Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Joining us right now is the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here. Oh, he’s not. I’m so sorry. I was told that he was here. Well, that makes it awkward, doesn’t it? There he is. Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is Mike. How are you?
QUESTION: Hey, Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you today. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you expand on that? I just played a little audio of your remarks yesterday, and you said that the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies aims to make Americans receptive to Beijing’s form of authoritarianism. Can you expand on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So this is precisely the risk the President has identified when we talk about disinformation and Chinese influence here, Chinese Communist Party influence here in the United States. We saw a glaring example when it came to the Wuhan virus, right – their effort to suppress information, to pretend that they were the white knight, that they were solving the very fire that they set, and we see the impact on not only the United States but on the entire world.
They are here. They are actively working to undermine democracy and to use their tools – and we saw this – we saw an effect of this, a decision the President made when we closed the Chinese consulate, their diplomatic outpost, the Chinese Communist Party’s diplomatic outpost in Houston, where they were conducting operations that were of an espionage nature and they were attempting to condition the United States of America to accept the completely unfair and non-reciprocal relationship between our two countries.
QUESTION: Well, and to make us more receptive to their form of authoritarianism, I mean, I hear that and I think, well, gosh, for the last six months our state governors, under the guise of – I don’t want to say guise because that makes it sound like it’s fake, but within the framework of a health emergency have pretty strictly infringed on most Americans’ civil liberties. And we’re – we’ve all been onboard as much as we can reluctantly – we’re Americans; we push back on these things – but it was for the greater good. I mean, could that be part of what China is trying to achieve here, to make us that kind of conditioned?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Make no mistake: The Chinese Communist Party is hard at work at the state level. I gave some remarks now six months ago, seven months ago, to the National Governors Association. They have rated every government essentially – governor friend of foe or somewhere in between. They are evaluating whether these governors are working in ways that benefit them, the Chinese Communist Party, or not. And they are actively working to develop relationships with state elected officials – I was in Wisconsin yesterday talking about this issue – using their United Front development programs to undermine our democracy and to move the direction of opinion in the direction of their authoritarian regime.
We have a responsibility and obligation to push back against that and to protect from these disinformation campaigns that are being conducted right here inside the United States.
QUESTION: One other question for you, Mr. Secretary, on America’s adversaries, even enemies on the planet, then we’ll get to some of the incredible good news that you have been able to achieve. Iran – at the exact same time that Vice President Biden is pledging to go back to the Iran nuclear deal that he and your predecessor, Secretary Kerry, and the President of the United States finagled, you, on behalf of the Trump administration and our nation – we’ve actually engaged in more sanctions against Iran, have we not?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have. President Trump came into office with the recognition that the agreement that President Obama and Vice President Biden had entered into with the regime in Iran was just crazy, it presented a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon, and that that was unacceptable for the security of the Middle East and Israel and the United States of America.
So we flipped the script and we have spent the last now three years and few months working to deny the regime the money, the resources, the wealth, the capacity to build that nuclear weapon. President Trump has said they’re not going to have one on our watch; that won’t take place. We took out Qasem Soleimani, one of the premier architects of their terror campaign around the world, and there is no reason to not continue the diplomatic, economic, and security efforts that this administration has undertaken over these years. It has weakened the regime. It has made America more safe. I am very proud of what we have done. And it created the conditions for the good news we had out of the Middle East now two weeks back.
QUESTION: Are you going it alone against Iran though? Because I mean, we need – Europe and Germany in particular, they still have some – they seem to look the other way with regard to the atrocities and the terrorism coming out of Iran. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have them a little bit more on board with us?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It would. They say they share our objectives, and yet they have continued to maintain that the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, was a good thing. And we don’t see how you can hold those two thoughts in your head at the same time. We know that the JCPOA enabled them to continue their terror campaign. It provided them money and resources to do that. We hope the Europeans will join us.
But make no mistake: Even though it was the United States leading the campaign for the last three years, it’s been very successful. The regime is less well off. I think the number now is some $70 billion – $70 billion in wealth – that we have denied the clerical, theocratic kleptocrats that run Iran today.
QUESTION: Let’s turn to the Abraham Accords as we’re in the Middle East, because boy, there is some incredible news for the first time in a quarter century. You’ve got two Arab nations, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, entering into a peace deal and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. There are those who look at this and say, oh, that’s not big a deal, they weren’t really at war anyway and this is – this was going to happen anyway. What’s your response to that? How are they wrong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: For 40 years – and this isn’t partisan, although frankly the last administration was the worst. For 40 years the theory has been you can’t create peace and stability in the Middle East until you solve the Israel-Palestinian problem; that’s a precondition for improved relationships among Israelis and Arabs.
