Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. Welcome. Today I want to discuss a theme that deserves far more attention, and that is that America is a force for good in the world.
Last week the World Food Programme was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to fight hunger and improve conditions for peace around the world.
The WFP is run by Executive Director David Beasley, and American, former Governor of South Carolina, who deserves along with his team a huge amount of credit for the organization’s success over these past few years. WFP depends completely on voluntary contributions. David has grown its budget from about $6 billion in 2017 to more than $8 billion in 2019.
That money translated into real lives saved. That’s what the Nobel Peace Prize reflected. WFP now helps feed more than 100 million hungry men, women, and children in 80 countries.
And the United States – the United States has supplied 43 percent of the WFP’s budget, by far the greatest contribution from any nation in the world and more than 700, 7-0-0, more than 700 times what China has, and more than two and a half times the second-largest contributor, Germany.
This aid has been all the more critical as the China-fueled pandemic has disrupted supply chains and food supplies all across the world. America’s humanitarian leadership is alive and well and contrasts starkly with what China has done to the hungry around the world.
The team here at State is also working hard to resolve conflicts in Europe:
As the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States remains committed to helping Azerbaijan and Armenia achieve a peaceful and sustainable settlement to their conflict.
We call on both countries to implement their agreed-upon commitments to a ceasefire, and stop targeting civilian areas.
In Belarus, we resolutely support the Belarusian people who continue to demand accountability from Belarus’s leaders for the suppression of democracy, as we did when we levied sanctions on those responsible, in conjunction with our democratic allies in Europe and Canada.
We also reiterate our demand for the immediate release of U.S. citizen Vitali Shkliarov.
Finally, we again call on Russia to cooperate fully with the international community’s investigation into the chemical nerve agent attack against Alex Navalny.
Today I’m also pleased to announce that Assistant Secretary Robert Destro – right here; good to see you – that Assistant Secretary Robert Destro of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor will also serve simultaneously as the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.
He will focus on advancing dialogue between the communist-run government in Beijing and the Dalai Lama; protecting the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of Tibetans; improving respect for their human rights; and much, much more.
Of course, yesterday China, as well as Russia and Cuba, won seats on the Human Rights Council – a win for tyrants, an embarrassment for the United Nations. It’s an example, an indication of why we were right to leave that body. When institutions are irredeemable, as was demonstrated yesterday, the United States under President Trump simply will not participate.
Last week Secretary DeVos and I sent letters to universities and K-12 administrators across the United States to warn how the CCP uses Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms to spread propaganda and to stifle academic freedom.
Separately, yesterday we publicly announced our policy requesting that think tanks that accept money from foreign governments – including China’s – publicly disclose that information. We think it’s important and want the American people to know who’s influencing our think tanks so they can better evaluate the work that they publish.
And of course I’m just back from the region. I had a successful set of discussions with my counterparts from Australia and India and Japan at the Quad meetings in Tokyo last week.
One of the things we discussed was our strengthening ties with Pacific Island nations, and the United States has announced more than $200 million in new funding for the Pacific in 2020 as part of the Pacific Pledge.
State Department officials also recently held a series of virtual discussions with heads of missions from 12 Pacific Island nations on COVID-19 response, economic and development cooperation, and promoting shared values in the region, and in the Indo-Pacific more broadly.
And I want to remind, too, I want to remind businesses and government leaders that the Third Indo-Pacific Business Forum is coming up at the end of this month on the 28th and 29th of October. I launched the very first Indo-Pacific Business Forum in 2018 and look forward to addressing the event again this year.
We also are a force for good in other parts of the world.
Under Secretary Keith Krach just returned from an eight-country tour of Europe. Look, it’s clear that the 5G tide has turned. I remember skepticism from some of you – you all need to go back and look at what you wrote. (Laughter.) More than 25 EU and NATO countries are members of our Clean Network, pledging to use only trusted vendors, and there’s more to follow.
We issued a joint statement with the EU on the synergies between the Clean Network and the EU 5G Clean Toolbox. Since adoption of the Toolbox meets the criteria for being part of the Clean Network, the two work well together.
It’s important, too, to note that the boards of directors of EU telcos may be personally liable for breaches of privacy, data, and intellectual property perpetrated by a “high-risk” 5G supplier.
NATO’s Deputy Secretary General has also emphasized the importance of having a 5G Clean NATO Network. I was glad to hear that. We’ll make real progress on that as well.
The United States invites all freedom-loving nations around the world to join now more than 40 countries and 50 Clean Telcos worldwide as members of our Clean Network.
Turning to the Middle East:
The Trump administration has supported the security and prosperity of our Gulf partners like no administration has in history.
Today, I had the privilege to host the first U.S.-Saudi Strategic Dialogue, just as I hosted the Qatar dialogue on September 14th. I look forward to doing the same for our Emirati partners on October 20th.
