QUESTION: And joining us now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, it’s great to be with you this morning.
QUESTION: Let’s start with Venezuela. On Tuesday, you and National Security Advisor John Bolton were talking as if a coup in Caracas was underway. Take a look:
“MR BOLTON: They need to be able to act this afternoon or this evening to help bring other military forces to the side of the interim president.”
QUESTION: What happened? Was there an intelligence failure about whether or not some top Venezuelan officials were going to flip on Maduro?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, first of all, Chris, there can’t be a coup led by Juan Guaido. He is the elected leader of Venezuela, duly elected through their constitutional process, so there couldn’t have been a coup there.
The Venezuelan people’s struggle for democracy continues. We’ve made very clear that Maduro must leave. There’s no way you could have free and fair elections with Maduro still inside of that country. And we have made very clear that not only the United States but 50-plus nations support Juan Guaido and his National Assembly and their efforts to beat back the horrific conditions there.
I was on the border in Cucuta. I watched women carrying babies across the border. They didn’t want to leave their country. They were having to make decisions about whether they could feed their baby on the second day or the third day, their sick children didn’t have medicine – all of which was sitting in Colombia and Maduro has denied them. And so our effort —
QUESTION: But —
SECRETARY POMPEO: So our effort is to make sure —
QUESTION: But call it what you want – ousting, coup, whatever – why didn’t it happen? Maduro is still in power.
SECRETARY POMPEO: He is. These things sometimes take time.
QUESTION: And why did we think it was going to happen on Tuesday and it didn’t happen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We know it’s going to happen.
QUESTION: But I’m – I don’t mean to —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, Chris, I’m not going to talk about all the various conversations that have taken place. We continue to work with leaders down there. The Lima Group continues to work with leaders on the ground. The Organization of American States continues to work with leaders on the ground.
If you think about where this country was 90 days ago, the Venezuelan people should be very proud. They are much closer to having democracy restored and having their country back on the right track than they were 90 days ago.
QUESTION: On – for weeks, you and Bolton have talked about and called out Russian interference in Venezuela. Here you are:
“MR BOLTON: They’d love to get effective control of a country in this hemisphere. It’s not ideological; it’s just good, old-fashioned power politics.”
“SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve told the Russians and we’ve told the Cubans that’s unacceptable.”
QUESTION: But Friday, President Trump talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Venezuela. Here he is:
“PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela.”
QUESTION: So which is it? Is Putin propping up a dictator in our own backyard, or is Putin looking for something positive in Venezuela?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has been very clear on this. He said – I think it was in a tweet several weeks back – the Russians have to get out. That remains our view. We want the Venezuelan people not to have interference from any country, whether it’s China or Russia. You now have Iranians on the ground in Venezuela. We know about the long history with a couple thousand Cuban thugs essentially controlling that country today.
The United States wants all other countries out of this nation and allow the Venezuelan people to restore their own democracy. We’re confident that we’re going to achieve that. And I couldn’t tell you what day, but it will happen.
QUESTION: But the President told the American people that Putin said that he didn’t want to get involved, that he was looking for something positive. In fact, Russia is very involved. The Wagner group, a private Russian military force, in Venezuela. Putin has sent top military and intelligence officials to Venezuela. What are you going to tell – you’re going to be meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Finland tomorrow. What are you going to tell him?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to tell him the same thing the President told the world, that every country must get out, including the Russians. That’s what I’ll tell him. We don’t want anyone messing around with the Venezuelans because we want them to be an autonomous, independent, sovereign state, democratic-elected officials. This is what we desire for the Venezuelan people. That’s what I’ll talk with him about. I’m then going to travel on to Germany and to the United Kingdom, and we’re going to work with them to achieve this objective.
QUESTION: The Mueller report that came out has completely cleared the President when it comes to collusion with the Russians in the 2016 election. As for the Kremlin, however, it said this: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” But here’s how President Trump described his talk with Putin on Friday about 2016 and about possible meddling in 2020. Take a look:
“PRESIDENT TRUMP: He actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse.”
“QUESTION: Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?”
“PRESIDENT TRUMP: We didn’t discuss that. Really, we didn’t discuss it.”
QUESTION: Why doesn’t the President get tough with Putin about what everyone seems to agree is clear – meddling in 2016 and the threat of meddling in 2020?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, this administration has been tougher on Russia than any of its predecessor administrations. I could go through the list, but there’s not time in the show to talk about all the things we have done – the largest defense buildup, our new – I mean, the list is long, Chris.
