Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, an honor to have you on the show this morning. Hi.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, it’s great to be with again. How are you today?
QUESTION: Doing very well, sir, thank you. You’ve come a long way since your days as a member of the House of Representatives, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Do you miss those days? What’s the difference in your life from being in the House of Representatives to today?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness. It’s very different. Both have been real opportunities to serve. It was a lot of fun representing the people of South Central Kansas. It’s been an incredible privilege to serve all of America, but first as the Director at the CIA and now as Secretary of State, to work as part of the Trump Administration to try to make sure every day that we secure freedom for every American.
QUESTION: Of course, the CIA as well. And that move initially when you made that move, I think a lot of people found it curious. But I must tell you, and if I’m sucking up so be it, you’ve been outstanding. I’m sure you were outstanding in both posts, but you became very highly visible as Secretary of State. What is the difference in the two roles? Could you explain? Because obviously the CIA is obviously in the spotlight, too. I know that’s your old post, but you’re much more visible now than you were then. Isn’t that safe to say?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, first of all, that’s very kind. Thanks for the kind words. They’re very different roles. The CIA director is behind the scenes, making sure that we collect the facts and data so that decision makers can have everything they need to form policy.
My current role is to help the President deliver on his foreign policy objective. It’s a much more public-facing role. It’s a role where I spend a lot more time on the road traveling around the world, working with our friends and partners to help ensure that they understand what America is looking to do and building out coalitions to help achieve that for the American people.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I guess I’ll start obviously with – if you Google your name today, it’s all the Wuhan lab. It’s all the virus and China and whether Mike Pompeo in a combative – it’s always combative, a combative press exchange about whether or not the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan. So where are we officially on that today?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s neither partisan, nor bullying, nor combative. We’re trying to get answers for the world. The Chinese Communist Party has not been forthcoming with the data set. We know that it originated in Wuhan, China. That much is certain. What we don’t know yet is precisely where it came from and how it began to spread. We can’t identify patient zero. We’ve seen evidence that it came from the lab. That may not be the case.
The people who can answer that question are the Chinese Communist Party. They need to do that. This is an ongoing challenge, as you well know. We still have people getting sick. We still have lost lives. Our economy is still not back going. And so we have an obligation even today to continue to demand that China share this information with the world so that our epidemiologists, our scientists, all the people who are trying to build out therapeutics and vaccines, can understand all that they need.
Shoot, we still don’t have samples of this virus, the original virus. We need those. The Chinese Government has those in their control. The World Health Organization needs to ask China again and again and again to provide them. This is an ongoing effort to deny the world the information that it needs to protect people all across the world.
QUESTION: Sir, I say it with respect and I’m not trying to drag you into anything, nor do I think – you’re too smart to give up anything even if you – if you had it in you anyway. But I will just say that an epidemiologist advising President Trump is a far different perspective than the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advising President Trump. I think you view this through an entirely different lens, particularly when we talk about the relationship of the World Health Organization and China and the things they said about this and their role in this.
I feel like medical folks are more inclined to want to give the WHO the benefit of the doubt, whereas the vast majority of us anyway – I can speak for this audience when I say we don’t – we don’t trust these organizations. Increasingly, if you want to use the world, “globalist” organizations seem to be letting us down in big ways. Can you illustrate your point of view on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So in this case, it’s absolutely true that the World Health Organization let us all down. It didn’t declare a pandemic in a timely fashion. It still is not holding China accountable for failing to disclose the information that the world needs. That’s what it does, right? The WHO is designed to have as one of its primary missions pandemic prevention, and then in the event there’s a pandemic to deliver good outcomes.
It’s not been able to do that. President Trump has made clear that’s unacceptable to spend this much American taxpayer money for an institution that won’t work. It’s just something we’re not going to do. So, we’re looking at it. We’re trying to figure out are there pieces of it that still make sense? It’s done good work in some places on polio and the like.
But in this event, it didn’t get it done. Your point about different optics, we wish the WHO had been a scientific organization, relied on medical expertise, done the science piece of this right. Instead it became a political institution that allowed the Chinese Communist Party to have influence in ways that were inconsistent with the data and the facts. That’s what we are concerned about. It’s why President Trump has said let’s take a time-out, let’s look at this, and let’s figure out how we can be an important part of global health policy, not only to help people all around the world, but as you can see, we got to get these things right all around the world to keep Americans safe too, and that’s what we’re going to do.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with us this morning, and this is touchy, I understand, and difficult to answer. But there are a whole lot of people that feel that this may have been – this is biological warfare, that this was purposeful, that this, for China, has the United States exactly where they want us: crippled, financially disabled, on our heels. I hear that a lot. I’m sure you do too. So can you – I don’t know – either assuage our fears and concerns about that, or confirm them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we haven’t seen any evidence that this was a biological weapons effort that led to this. Indeed, the Intelligence Community concluded that this was a – not a man-made virus. Fair enough.
