QUESTION: Joining us tonight to discuss this and much more, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Good to have you back with us, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Shannon, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on this evening.
QUESTION: All right, so let’s start there. China says stop running disinformation; they are the ones who are the victim of a disinformation campaign. We know the President has talked publicly about investigations he’d like to see underway by U.S. intel and others. How confident are you saying – in saying that this actually started in that lab in Wuhan, and what more will we know from these investigations?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Shannon, here’s what we know for sure: This virus originated in Wuhan, China. We don’t know the precise location, but we know lots of things that haven’t happened. We know that it wasn’t an American. We know that this didn’t happen someplace else. We know where it came from.
We also know that the Chinese Communist Party has not been forthright. We know that when there were doctors that reported this, they weren’t able to speak. We know they kicked out American journalists. We know that they’ve have tried to cover this up.
And then finally, we know that the United States along with others all across the world have tried to get into this place to find out what happened, where it began. It matters an awful lot to understand so that we can trace the history of it so we can keep people safe even today, and yet the Chinese Government has refused to allow those people in to conduct an investigation.
The whole world is demanding that investigation. The world knows where this virus came from. President Trump’s got it right, and we need to make sure we understand where this precisely came from so that we can prevent something like this from ever happening again.
QUESTION: So, in addition to that, the President is talking about WHO and what they did or didn’t know, whether they were complicit with China in covering things up, or they just bungled this or mismanaged it. But tonight over at NBC, they write about these investigations that are underway and say this: “Critics see the White House focus on China and the WHO as an effort to distract attention from the open question of what warnings Trump got in January and February from his own health and intelligence advisors during a time when he was downplaying the severity of the virus.”
And where is what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to say about the Trump administration and the virus: “…know and when did he know it, in addition to which, what did the scientists tell him, and when did he tell them? Because actually, as a matter of fact, this President has presided over the worst disaster in our country’s history.”
So what do you make of those who say that looking into China or blaming the WHO is a distraction and that it’s this administration that should be investigated?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it’s not a distraction. And I regret – this shouldn’t become partisan. Americans all across the country are suffering economically. We’ve had now thousands of Americans that have died as a result of this virus, and we know where that virus started. I hope this doesn’t become partisan. It’s too serious a matter. There’s too much work to do to make sure that something like this can’t happen again. We have an obligation to protect the American people.
I also watched. I watched this President act quickly. I remember the conversations where the decision was that we were going to put travel advisories out, that we were going to stop travel in from China, to make decisions about our economy and Europe. All of those things happened at the front end. I remember there was criticism from certain parts of our political spectrum who said hey, that’s too fast, or hey, that’s not the way we should go. And now the critique is just the opposite.
What I’ve seen this administration do is take seriously this threat, to identify those who perpetrated it and where it began. And with respect to the WHO, we know that they had one job, right? A single mission: To prevent the spread of a pandemic. We know that they – that the leader of that organization traveled to China and then declined to declare it a pandemic until everyone in the world knew that was already true.
It’s unfortunate, but this is not the first time there has been a virus go around the world from inside of China, and it’s not the first time the WHO has failed in its mission. We have an obligation to the American people to do our best to make sure that we fix that, that we prevent those things from ever happening again.
QUESTION: Okay. Tonight, an interview with Reuters is quoting the President as saying that “China will do anything they can to have me lose” the 2020 election. It seems like there have been a lot of carrots and sticks with China. The President has praised them at times. He has praised President Xi. It seems very tense right now, and now there is some talk of at some point assigning blame and making China in some way pay. What are our options?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, the President has done his level best to correct 40 years of appeasement of China. He has said we’re going to have fair and reciprocal trade. He has imposed real costs when they have behaved badly. And that’s important. We need to make sure we do the right thing for the American people, and for an awful long time there was this theory that if we just were nice to China that their system would change and the Chinese Communist Party would begin to behave in ways that were consistent with the things that were of a benefit to America.
We’d love to see the Chinese people be successful. We care about them greatly. But we’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party behave in ways that communist parties do, and I think that’s what you heard the President saying earlier today. We have an obligation to do our best to hold those accountable who have inflicted so much harm, so much damage to the global economy and to the lives of Americans and people all across the world.
We will, for the moment, focus on the things that help keep people safe, and then there will come a time when not only the United States but I think the entire world will come to understand what took place, and I think in the end the Chinese Communist Party will ultimately be held accountable for what they did.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about another hotspot out there on the foreign policy front, because you raised the red flag today about the fact that absent some kind of intervention or action, come October 23rd, Iran will again be able to buy weapons systems from places like China, from Russia, from other places. There are those who say listen, this administration walked away from the nuclear deal with Iran, and so you have no way to enforce obligations on them with regard to arms. You have said you would go to the UN under a current existing resolution. Are you able to get an enforcement against those arms sales under that resolution? Is it tied to the nuclear deal? Are they severable? What’s the plan?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, Shannon, the place to start with this is the fact that the Iran nuclear deal set October of this year, October of 2020, as a date that any country can sell conventional arms to the Islamic Republic of Iran. We’ve seen their bad behavior. That was nuts. It’s why we got out of the deal. It’s why we left it.
And now our task is to do our best to make sure those arms can’t be sold. We’re working with our British, our French partners, our friends, saying you all know this doesn’t make sense either. I think they agree with us on that. We hope the Russians and the Chinese will see it that way, too. But make no mistake about it; we’re going to use every tool we can in our diplomatic capability to ensure that that prohibition on arms sales to Iran doesn’t expire in just a handful of months.
One option is to go to the UN. UN Security Council Resolution 2231 is pretty clear, and it’s pretty clear about what a participant is. This is separate from the JCPOA. We are one of the participants, and the participants have the right to invoke snapback in a way that will prevent this expiration of the arms sales. It would be a good thing. The whole world would benefit if we do that. It will keep arms out of the hands of the ayatollah. I don’t think anyone can dispute that that’s a good thing.
QUESTION: Well, Javad Zarif, the Iran foreign minister, tweets this: “2 years ago, Secretary Pompeo and his boss declared ‘CEASING US participation’ in the JCPOA,” – or the Iran nuclear deal – “dreaming that their ‘max pressure’ would bring Iran to its knees. Given that policy’s abject failure, he now wants to be JCPOA participant. Stop dreaming: Iranian nation always decides its destiny.”
So you’re saying the path you may follow to stop these arms is separate and apart from the nuclear deal? How do you respond to their assessment that you have no power to do that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t pay much attention to the words of Foreign Minister Zarif. He is a professional disinformation campaigner. What the American people should know is President Trump is committed to using every tool we have to prevent the Iranians from getting more conventional arms. I am convinced that we have the capacity to do that.
It’s not about getting back into the JCPOA. We have no intention of doing that. That thing was a disaster. It’s not our goal; it’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to use the United Nations tools that we– have been made available to us and UN resolutions that passed the UN Security Council to ensure that those arms sales don’t take place.
QUESTION: And quickly – I know we’ve got to let you go – but anything you would like to add on what we do or don’t know about Kim Jong-un at this point?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, Shannon, not much to add there. But the American people should simply know that whatever is going on there, whatever takes place, President Trump and our administration are committed to the very same objectives we set out, which is the final and fully denuclearized North Korea that President Trump and Chairman Kim set out back in Singapore just a couple of months back.
QUESTION: All right, we’ll stand by. Secretary Mike Pompeo, thank you for your time. Always good to see you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Shannon, thank you very much. Good to be with you.