QUESTION: It’s 4:20 at NewsRadio 1370 and 92.9 FM, the Scott Sands Show. Honored to be joined now by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming on the show.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on today.
QUESTION: In my hands right now, sir, I am holding a Mike Pompeo, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency challenge coin that a friend of mine who may or may not have done business for the company passed along to me as a thank-you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) Good for you.
QUESTION: As director of Central Intelligence, can you confirm that the video released by the U.S. Navy this week were, in fact, aliens?
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) I’m going to give the official CIA response, which is we don’t comment on that kind of thing. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Am I the only one to ask you about that yet?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’re the first.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Mr. Secretary, on a serious note, I mean, we’ve got a lot of stuff to cover. First of all, thank you for your service and thank you for what you’re doing in the State Department.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about what the hell is happening in North Korea? Do we know anything officially about Kim Jong-un?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we know we’ve not been able to identify a public appearance of his for now a little over two weeks – not unheard of, but unusual. But beyond that, I don’t have much that I can share with you today. We are continuing to monitor closely. We are working to make sure we’re prepared for whatever eventuality there is. And President Trump’s made clear whatever is going on, we have a very singular mission, and that’s to implement the terms of the deal from Singapore, which involves making sure that that country doesn’t have nuclear weapons and that we get a brighter future for the North Korean people.
QUESTION: I saw some pictures this morning that his personal train and that his yacht were apparently at a beach town. It seems unlikely, though, that he’s just on vacation. I mean, even North Korea, as behind as they may be, he would have the technology to release a selfie on the beach if he were still alive.
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) We’re watching it closely.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) You – see, I love those answers, because you obviously know a lot more than you’re willing to share with us right now. (Laughter.) And when there’s no comment, that’s like a validation, sir.
In the midst of all of this, I know that you and the State Department and the SECDEF and the President are keeping busy, because as much as time as even you’ve been involved in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and our response, we’ve got other issues to deal with, including North Korea and Iran, who are looking at what’s happening right now and perhaps seeing this as an opportunity for them to encroach upon our national security interests.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Scott. It’s true. State Department, Department of Defense both and the President have been focused on making sure we do all we can to push back against this virus here at home. But we have responsibilities that continue, and we have seen Iran – even as this virus has impacted their country so significantly, they continue to act out in ways that are inconsistent with what normal nations do. They launched a military missile now about a week ago when they promised they didn’t have – that it was all commercial stuff, without a military satellite. You saw what they did to one of our ships when they came around it the other day and President Trump made clear that’s unacceptable. That’s very different from when, under Secretary Kerry, they took nine of our sailors and made them kneel. That will not happen in a Trump administration.
We remain concerned with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran. But the American people should know we have put real pressure on the regime, and we are hopeful that soon the Iranian people will have a government that behaves in a way that’s consistent with what I know they want and uses its resources for good, like taking care of COVID patients rather than firing satellites into the sky.
QUESTION: The President seemed to change rules of engagement for the Navy in that region, authorizing ships’ captains to open fire if they feel threatened by Iranian vessels nearby.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Look, he made clear to our soldiers, sailors, and Marines, as he has for his entire time as President, it is unacceptable to put our folks at risk, and they have all the authority they need to do what’s right to defend themselves, no matter who it is that presents that risk to them.
QUESTION: How worried are you, how worried is the President, how worried is the SECDEF about these countries, these rogue nations like Iran and North Korea and others and even terrorist organizations seeing how COVID-19 has affected not just the number of people who have been infected and died as the result of the virus in America and worldwide, but also the economic impact? It seems like seeing these results could bolden them to explore bioterror as a new weapon against the United States.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, we’re watching all of this. We’re watching those who are trying to take advantage of this time, of this global pandemic to foment terror, to foment malign action. We’ve seen it in a handful of places. We’re watching closely. It is also the case that many of these organizations themselves are impacted by this, and so they’ve had to take a pause and change the activity that they’ve been engaged in as well. But we do – we are ever mindful. We have a significant program that works to make sure that countries don’t have access to the capacity to do the kinds of harm you described. And President Trump and our team, the Department of Defense, folks who are still out all around the world doing our mission – we can do more than one thing at once. We can push back against this pandemic while still performing our national security functions.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here on the Scott Sands Show. Mr. Secretary, if we learn that China knew more about the COVID-19 virus than they let on early on, or may have in fact played a role in its release internationally, would the State Department be willing to go so far as to declare that a state sponsor of terrorism?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I try, Scott, not to get out in front of a policy decision that the President may make. But it’s – it is very clear that we have an obligation to find out how this happened. We know that it began in Wuhan, that this was the origin in Wuhan – in Wuhan, China. What we don’t know is what the Chinese Communist Party won’t let us know. We’ve asked to put folks on the ground. We’ve asked for data and information. We’ve simply not received that. That’s not a good sign either. Often when people refuse to let out information or those who are trying to talk about it like doctors in China, and they are not permitted to speak, that’s a suggestion that somehow there may be information they don’t want in the hands of the world.
We have a duty to try and get to the bottom of how this began, not only – not only to hold accountable those who are responsible here, but to make sure something like this couldn’t happen again. We have a real responsibility, and we’re working diligently to convince the Chinese Communist Party that they need to do that. I think the whole world is owed an explanation of how this came to be.
QUESTION: We had our friend Morgan Ortagus on a couple of weeks ago and we talked with her about repatriating Americans who are still stuck abroad, I believe, in more than a hundred countries right now, close to, I think, 100,000 Americans. We talked to one, our friend, Sabrina Sabbagh, who was in the middle of Ecuador and caught a – I think literally stowed away on a military C-130 cargo jet from Panama to get back into the United States. State Department going through extreme lengths to get Americans who want to come back back into the country.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good for your friend. I’m glad your friend was able to get back. It has been – it’s been trains, planes, and automobiles. We have moved heaven and earth to try and get back now I think it’s just over 75,000 to date. I’m sure we’ll cross the 100,000 threshold before too long to help them. They got stuck when this virus hit. Airports shut down, travel lanes were closed, and we had a responsibility to try and get Americans back. My team’s done fantastic work to get them back, get back home to their families, back home to their churches, all the things that we love as Americans. We still have more to go, and we are working diligently to get every one of them back.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how’s your family dealing with the coronavirus lockdown? I mean, obviously, you’re still doing your job and you’re surrounded by a lot of people every day, including the President and the Vice President. I would think that you’re worried about their safety as well as your family’s safety at the same time and trying to protect them.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We all worry about our families. I worry about everyone else’s family, too. My wife and my son are both doing good. So far, so good. But they, too – they’re feeling a little locked in. They are ready to go. They are ready for our economy to get cranked back up, get out there, and get back to the things we know and love – meeting with friends, doing our jobs, going to church – all the things that we value in our lives and we’re anxious to get back to as well.
QUESTION: What’s the first thing you want to do when the lockdown ends and the economy reopens and businesses are allowed to open?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Goodness. I’ve got a favorite place for pizza. But professionally, I want to get back out. I’ve got a lot of places that I need to get to talk to our friends and allies around the world, and we need to prepare, both to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to hold those responsible for what’s taken place accountable, and to put in place a lattice, a structure that responds to this in a way that the World Health Organization simply failed to respond in this case.
QUESTION: When given an opportunity after this is over, will you or will you not binge-watch Tiger King on Netflix?
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) I think the answer to that is no, although my son has kept me posted on the goings-on there. I think I’ll leave it to others.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time. It’s an honor and a pleasure to have you on the show, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Scott. God bless you. So long.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on NewsRadio 1370 and 92.9 FM.