QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is with me now. And sir, good afternoon to you and thank you for your time and being here today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Bill. Thanks for having me on the show this afternoon.
QUESTION: You just launched a Commission on Unalienable Rights here in Philadelphia today. Why is this commission necessary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, you were just talking about China. The rights that we have that the Declaration of Independence set forth, that are in our Constitution, are central to American foreign policy. We have to get that right. We have this deep tradition. It’s under attack. You see it with the 1619 Project. You see it with people who just hate America. We have to go back to our central understandings of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness that our founders set out for us. If we’re going to conduct effective foreign policy and push back against tyrannical authoritarian regimes like China, we have to get it right here at home first.
QUESTION: In The Wall Street Journal you write this today: “Human rights advocacy has lost its bearings and become more of an industry than a moral compass.” What does that mean?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think that’s right. So I set up this commission to go reground America. We have this rich tradition, Bill – people know it, they know it in their hearts, this idea that there are these rights that were given to us by God and government was designed to secure them, and we need to remind ourselves of that. And when we do that, when we remind ourselves of those unalienable rights, that all the other things that flow from that will be good.
And you see too many times that we stray from that. And when we stray from it, when we talk to other nations and demand that they stop the horrible, gross human rights violations that they’re engaged in around the world, we won’t have a basis from which to do it.
QUESTION: You point out in the piece Eleanor Roosevelt started this in 1947. What’s changed in –
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, there’s a –
QUESTION: – 73 years later?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In some ways we’re just going back to those first principles. But what’s changed is a phrase that Lincoln had, which was the artillery of time has just diminished our ability to think about this and remind ourselves of how central this is to who we are as Americans. This is an exceptional nation. We need to secure those freedoms for all of our people. And when we do that, we can conduct an effective foreign policy. And I think President Trump has demonstrated that time and time again.
QUESTION: Okay, I’ve got a laundry list of things to go through around the world in a moment here, but just one more question on this point. How long have you thought this way?
SECRETARY POMPEO: A long time, Bill. Since I was a young soldier, a cadet, too many years ago, I’ve always been thinking about how it is that we protect those freedoms that are essential to our American-ness, this unique and exceptional nation. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. And when I became the Secretary of State, I saw that our department was not thinking about this in a way that was consistent, and I wanted to reground ourselves in these important understandings about those unalienable rights.
QUESTION: Thank you for expressing that here. Let’s go to it now, okay? China. You said yesterday that the world would hold China accountable. How?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I can see it happening already. I can see nations who were doing business in China who are rethinking about how to do that. If you’re buying products that are the result of the slave labor that’s happening in the western part of China, if you’re a country that’s bent the knee to China because they tried to come fish in your waters that are rightly yours for your citizens to make their lives better, I can see nations all around the world that are reasserting their claims, reasserting their sovereignty. And of course, President Trump has done that here too.
For 40 years – this isn’t partisan, Bill – for 40 years we’ve had administrations that have just looked the other way and allowed China to trample on us. And President Trump said no more; we’re going to have fair, reciprocal trade relationships; we’re going to demand that the Chinese Communist Party treat Americans the same way that we treat people who go there. This is a simple understanding, and President Trump is going to demand that it happens. And of course, now too, we’ve seen the virus that started in Wuhan, China cost the globe hundreds of thousands of people and trillions and trillions of dollars, and I believe the world is going to unite to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for having covered this up when they could have prevented so much of this tragedy.
QUESTION: Name a few countries who have already lined up.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the Europeans are getting in a better place today. You saw the United Kingdom announce yesterday they’re not going to allow Chinese technology in their system. The Australians, the Japanese applauded the decision that we made about the South China Sea. Countries not only in Southeast Asia but in Asia more broadly, in Europe, have come to understand the threat that the Chinese Communist Party presents. The United States slept on this for too long. I think they all did too, and I think they’re coming to a joint conclusion that it’s time for the world to make sure that we get this right. For democracies and freedom-loving people around the world, it is an imperative that we push back against the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to us all.
QUESTION: There is a report out that there could be a ban on U.S. travel for Chinese party members and their families. Will you confirm that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bill, we’re working our way through, under the President’s guidance, about how to think about pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party. You see it in trade, you see it in other economic activity, you see it in diplomatic engagement.
QUESTION: So is the travel – I’m sorry. Is the travel ban possible then?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re looking at the right way to think about this. We want to make sure we do it in a way that reflects America’s tradition, and there are lots of ideas that are under review by the President and by our team.
QUESTION: And this is one of them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bill, I just – I don’t comment on things we’re working on inside. I know others do; I prefer to let the team work. And when we’re prepared to present it to the President, we will, and we’ll let him make the ultimate decision.
