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world largest state sponsor of terror.”
He added: “You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history. And Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior.”
An aide to Kerry did not immediately offer a comment.
The former secretary and one-time Democratic presidential nominee has defended his meetings with Zarif, including during recent interviews to promoting his new book, “Every Day is Extra.”
Kerry told radio host Hugh Hewitt this week that he’d met with Zarif “three or four times” since leaving office. He acknowledged that the Iran nuclear deal, which Kerry helped negotiate during the Obama administration but which Trump quit this year, was among the topics discussed.
Kerry also indicated that he and Zarif have discussed other U.S. concerns about Iran’s behavior in the Middle East.
“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,” Kerry said.
In an interview this week with Fox News, Kerry implied that he’s encouraged the Iranian government to wait out Trump until there is a Democratic president again.
“I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump,” Kerry said.
The Boston Globe reported the Kerry-Zarif meetings earlier this year.
Pompeo declined to say Friday if the meetings are illegal. But Kerry has said it’s not unusual for former U.S. officials to meet with counterparts, including in venues such as international conferences.