But what I can say is this: President Trump singled out this threat from China back in the campaign back in 2016. He came to understand that whether it was their military growth or the fact that they were stealing intellectual property, or their imprisonment of a thousand people in the western part of China – a million people because of their religious beliefs in the western part of China, he could see the risk associated with this communist regime, what they were doing to deny jobs and opportunity for the people of the United States of America. And so this virus is the – just the latest symptom of this challenge, and we all – everybody in the Trump Administration understands what the President wants us to do to respond to this in a way that makes sure we take care of American workers, American people, and American families.
QUESTION: I find it interesting, Mr. Secretary, that those that were so critical of this administration’s policy on our southern border suddenly became the most vociferous critics of the administration when they felt it wasn’t aggressive enough to stop travel from China, which was sort of an amazing turn of events. They went from wanting the borders to the south open to even American citizens from China not allowed in.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The irony has not escaped me, for sure. Look, but the truth of the matter is we – this is not about politics for President Trump and our team. This is about making sure that we protect Americans, we keep them safe, we do what we need to do. His decision early on in the end of January that said hey, we can see what’s happening in Wuhan, we can see the challenge – let’s shut this down – was bold. It was the first one that was made. We were criticized for that; President was criticized for that. It was the right answer. It protected and preserved America. We would be in a lot worse condition today had the President not made that decision.
QUESTION: Is it safe to say China does not want to see another term of Donald Trump as President?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I know this: I hope that President Trump gets four more years.
QUESTION: Let me ask you quickly about Kim Jong-un and South Korea – or North Korea. What a bizarre set of circumstances. We were told emergency surgery, maybe not well, maybe dead, then supposedly pictures. Have you guys confirmed? Is the guy alive, dead, what’s going on with him?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, we think he’s alive. We watched what took place there, and all the while President was pretty clear: Mike, don’t lose sight. We have a mission set. We want to do everything we can to convince the North Koreans, whoever’s in charge, that their nuclear program was not in their best interest, they would need to denuclearize. We’ll need to be able to verify that that took place. That’s what matters for the American people’s security, has been the singular focus of President Trump on North Korea since he’s taken office.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, the Maduro regime still insinuating that we are actively sending people there to try to unseat him – physically do so – and they have a couple of our American citizens detained. They claim they’re down there trying to make trouble for Maduro. I know you’ve officially said that’s not the case, but it wouldn’t hurt your feelings to see him ousted.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So no, we have been very clear: Maduro must go. This effort that we’ve seen the stories on these last few days was not an American effort, but we do believe that Maduro must go. He’s indicted on narcotrafficking charges here in the United States. This is a fellow who has wreaked enormous havoc in Venezuela. We’ve now had six million Venezuelans have to leave their country. What a calamity this socialism has brought to a once-rich nation. We want to try and restore that democracy for the Venezuelan people. It’s certainly important for them, but that will increase security for America as well.
QUESTION: Finally, Mr. Secretary, I’ll ask you about this lockdown situation. Here in Pennsylvania and neighboring New Jersey, much more restrictive than some other states that are reopening. I know this isn’t really your purview, but I would just ask you generally: Is it on your radar or are you thoughtful about what happens to people in this country when they’re just not allowed to work, when they’re just captive for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks? I don’t even want to talk about what-ifs, but I can tell you my mind does and has gone to some bad places at times. Is that a thought? Is that something you’re mindful of as Secretary of State?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me – so let me just say this as Mike, not as Secretary of State, because you’re right, we’ve got a big task force that’s working on this. The President wants to get this economy cranked back up. I’ve seen it, my family sees it, my friends see it, just like you and all of your listeners see it. We are a people who like to be out. We are – we like to work, we like to go to church, we like to be with our families on Wednesday night to go to the church chili cook-off. All those things matter to us, and we need to have the opportunity to get back out and do that. We obviously got to do it in a way that protects people. I’ve got family members and friends who are older and at more risk, but there’s a way to do this in a thoughtful, responsible way, and we need to move out on that just as quickly as we can.
QUESTION: I am genuinely thrilled to have you in such a prominent place in this administration, Mr. Secretary. I think the world of you; I’m a big admirer. I’m thrilled that we were able to talk to you this morning, and I hope we can do it more frequently. Thanks for all you’re doing, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir. I look forward to it as well. Bless you. Have a good day.
* This article was originally published here
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