On Lebanon: The United States welcomes the launch of negotiations earlier today between the Israeli and Lebanese governments aimed at reaching an agreement on a maritime boundary. This landmark meeting was brokered by the United States, and will be hosted by the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis.
At the request of both countries, I dispatched Assistant Secretary Schenker and Ambassador Desrocher to mediate and facilitate the opening session of talks – which we are committed to helping make successful.
And in the ongoing fight against ISIS, the transfer of the “Beatles” to the United States to face charges for their alleged roles in the torture and execution of hostages is a great win for the United States of America. Their crimes are emblematic of those ISIS has mercilessly perpetrated against the people of the region and of Americans.
We’re committed to serving justice for the families of James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller, and Steven Sotloff.
The Department of Justice has also announced that the United States has now successfully repatriated Americans held by the Syrian Democratic Forces who have been criminally charged for supporting ISIS. We’ve now brought back 10 adults who’ve been charged, as well as 15 children who now have a chance for a better life.
And I want to thank the SDF for their efforts. We call on nations, particularly in Western Europe, to take responsibility for their own citizens who are there.
A little bit closer to home:
The Trump administration has strengthened our region as a Hemisphere of Freedom. The OAS, under the leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, has been a strong supporter of human rights and democracy. And I will be pleased to lead the United States delegation to the OAS virtual General Assembly on the 20th and 21st of this month. This is a moment for our hemisphere to take on the regimes that repress their people and defy the principle of the Inter-American Democratic Charter – countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
I look forward to passing a resolution to protect the right to freedom of conscience, religion, or belief, building on the first-ever resolution on religious freedom last year.
Two other matters on democracy in the region:
On October 18th, the Bolivians will go to the polls. The U.S. calls on all political actors to provide for a credible and peaceful process. And we look forward to working with whomever the Bolivian people freely and fairly choose as the president to promote democracy, human rights, and prosperity for Bolivia and for the wider region.
And I’ll reiterate what I’ve said once before: Haiti’s legislative elections are now overdue. We continue to call for elections as soon as technically feasible. We understand that the OAS Secretariat has called for those elections to be held by the end of January.
Lastly, some good news from Africa:
We applaud the efforts of the DRC President Felix Tshisekedi to hold a virtual “Eastern Congo Summit” on October 7th with negotiating heads of states from Angola, Rwanda, and Uganda. This meeting demonstrates that a high-level commitment to lasting peace, stability, and economic opportunity for this historically restive eastern DRC region can take place.
Thank you. I’m happy to take a few questions.
MS ORTAGUS: Humeyra, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about Iraq. Kata’ib Hizballah militia in Baghdad recently declared a ceasefire and promised not to attack U.S. embassy. Do you believe this represents a progress in securing the embassy, or are you still considering pulling out U.S. diplomats?
And if I may, you said last week the State Department is going to release more of Hillary Clinton’s classified emails. How many more does the State Department have that have not been previously released? Why is this necessary at the moment? How is this not a violation of the Hatch Act given State Department resources will be used, and who is going to be doing this task? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, releasing emails for the sake of transparency can’t possibly be a violation of the Hatch Act. That’s a ridiculous question. We’ll continue to do the right thing. We’ll make sure that all these emails get to the right place and we will do everything we can to make sure that the American people get a chance to see as much as we can equitably produce.
As for Iraq, it’s like – it’s like every place in the world. I have a responsibility to do everything I can to make sure that the diplomats and others who serve under chief-of-mission authority around the world are operating in a safe and secure environment. We are happy that the Iraqis are doing more to provide increased security for our – for our team on the ground there. But just think about your question. We have a rogue set of militias who have now promised not to violate the Iraqi people’s sovereignty, to take aim at U.S. diplomats serving there that are designed to help the Iraqi people.
Our mission is clear. We’ve been there to try and help build out a sovereign, independent, free Iraq capable – with a capable economy, capable set of resources. It’s what the Iraqi people want, and I think the Iraqi people have come to understand that the malign activity that the Iranians are engaged in, including through the proxy forces to which you refer, who’ve now declared a ceasefire – I think the Iraqi people understand who’s the force for good in the region, and we’re going to do everything we can to continue to support Iraqi sovereignty and freedom.
MS ORTAGUS: Tashi, Radio Free Asia.
QUESTION: Tashi from Radio Free Asia TV service.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hello.
QUESTION: You just announced the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issue. China seems to be replicating the labor force, labor camp in Tibet recent – according to the recent reports. What’s your take on that? And China claims that they have the upper hands on the coordination of the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. What’s your take on this, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I think your question gets to the – one of the core challenges that we’ve identified from the Chinese Communist Party there: a consistent violation of the most basic and fundamental human rights for their own people. This is what communist parties have a history of doing, it’s what President Trump has directed us all to work to try and preserve: as much freedom, as much dignity for every citizen of China as we possibly can when they’re confronted with these massive human rights violations that are being conducted by the Chinese Communist Party.
