1122 GMT January 15, 2019
Trump originally attacked Kerry on Thursday evening, saying on Twitter that Kerry had “illegal meetings” with Iranian officials, ABC news reported.
The tweet was an apparent reference to Kerry admitting on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Wednesday to meeting with Iranian officials, specifically Foreign Minister Zarif, “three or four times” at gatherings of world leaders, such as the World Economic Forum.
Kerry said he did not try to “coach” Iran through the Trump administration’s rejection of the JCPOA, a nuclear deal with Iran, implemented under Kerry’s watch. The meetings came while Rex Tillerson was secretary of state and before Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in May.
“No, that’s not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that’s not how it works,” Kerry told Hewitt. “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 took delight in ripping the president on Friday afternoon. He chided him over former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s guilty plea and even former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman’s leaked recordings.
“Mr. President, you should be more worried about Paul Manafort meeting with Robert Mueller than me meeting with Iran’s FM,” he tweeted. “But if you want to learn something about the nuclear agreement that made the world safer, buy my new book, ‘Every Day Is Extra’.”
Pompeo, the current secretary of state, followed up on Trump’s criticism at a briefing, calling the meetings “unseemly,” “unprecedented,” and “beyond inappropriate.”
“What secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented,” Pompeo said passionately at the top of a press briefing Friday afternoon. “You can’t find precedent for this in US history. And secretary ought not to, secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s inconsistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president. And it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged.”