Secretary Pompeo With Lars Larson of Lars Larson Show

QUESTION: Well, if there’s one guy who can get to the bottom of this, imagine a guy who served in the United States Congress, he served at the CIA, he served in the military, and he was a tank platoon leader, but he also went to Harvard. Now, that’s a great collection of background for a resume, and he is today the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Secretary of State Pompeo, welcome to the program.

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you. It’s been too long. I hope you’re doing well.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m doing very well. It’s been a long time since you stood in my studio a long, long time ago. But I – I want to ask you this first. I was just mentioning what we know and what we hope to know about what the Chinese involvement in this coronavirus, COVID, China virus, Wuhan virus – you weren’t exactly on the Chinese Government’s Lunar New Year, Christmas card list before this happened, and you’ve been pretty tough on them since, haven’t you?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I prefer to think of it as just reflecting the challenges that they have presented to us. This is a – we’ve had now more than 50,000 people die in the United States, enormous economic harm to our country from a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. And we’ve not yet been able to get access to the information that we need, the world hasn’t been able to get access to the information we need, to figure out how this happened, how it was the case that this got around the world that quickly when the Chinese Government clearly knew about this in December.

And then second, how do we get comfort that with all the labs that are inside of the Chinese country today that they’re operating those labs in a way that’s consistent with making sure this never happens again?

Those are important things. We need Chinese scientists with access to Western scientists so we can make sure that their security levels and their management levels at these facilities doesn’t present the – a risk that something like this could ever happen again.

QUESTION: In fact, didn’t your folks on the ground about two years ago from State send cables back, I think in 2018, saying, “Hey, they’re being kind of sloppy over at the Wuhan virus institute”?

SECRETARY POMPEO: There have been long concerns based on a number of things, including the fact that this is – this is a program that’s been concerning because they’ve had leaks from their facilities before, back in – I think it’s 2004, 2005. I might get the year wrong, but this is not the – this is not something that we are conjecturing about. We’ve had known problems, and we have been stiff-armed. And those who have tried to talk about this, whether it was doctors or journalists, those who have had to try to write about this have not been able to do so freely. That’s not cooperation. That’s not transparency. We want to do that. We want to work alongside the Chinese Government to get answers to these questions. But to do that, they’ve got to share information, share data with the United States and with the world, and with the best scientists all over this world.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you’d actually like to see the United States get some direct access to actually put eyes on what’s going on inside that Wuhan virus institute. Is that right?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We got to get to the bottom of it. The devastation wrought on the globe as a result of this is enormous, and it requires a real response to find the answers for this pandemic, and to prevent one from happening in the future.

QUESTION: I guess the thing that seems puzzling to me is when the Chinese knew apparently a week before they told their own population we have an epidemic, they didn’t bother to warn their own people don’t go to the Lunar New Year celebrations, don’t go to that giant potluck in Wuhan with 50,000 families there, maybe more than 100,000 people going to a potluck, for God’s sake, as an epidemic is breaking out. The government knew it, they didn’t decide to warn it. Did they think they could really keep this thing under wraps? Because they must have imagined that at some point it would become an epidemic, the rest of the world would learn, and it would escape from their shores since they used to have tens of thousands of Chinese nationals coming into our country on a daily basis by airplane for a whole bunch of reasons. They must have known this could get out. How did they think they were going to play this to (inaudible) when we found out they knew?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s an interesting question. I don’t know what they were thinking. I simply know what they did and what they failed to do, and what the World Health Organization failed to do as well. And I know President Trump and this administration’s responsibility, it’s our duty to figure out how that transpired and do everything we can to prevent something like this from happening again.

I’m very confident that if we are permitted to have access to the information, locations, and all the data we need collectively – not just the United States, but scientists from Europe and from Japan and from Australia, world’s leading scientists – we can figure this thing out and we can reduce the risk that something like this would ever happen again. It’s been part of a global effort. It’s what the World Health Organization had the lead and responsibility to prevent from happening, and here we are.