And so that’s true. Whether it’s Xinjiang, what’s taking place there; whether it’s Tibet – we talked about that a little bit here this morning; whether that’s in Inner Mongolia, and the Inner Mongolians’ simple desire to live in freedom and exercise their own understandings of what freedom and human dignity look like. In each of those places – and I’d add Hong Kong – in each of those places, we simply are demanding of the Chinese Communist Party what we ask of every nation, is to preserve basic freedoms, human dignity, religious freedom for every one of their citizens. We’ll work hard to do everything we can to build out a coalition all across the world that comes to understand how important that is alongside of us, and works to impose costs on the Chinese Communist Party when they act in ways that are inconsistent with those basic fundamental human freedoms.
MS ORTAGUS: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.
QUESTION: Hi. On Armenia and Azerbaijan. Christians in the U.S. are very concerned about Christians in the region. And Joe Biden put out a statement saying that you and the President haven’t done enough, or anything, about the outbreak of what that has happened there. Can you set the record straight on what the Trump administration is doing? And also, have you talked to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t want to get into the conversations that are ongoing and continue to be ongoing. But suffice it to say I spoke to President Trump about this just this morning, briefly. We are watching what’s taking place there. We have joined our European partners, and frankly, many countries around the world to ask that there be a ceasefire as a beginning of a solution to the conflict. We’ve watched the reporting of civilian deaths. We’ve watched Turkey begin to reinforce Azerbaijan. We’ve asked every international player to stay out of the region, not to continue to reinforce trouble, and we’re working to deliver that. We’re using our diplomatic toolkit to try and achieve an outcome that gets a standdown, a ceasefire, and an outcome that is a solution based on international law.
It’s pretty straightforward. We are focused on it. We’re paying a great deal of attention to it. We’ve frankly done some work that I think increases the likelihood that the objectives that I just identified for you actually take place.
QUESTION: And can I have one more question, please. There’s a story breaking today with emails from Hunter Biden suggesting that he sold influence, connections to his father. And there are questions about how much of that was filtered through the State Department. Is there going to be an investigation into that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ve seen the reporting. If I understood the nature of those emails, they weren’t connected to the State Department.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, I have one more —
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, sorry. Go ahead —
QUESTION: It’s okay.
MS ORATGUS: No. Rich.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, regarding Ambassador Billingslea’s statement yesterday on New START, that there was an agreement in principle, can you explain a bit about what that agreement is? And afterwards, the Russian Government had come and said that there is not an agreement for an extension or a freeze. So where – what is this agreement in principle, and where is the – where are the U.S. and Russia on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t have anything to add to that, other than I spoke to the President about this issue this morning as well. He’s focused on this, too. We would welcome the opportunity to complete an agreement based on understandings that were achieved over the last couple weeks about what the range of possibilities look like for an extension of New START and an outcome that benefits the entire world, increased stability of the most dangerous weapons in the world.
We’re working hard at it, Ambassador Billingslea and his team are working really hard on it, and I am hopeful that the Russians will find a way to agree to an outcome that, frankly, I think is in their best interest and in our best interest. And we hope that the Chinese Communist Party will also come to see that this kind of work, this kind of diligent work, to decrease risk, to take instability out of the entire world from these very dangerous weapons, these nuclear weapons that can proliferate so easily and you can end up with a really bad day. I hope that the Chinese Communist Party will come to see that this is how mature nations deal with these issues, and will come to join us in this conversation as well.
QUESTION: The CCP hasn’t been involved thus far?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They have refused to join the conversation between us and the Russians to date.
MS ORTAGUS: Rosen.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you. First, a housekeeping matter – you made reference earlier cavalierly to the Beatles, and as someone who named his children after the Beatles, I just wish that henceforth we would just say, “the so-called Beatles,” or something that doesn’t really darken an amazing legacy by association.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, sorry. I have many of the albums as well, so I understand.
QUESTION: I want to follow up on the line of questioning about the Clinton emails, if I may.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I’d like to take a few questions —
SECRETARY POMPEO: You can, but I don’t have anything that I’m going to add here this morning. But I – if you want to use your question for that, that’s certainly fine. (Laughter.) I mean, you’re – I just – I want to give you an opportunity to ask something I’m going to give you an answer for, and that’s very unlikely. But you’re welcome —
QUESTION: It’s —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I never tell anybody what to say or not to say, so —
QUESTION: It’s a doctrine of preemption. (Laughter.) Well, I’ll ask the questions and if you feel you have nothing to say, then that’ll be —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great.
