U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted on Tuesday that President Donald Trump would serve a second term amid his refusal to concede the 2020 election.
When asked by reporters how the department would transition to a new administration, Pompeo argued that Trump would remain in office despite losing to President-elect Joe Biden.
"There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," Pompeo said.
Pompeo went on to defend his statement by insinuating that Biden's victory could be overturned due to totally unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
"I am very confident that we will count—and we must count—every legal vote," Pompeo added. "We must make sure that any vote that wasn't lawful ought not be counted."
Pompeo's comments resulted in a frenzy online, with many arguing that the remarks set a dangerous precedent.
"Secretary Pompeo is dismissing the results of our own nation’s fair & free elections," said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va,). "This is shameful and dangerous. Secretary Pompeo is imperiling our country’s global leadership, and the validity of America’s long-held commitment to promoting democracy the world over."
Others argued that Pompeo's statement was merely a joke and not to be taken seriously.
"I hate Pompeo. But he was trying to make a joke," @ArmandoNDK said. "An inappropriate joke but a joke. It wasn't as bad as I thought."
But many pushed back on attempts to downplay the comment, noting that the alleged joke was in line with the belief among many conservatives that Trump is owed a second term.
"Some people are going to say Pompeo is joking or trolling," journalist Yashar Ali said. "First, the Secretary of State shouldn't be joking about this stuff. Second, he is responsible for pushing other nations, on behalf of the United States, to conduct free and fair elections... why should anyone listen now?"
Fear of a coup even circled around online.
Unsurprisingly, conservatives opted to openly celebrate Pompeo's statement, referring to the politician as a "badass" and a "savage."
It appears the White House may not be treating Pompeo's statement as a joke, however, given that the Trump administration is continuing to act as if it didn't lose, with the Washington Post reporting Trump was telling agencies to proceed with his February budget.