Pompeo scraps Europe trip after EU leader calls Trump 'political pyromaniac'
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has cancelled a trip to Europe at the last minute after some European politicians and officials were publicly critical of Donald Trump’s role in last week’s storming of the Capitol.
The official reason for the cancellation of the trip, originally to Brussels and Luxembourg, was the need to coordinate with a transition team from the incoming Biden administration, but it comes after the unprecedented attack on American democracy that stunned many world leaders and US allies.
The Luxembourg leg of the trip was called off on Monday after its foreign minister Jean Asselborn called Trump “criminal” for inciting the attack.
Asselborn described the outgoing US president to RTL radio as a “political pyromaniac who must be brought before a court”.
Reuters and Fox News both quoted diplomatic sources as saying it was Luxembourg that had called off the meeting, a devastating snub from a tiny country for a secretary of state who continually claims to have restored “swagger” to the state department.
Pompeo was also due to meet the Belgian deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Sophie Wilmes, who tweeted while the assault in Washington was underway, “These images are shocking, also because they hurt our democratic ideals.”
“They show the extent of President-elect Biden’s task, which will be to unite American society around a common project. We trust him to do that.”
Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, who was due to have a dinner with Pompeo had described the scenes in Washington as “shocking” and said: “The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.” A Nato spokesperson confirmed that Pompeo had cancelled on Tuesday, giving as a reason the need to focus on the transition.
Reuters reported that EU officials had declined to meet Pompeo on his last foreign trip, but a EU spokesperson denied there had been any plan or request for meetings with EU leaders.
The state department, in a statement, attributed the cancellation to transition work before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on 20 January, even if until recently Pompeo had been reluctant to unequivocally recognise Biden’s win. Also on Tuesday, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft cancelled a planned visit to Taiwan.
The state department declined further comment on European officials’ rejection of meetings with Pompeo.
The cold shoulder was a contrast with Pompeo’s previous visits to Brussels, which is home to Nato and EU headquarters, over the past three years, where he has given key-note speeches on US policy and met the EU’s chief executive, even as Europe balked at Trump’s foreign policy.