President Trump knew that couldn’t be the case, and so for several years we’ve been working on a set of actions that would create conditions where great leaders like the crown prince and the United Arab Emirates and the senior leadership in Bahrain now have acknowledged that Israel has a right to exist, that it is the Jewish homeland, and they want to do business with them and they want to have diplomatic relationships with them and economic and security relationships.
We have decreased risk in the Middle East. We’ve created more opportunities for peace. And while for decades people said this couldn’t happen until the Palestinians got what they wanted, we said no, we want good things for the Palestinians, but if they’re not prepared to have a serious conversation, we’re still going to work on creating more stability and more peace in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Our guest is Mike Pompeo. And Mr. Pompeo, first in your class at West Point, an armor officer under Commander-in-Chief Ronald Reagan – thank you very much, a congressman from Kansas, a director of the CIA, now Secretary of State. You’ve seen a lot. You’ve been through a lot. Talk to me about that moment standing in the White House when you see those documents signed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the leaders of Bahrain and the UAE, and President Trump. What was going through your mind?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s very emotional. To have been a small part of that historic day was heartening. All the hard work that so many people in the State Department, in the White House, and people from the administrations in those two – those three countries who had all worked so hard to reach that moment – it was truly heartening to see and to know, to know the good things that will flow for prosperity here in America and prosperity for the people of Israel. It was really a historic day. I was really proud to be there and have been some small part in making that – to making those signatures get onto those pieces of paper.
QUESTION: And not to dwell on the critics here, Secretary Pompeo, but it is important to point out – I mean, when you go back and look at what was being said about President Trump along with the State Department and everyone within this administration, following through on that very important move of the embassy to Jerusalem, we were told that this was going to explode the Middle East, that there would never be any hope of peace at this point – in fact, it’s exacerbating the situation. I mean, it’s worth looking back and recognizing who’s wrong and who’s right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m only chuckling because it was the establishment chorus that rang out for weeks and weeks and weeks and said if you do this – if you move the embassy, the U.S. embassy to the rightful capital of Israel, to move it to Jerusalem; or if you acknowledge that the Golan Heights is the territory of Israel; or if you say, goodness gracious, Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, not all of them are necessarily illegal – if you do those things, you’re going to have the 94th intifada, you’ll have World War VII. I mean, just the stories were crazy.
And President Trump made a bold decision. He did those things. He took down the caliphate in Syria, the ISIS caliphate in Syria and in Iraq. He took out Baghdadi. He took out Soleimani. In each case, right, the previous administration said no, we’re not prepared to do those things, they’ll create too much risk, too much instability. In fact, the opposite has happened, and we have seen an enormous opening for peace and one that I am very confident we will expand upon in the weeks and months ahead.
QUESTION: Well, and to that end, and our final question here – we’re almost out of time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and I appreciate you joining us as always – looking at where the Middle East is now and what you know we’re headed toward in the Middle East, if we can resolve the issue of Iran, if we can finally see freedom and liberty and self-determination for the great historic Persian people – I mean, at that point, what does the Middle East look like?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s been the objective for administrations in the United States, for Europeans, for the other Middle Eastern countries for years. It would be a glorious thing to get Iran to get to the place that we were at in the White House two weeks ago, to acknowledge the right of the Jewish state to exist, not to shout death to America, death to the great Satan; death to Israel, the Little Satan. If we could get to that place – if we could get to an Iranian understanding where they could rejoin the normal world and the community of nations – there would be a glorious outcome – great economic benefits, better lives for people throughout the Middle East – and it would redound to the prosperity of the people – of people here at home.
And you know for too long we’ve had to send our young boys and girls to the Middle East and put them at grave risk. We’ve lost hundreds of American lives in pursuit of Middle East peace and Middle East stability. This would be a moment of historic proportion. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there, but President Trump’s leadership has increased the probability that that day will once be reached.
QUESTION: All right, and we’ll leave it at that. But I think you can join me – I razz you a lot about Army-Navy game, but we can both agree that it’s just ridiculous that Air Force is only playing two games this year, right? I mean, all they’ve got to do is prepare for Navy and Army and that’s their entire season. Come on.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That doesn’t seem right. We can both agree that’s outrageous.
QUESTION: There you go. See, I knew we’d get to some agreement on that.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you for joining us and congratulations on everything.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me on today. So long.