QUESTION: One more question on China. We had a scientist on here the other day on this program from Hong Kong. She said she defected, said she fears for her life. She claims that human-to-human transmission occurred three weeks before the Chinese copped to it. Is she right on that point?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I didn’t see her remarks, but it is the case that the Chinese Communist Party was aware of human-human transmission before they shared this with the world, and that the World Health Organization itself was co-opted into the same effort to deny the world the knowledge it needed to respond to this threat, to this threat from the virus that emanated from Wuhan, China.
QUESTION: You mentioned the UK a moment ago with regard to China. With regard to Russia, London is taking action against Russia. They believe the intelligence services out of Moscow have conducted vaccine cyber attacks. There are some suggesting they’ve done the same against us here in the U.S. Has Moscow harmed our ability or intercepted our ability to develop an effective vaccine?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bill, I think our institutions are quite capable of continuing down the road, moving on this project. I do worry. I don’t want to talk about that particular subject, but I had commented weeks ago about Chinese activity to do the same, to steal the intellectual property of the United States from the companies that are investing enormous resources in trying to find a vaccine to save hundreds, indeed hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of lives. I regret that other countries, instead of working the project and using their best minds and talents to solve this problem, are trying to steal it from Western democracies who are making real progress on these very vaccines.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, has – these Russian intelligence service, have they been successful at all, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to comment on the intelligence, Bill.
QUESTION: Okay, we’ll leave that there. On Iran: You’ve been asked a lot as to who’s responsible for the fires in the nuclear facilities throughout that country that have been happening now for the last two weeks. I know you’re not going to tell us who you think it is, and I won’t even ask that. Can you give us a suggestion today as to what your theory is as to why this is happening?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, Bill, I don’t want to speculate. We’ll let our intelligence teams do their work and come to their conclusions.
With respect to Iran, regardless of how these all came to be, the United States has a very clear policy under President Trump: We’re not going to provide resources for Iran to be the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, and we’re going to continue to impose costs on the regime such that they will conclude that they want to be a normal nation. That’s our mission set. It’s what he has tasked the State Department and the Department of Defense to do. We’re working diligently to achieve that.
QUESTION: How far back has that nuclear program been set?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the Iranian nuclear program – indeed, their weapons program – goes back to many, many years. Their weapons program extended through at least 2003, and their nuclear program, of course, enriching uranium, continues to this day.
QUESTION: Okay. But with the fires, has that put that program back on its heels? Would you characterize it that way?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t know the answer to that, Bill.
QUESTION: Two more questions. North Korea: You’ve said there were no plans for a summit before the election. Has Pyongyang expressed an interest to talk again?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there’s conversations that take place, Bill, at many levels and in many forms. We don’t talk about them publicly very often. And what I said was we’re not going to have a summit, we’re not going to bring Chairman Kim and President Trump together, unless there’s something they can accomplish.
If that were the case, if we got to a place where we could get a good outcome, a significant step along the way towards the world’s objective of denuclearizing North Korea, we’d find a way to bring the leaders together. But we’ve just got a matter of months between here and the election, and I haven’t seen evidence yet that we’re going to reach the point where we can bring those leaders together.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope we get the chance to do that. But I don’t expect that we will.
QUESTION: There’s an election in 110 days, in fact. And there’s been a call to bring more troops home from overseas – Afghanistan, somewhat successful; Germany as well; talk about South Korea. How would you explain the Trump doctrine to millions of Americans less than four months away from the vote?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bill, I’m being told we just have a few seconds, so that’s a little tricky. But I can say this much: It begins with a deep understanding that our first obligation is to protect Americans. And so whether that is Afghanistan or Syria or other places where we’re engaged, where there are important American interests but which we can ask others to assist and we can still protect Americans and reduce the risk to our young men and women who are being put in harm’s way to fight conflicts, we’re going to do that.
And so Afghanistan is a good example. We are well on our way to achieving a significant reduction in troops in Afghanistan, and we are hopeful that we will get the peace and reconciliation negotiations commenced here in just the next handful of weeks. If we can do that, we’ll have done a good turn for Afghanistan, we’ll have our young boys and girls all home, and we will have secured security for the American homeland as well.
This has been President Trump’s mission; it’s the way he thinks about keeping Americans safe, and we’re going to keep hard at it.
QUESTION: I thank you for your time today. And sir, I hope you come back. Appreciate the thought there from Philadelphia today —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Bill. I’ll do that.
QUESTION: — and the speech that you shared a bit earlier. Mr. Secretary, Mike Pompeo, thank you for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Bill.