QUESTION: — what we accomplish here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Have you read any of the emails, are you familiar with their content? If you look at the chronology of public statements surrounding this development, it would appear that this action was taken by you in response to public pleas from the President. You’ve been Secretary of State for two and a half years or so. You’ve had ample time to meet the imperatives of transparency, and doing so within three weeks of an election obviously will strike even fair-minded observers as political in nature. And lastly —
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, that’s three, so we’re good.
QUESTION: — can you commit that you have not conducted any official business over personal email?
MS ORTAGUS: And now we’re on four. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry, what was the final one?
QUESTION: Can you commit that you have not —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
QUESTION: — transacted any official business over personal email?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I got it. Here’s what I’ll say about this: I actually have been involved in these emails for a long time. You’ll recall I previously served as a member of Congress where Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal server containing classified information became a very important issue. I think that’s really important for the American people to continue to understand. This isn’t that there was a stray comment on her personal server; this was a system designed to evade State Department rules and regulations on which – and that server ended up containing highly classified information. That’s important.
Second, with respect to our transparency, it’s an ongoing process. We’ve had people out for COVID, we’ve got lots of challenges in production of documents today. You can go to the State Department’s website and see 35,000-plus emails that came from Secretary Clinton’s server that were provided in response to various inquiries. We’ve provided documents to Capitol Hill all throughout my time in two-and-a-half years. And we’re going to continue to do the work as we identify material, we look at it and review it, we’ll make sure we make the right decisions for the American people. And transparency, we’ll – it’s what we’ve done for my two-and-a-half years as Secretary of State; it’s what we’ll do every single day until I’m no longer Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Have you read any of them yourself?
MODERATOR: Okay. Nadia, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Secretary. The Saudi foreign minister said that the Houthis has launched more than 300 rockets against Saudi Arabia. They refuse to come to the negotiation table. And everybody talks about ending the war in Yemen and ending the humanitarian suffering of the Yemeni people. What can you do to help the Saudis to end the war in Yemen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve been working on this – I’ve been personally working on this for almost four years: first, as CIA Director where we were working to make sure that everyone understood what the fact set was on the ground, so the intelligence component of this. And now, as Secretary of State, executing the diplomatic component of this. The foreign minister identified correctly that there continue to be attacks that emanate from Yemen, conducted by the Houthis, supported and underwritten by the Iranians – by the regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran – that threaten Saudi interests and that put at risk Saudi people, Saudi lives, Saudi businesses, ordinary civilians inside of Saudi Arabia.
And so we are doing everything we can to make sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran has fewer resources with which to underwrite the Houthis. I think the Iranians have now said tens of billions of dollars that we have denied them through our maximum pressure campaign. Some of that money would have gone for bigger missiles, better missiles, more missiles, more capacity to inflict pain on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our pressure campaign in Iran has been enormously successful at denying them the resources for terror and denying the regime the capacity to conduct these attacks.
And then we’re doing everything we can to provide our diplomatic support as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia works to try and come to a better solution inside of Yemen. And of course, we support the UN’s efforts on the humanitarian side as well. The United States has been a significant donor to providing humanitarian resources for the region. It has just proven difficult when the Iranians direct the Houthis not to allow that food, those medicines, the much-needed goods to get inside and be distributed inside of Yemen. That’s horrific. And it’s what the Iranians have chosen to do, and the Houthis have followed that guidance, and it makes the rest of the world – the United Nations, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Emiratis, the Americans who have provided – and the Europeans – who have provided real sustained financial support for those humanitarian needs – it makes it difficult for us to get those food stuffs and that medicine to the places that we need them. We’ll keep working at it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll take one more.
MS ORTAGUS: Shaun.
QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Could I ask about North Korea? Over the weekend, Kim Jong-un had a military parade in which – what analysts say was displayed was an ICBM with independent re-entry vehicles. How concerned are you about this ICBM? How much of a threat do you think Americans should feel from it? And are you still confident that the diplomacy launched by you and by President Trump with North Korea has been successful in reducing the threat? Thanks.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, but what’s your concern about the missiles —
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) So your question was am I confident that our diplomacy has proven successful? Yes, absolutely. We saw the elements that were paraded out as well. It’s important to know that when a nation builds out its missile program, the most important thing they do to make sure that it’s actually functional is to test those missiles. You should know that the Chinese Communist Party conducted more missile tests last year than the rest of the world combined. The North Koreans, however, last year, did exactly zero inter…continental ballistic missile tests last year. And that held true for the year before that as well. So the agreement, the understandings, albeit not achieving our ultimate objective in North Korea, has certainly led to reduced risk from the United States vis where we would have been had we continued on the path that the previous administration had engaged in.
MS ORTAGUS: Thanks, everyone.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all. Everybody have a good day.