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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancels final foreign trip as concerns over violence at inauguration grow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has canceled what would have been his last official trip abroad as concerns grow over potential violence at next week’s presidential inauguration, it said on Tuesday. the State Department.

Less than 18 hours after announcing that Pompeo would travel to Brussels this week to end his term as America’s top diplomat, the department said it had cut all high-level foreign travel, including that of the secretary. Pompeo was due to meet NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Belgium’s foreign minister in Brussels. Initial plans to shut down in Luxembourg had already been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the decision was made to help transition into the new Biden administration, which takes office on Jan. 20. Since last week’s deadly assault on the US Capitol by rioters encouraged by President Donald Trump, concerns have been raised. on the security of Biden’s nomination. Officials said the cancellation of Pompeo’s trip was to support the transition and was not related to fears of violence.

“The State Department is well advanced in its transition efforts with President-elect Biden’s team,” Ortagus said in a statement. “We are fully committed to completing a smooth and orderly transition process which will be finalized over the next 8 days. The Ministry and the President-elect’s team have been fully committed for several weeks to this end, and we are the level of cooperation and professionalism they have shown.

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Pompeo, who has been criticized for not immediately acknowledging Biden’s victory over Trump in the November election, last week met with his designated successor, Antony Blinken, in what a State Department official described as a cordial meeting.

“We expect shortly a plan from the new administration identifying career officials who will remain in interim senior positions until the Senate confirmation process is completed for new officials,” Ortagus said in the statement. . “As a result, we are canceling all trips planned for this week, including the Secretary’s trip to Europe.”

The department’s longest-serving career diplomat, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, who is No. 3 in the hierarchy, is expected to take up the post of acting secretary of state from noon on January 20. until Blinken is confirmed by the Senate.

The department had announced on Monday evening that Pompeo would visit Brussels on his last trip abroad.