QUESTION: I’m talking to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, should the Chinese pay in some meaningful way for the damage they’ve done to our country and to the rest of the world? And if so, do you have any ideas of how we might make them pay?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So the President, I think, has said this right. Our first focus is on making sure that we do everything we can to protect human life here in the States, and we get therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine as quickly as we possibly can, and we’re – get our economy going back again. I talked to some friends back in Kansas just last week. They are chomping at the bit to get back at it. That’s mission one. We’ve got to do that and we need to be singularly focused with respect to this virus about that. Then there will come a time to figure out what accountability ought to look like.

I am very convinced that the world knows what happened here, that they know this virus originated in Wuhan, and I’ve already seen nations – when I talk to my colleagues around the world, I’ve already seen nations that are asking the same thing we are. The Australians have been great in demanding an investigation, other countries too. I am very confident that we will all collectively recognize the shortcomings of this authoritarian regime and that there will be accountability for those who did things, whether they were simply reckless or negligent, that did things that resulted in the devastation to the global economy and to human life all around the world commensurate with the responsibility that they have for it.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to shift gears a moment to Iran. You’ve been having to fight against the UN trying to lift a ban on Iran’s purchase of advanced military technology. Is this even really a question, whether we should let the folks in Tehran buy advanced military technology?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope not. Unfortunately, the previous administration, Secretary Kerry and President Obama, thought that October of 2021 was a – excuse me, of 2020, this year, a few months from now, was a perfectly good date on which the Iranian Government should be able to purchase conventional weapons systems from around the world. That was the date that was contained in the JCPOA.

The good news is the UN Security Council resolution gives us the ability to make sure that that doesn’t happen, and we are working with our Chinese, our Russian, our British, our French, our partners on the Security Council to make sure – and even more broadly throughout the UN to make sure that they’re all on board in preventing this from happening coming October 18th of this year.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I know as America’s top diplomat, you have to be diplomatic about this, but what in the world was the Obama administration thinking saying we’re going to take a state, a country, Iran, that was labeled by the United States as the top state sponsor of terrorism on the globe, and say it’s okay to let them start buying advanced bombs and bullets down – just a few years down the road? You have any insight to that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: No explanation that is remotely reasonable there. They – I think anyone who was staring at this, it’s just a matter of course to permit this to happen just a handful of years after the deal was signed. We’ve talked about this. The President talked about it as far back as his campaign about this crazy Iran nuclear deal, and one of the core failures of it was the fact that these provisions that prevented Iran from getting weapons that could do so much more destruction began to expire very quickly.

And here we are, as soon as 2020, the first significant provision expiring, and we’ve got Iran failing to comply with their nuclear elements – their nuclear commitments under the JCPOA that we chose to withdraw from. This is a bad place that the world finds itself in, and your listeners should know President Trump and our team is going to make sure that when we come to October of this year, we’re going to have played every card in our kit to make sure that they can’t purchase tanks and armored vehicles from Russia or from China.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I know your time is tight, so you have to tell me when you have to go, but I want to ask one last question. One of the stories that has mystified a lot of us is that the National Institutes of Health – let’s go back to Wuhan for a moment – was actually putting money into some kind of program that was in Wuhan. Now I know that there are times where we cooperate with other countries or we have some involvement with other countries, maybe because it gives us a window into what they’re doing. But is there any good reason why American taxpayer dollars would be going to the Wuhan virus institute? I know that’s a bit outside your lane, but I’ll bet you’ve got a view on it.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t know the answer to precisely what happened there. I’ve seen these reports as well where we collectively are trying to figure this out. I do know that there are places where we want to go, we want to see what they’re doing, we want to help them be better. We’ve seen this in nuclear assurance programs, where we help other countries make sure that they don’t lose a nuclear weapon or there’s not a nuclear accident, so we go in and try to assist them.

I assume that that’s what was taking place here. We were trying to help the Chinese make sure that they didn’t have a problem, they were handling these materials in a way that would prevent accidental leakage or someone from stealing a pathogen or a virus, but I don’t know the answer to what was actually happening here.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you’ve come a long way since Kansas and being a tank platoon leader. Thank you very much for the time and I’ll look forward to the next time.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Lars, bless you. Thank you. Have a great day.

QUESTION: And you as well.

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