QUESTION: You think about all the times in the world, in history, to be the Secretary of State of the United States of America, to be the 4th in line to the presidency, right, to be the head of the Cabinet. And that is Mike Pompeo. I am so excited to join him live on the Disc Institute of Pittsburgh news line. Mr. Secretary, what an honor. Welcome to KDKA Radio.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Wendy, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on today.
QUESTION: Oh my gosh, it is so great to hear your voice. Can you imagine what you’ve been going through with China, with all of this jazz? I cannot even fathom how busy you’ve been. Tell me what’s going on and the latest in China, because I know you’re calling for transparency, sir, and I’m feeling and a lot of Americans are feeling we’re not getting it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Wendy, thank you, first of all, for having me on today, and it’s an incredible privilege to get to serve in this administration for President Trump as Secretary of State and to represent America across the world.
Look, we’ve been under this enormous challenge here with this virus. It began in Wuhan, China, and what we know, and I think all of your listeners know, is that transparency matters. It’s not about talking, it’s about actions. You need the data, you need the genetic sequence, you need to know where the cases are, you need to know how many, you need to know how they’re being transmitted. All of the core elements have to get into the hands of the world’s best scientists, which are often here, American scientists. And we tried to get into China, and we weren’t successful at the front end. And every nation has an obligation – even not looking backwards, even looking forward from today – to continue to share data so that we can save lives. When you don’t, when you hide, when you obfuscate, when you penalize people who come forward and who want to talk about what really happened – when those things happen inside of a country, you put lives at risk and that’s just unacceptable.
SECRETARY POMPEO: No country can do that. We share, we do our best to collect the data every day and put it out so the whole world can see it. The President is very transparent. He gets on TV every night and answers questions from reporters. That kind of transparency is the hallmark of democracies and it’s also the way that when the world has a crisis moment, you see which nations are prepared to do what it takes to keep people alive and to keep them secure and to keep economies prosperous.
QUESTION: A lot of people don’t realize the behind-the-scenes of your department in getting so many Americans who are overseas all over the place, in dozens of countries, back home to America with these restrictions with travel. Is it true, 45,000 you guys have already been able to bring back? That’s huge.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Wendy, I’m sure many of your listeners have family that were traveling.
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’d taken the trip of a lifetime. We’ve all seen the cruise ships with people traveling all across the world. So when travel started shutting down, when buses and rail lines and countries started closing their borders, we found that there were tens of thousands of Americans stranded all across the world. So the State Department team dug in and built out a system, and we’ve now brought back a little over 50,000 Americans to their families from 90 countries. We put them on 400 different plane flights. We took medicine to people where we found them so that they had the medicine they needed if they got stuck. It’s been a remarkable undertaking to deliver for the American people when they were stuck in places they didn’t intend to be. And we’ve still got people we have to get home. We hope they’ll go if they’re – if they need help, they’ll either call the embassy there or they’ll go on our State Department website. We’ll get back to you, we’ll tell you how to stay safe and secure, and then we’ll do our level best to help you get back to the United States.
QUESTION: Talking to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I have to ask you, sir, do you believe that any of the embassies are going to close? Is that cool right now? Are we good right now, or are you feeling something’s imminent?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve initially brought all of our people home from Wuhan, China. We had a consulate there and so we brought everyone out of that location. It was not someplace we could stay. But I think at this point, we’re comfortable that at least our presence can continue in each of these embassies. It’s important when you’ve got Americans traveling abroad and working abroad that you have someone there, that they can at least talk to an American, get a friendly voice, and then begin to get assistance if they get themselves into a place where they really need it.
QUESTION: Sir, I’ve been reading some of the stories of these people who have been brought back home because of your efforts and that of the State Department. It’s maddening to me as a vocal and proud advocate of this President and the hell of a job he’s been doing, it is so infuriating that those are never the stories that you hear about. And it’s just wrong because you guys are doing some really incredible things.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the President and Vice President have both been focused on the task force the Vice President is running and doing remarkable work making sure that we get equipment where it’s needed so that we can take care of people here in the United States as well.
Our task has been a couple fold, one of which he talked about was making sure we got just about every American back who wanted to be back. We’re working on that problem set. But we have also done good work all around the world making sure that they understood the threat to their country. We’ve taken some of America’s CDC officials to help provide technical assistance, to help train them, to talk to them about how they could do social distancing in their country, saving lives in those countries around the world. It benefits them, but of course, this is a global virus now and so if we can save lives and reduce risk there, it helps us in places like Pittsburgh and my home state of Kansas.
QUESTION: Do you believe, Mr. Secretary, that the Chinese Government is going to allow U.S. officials in to work in conjunction with their people? Because there’s such a level of distrust, I believe, by the American people. When you look and see that in a country of 1.4 billion, they’re saying only 3,300 have died. There’s a disconnect there, sir, right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So every country has the responsibility to be accurate and transparent. They all sign up for it. It’s the promise they made when they became part of these international institutions. I hope every country, including China, will do that. It’s our responsibility to the world to be transparent and open about these challenges. I hope that they’ll begin to do that.
It’s been the case that we’ve now had more luck. We weren’t able to get in with our scientists at the very beginning. That was unfortunate. The President talked about the fact that at one point they were saying that this virus might have come from America or American soldiers. That made no sense. That’s just not the right way to be transparent and truthful. I hope that every country will fulfill its responsibility. It matters to them and it matters to the world.
QUESTION: To talk about the World Health Organization, sir, I know the President has been talking about them and about the money that we give to the – and it’s a valid organization, but there’s been some funny business going on there. And I think we’ve got a man in charge who finally is – finally we have a leader who’s like, enough – we’re tired of funding things if they don’t benefit us or if you’re going to give undue positive press to China in a time that it possibly shouldn’t be.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is a perfect exemplar of what the President has been talking about since he started his campaign, was about making sure that when Americans were generous, as we always are to help people out when they’re in difficult places – if we’re going to be generous, then we have to make sure that that organization is delivering on its mission set. And here I think it’s pretty clear that the World Health Organization hasn’t lived up to its billing, it hasn’t been able to achieve what it was designed to achieve, and we just can’t continue to permit that to go on. We’ve got to find a way. It performs important functions, important global health and pandemic functions, and we can see in this case we haven’t been able to deliver on that. So we need a global health organization that can achieve that and if this one can’t do it, then it’s not appropriate for American taxpayer dollars to go towards it.
QUESTION: Amen. What a thrill and a delight to talk to you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you so much. Mike Pompeo, ladies and gentlemen.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, ma’am. Have a blessed Easter.
QUESTION: How about that? All right. Take good care. You too, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Uh-huh. Bye-bye.