Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday defended the Trump administration’s efforts to bring home Americans from foreign countries amid criticism that his department has left U.S. citizens stranded during a global pandemic.
“There’s still a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of people who are trying to get back this way, and with travel shut down in many of these countries without any notice or little notice, there’s still a major undertaking,” Pompeo told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt during an interview on his show.
“But the team has marshaled the resources,” Pompeo continued. “It’s an airlift back home like we’ve not seen in an awfully long time, and I’m really proud of the way our team has responded.”
Former State Department officials, as well as members of Congress, have accused Pompeo of an insufficient response to the global coronavirus outbreak, charging that the secretary and his senior leadership team acted too slowly to evacuate Americans as various international travel bans complicated their movements.
Although Pompeo said the department had “now brought over 10,000 Americans back home from places where they were stranded through no fault of their own,” thousands more still trapped overseas have been forced to resort to dangerous or expensive methods of return travel, including risky border crossings, bribing customs officials and chartering a jet flown by a private security firm.
Still, Pompeo asserted that State officials have answered the myriad challenges posed by the coronavirus “in a way that’s in the finest tradition of American diplomacy,” adding that “our team is out there taking care of Americans [and] keeping our own teams safe.”
Pompeo earlier this month also faced scrutiny from congressional lawmakers as well as his own employees for not being more transparent about the coronavirus’ threat to the department’s workforce.
Throughout the crisis, Pompeo has remained closely allied with President Donald Trump in criticizing China, blasting Beijing for hinting, without evidence, that the coronavirus may have originated in the U.S. and for failing to adequately warn other nations of the deadly disease.blas
Pompeo’s insistence on branding the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” — in reference to the city in China’s central province of Hubei where the illness first emerged — reportedly resulted in a dispute with foreign ministers from the Group of 7 leading industrialized democracies during a video conference meeting on Wednesday.