Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admonished his predecessor Friday for holding meetings with senior Iranian officials about the Iran nuclear accord, saying John Kerry is "actively undermining U.S. policy."
"What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. "He was telling them to wait out this administration. You can't find precedent for this in U.S. history and Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior."
Kerry said earlier this week he met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif "three or four times” since he left office in early 2017, describing the meetings as normal activities for former top diplomats. He said the meetings focused on the Iran deal and other matters.
"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,” he said during a radio news interview with Hugh Hewitt.
The former top diplomat did not deny in remarks to Fox News he counseled Iranian officials to "wait out” the Donald Trump administration.
Kerry's comments drew a stern rebuke from the U.S. president late Thursday when Donald Trump issued a tweet calling Kerry's meetings "illegal."
"John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump said.
Pompeo declined to say whether Kerry's meetings are legal, saying he would leave such determinations to others.
Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May after the Obama administration spearheaded efforts to broker the accord, which saw Iran accept unprecedented curbs on its nuclear programs in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
The move rattled close U.S. allies in Europe who negotiated the agreement alongside Washington, and are seeking to salvage its nuclear restrictions.