And so for you to suggest that somehow we haven’t taken election interference seriously, we do. We continue to work on it. We continue to make sure that every election is as safe as it can possibly be. The Department of Homeland Security, the Intelligence agencies all working to not only assure the 2018 was successful – we were – and that 2020 will continue to be successful. We take seriously the threat of election interference from every country, Russia included.
QUESTION: But I guess what I’m asking – and I take your point, because in terms of specific policies, the U.S. —
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Chris, I don’t get your point.
QUESTION: Well, I’d like —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I’m confused.
QUESTION: Well, let me make it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m confused. You’re looking at the administration that has been tougher on Russia than any of its predecessors, and yet you continue to be fixated on something that Robert Mueller wrote down. I’m not – I struggle with that.
QUESTION: I’m not – I’m not fixated about Robert Mueller. I’m fixated on the President’s conversation with Vladimir Putin and the fact of in a conversation he doesn’t even mention meddling in 2020. And the question I’m asking – I think it’s a legitimate one; a lot of people are asking it, sir – is why not?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I talk to leaders all the time. We cover a broad range of subjects. Sometimes conversations just aren’t long enough to include every issue that might be brought up. I’ll let the White House talk to what the President actually said in the set of remarks, but no one should misunderstand from your question today, your viewers should not be misled. This administration has taken seriously the threat of election interference, and we’ll continue to do so.
QUESTION: Yesterday, North Korea fired what it is calling short-range projectiles. But the question is – and let’s put these up on the screen – were they, in fact, North Korea’s new short-range ballistic missiles? And if so, did they violate North Korea’s moratorium on missile tests since 2017?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Here’s what we know so far. The launches – and there were several – were of a short range. I don’t want to say exactly how long. We’re still working to ensure that we have the data set right. We have high confidence that they were not intermediate-range missiles, that they were not long-range missiles or intercontinental missiles. We are continuing to evaluate that data set.
But we want to put it in the larger context. We still have every intention of negotiating a good resolution with North Korea to get them to denuclearize. We’ve known it would be a long path. We’ve known it wouldn’t be straightforward. But I have extended our negotiating hand to the North Koreans since Hanoi. We’ve heard back from them. I extend my hand to continue those negotiations. We want to continue to work towards a peaceful resolution to achieve denuclearization, fully verified, in North Korea.
QUESTION: You – I just want to make it clear. Were they, in fact – those that we just put up on the screen – the new North Korean short-range ballistic missiles?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I didn’t see the list on the screen. I’m going to let the Department of Defense make announcements about what they ultimately determine these to be. I can tell you what we have ruled out with certainty.
QUESTION: And you don’t, or do you, see it as violating their moratorium on missile tests?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll have to take a look. We know our objective. The moratorium was focused, very focused, on intercontinental missile systems, the ones that threaten the United States for sure.
QUESTION: North Korean officials – you talk about wanting to continue talks – have gone after you recently. I want to put some of this on the screen. They said you have a, quote, “mean character;” you should be replaced by someone, quote, “more careful and mature in communicating with us;” and you talk about changing – your talk about changing paths if diplomacy fails – their quote, sir, not mine – is “stupid and dangerous.”
I guess the question I have is: The President says, even in a tweet yesterday, the deal will happen. It sure seems like diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea is in trouble.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It always seems that way until it’s successful, Chris. And as for the North Korean comments, the immaturity thing I’m not so sure about. The rest of it I’ll let the world decide.
QUESTION: There were some moments in this conversation when I thought mean might be correct.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Fair enough. The President gets to choose who his negotiators are. He’s leading the effort. We are – we want to maximize the possibility and keep open to the maximum extent possible that we can achieve the outcome that President Kim himself told President Trump in June in Singapore that we’ll achieve, and we’re working to do that. That’s what the State Department’s mission is.
QUESTION: I’ve got a couple of minutes left. I want to get into two more subjects. One, there has been an outburst of rocket fire from Gaza. The U – rather, Israel is responding with air strikes. Is this just the normal outburst that we see across that border every once in a while, or do you think it’s something more serious?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It looks pretty serious. Now the number is over 400 rockets that we can validate have been fired. The Israelis have every right to defend themselves. I’ve seen video that we can’t validate just yet but where there have been strikes on homes, civilian populations. These rockets were fired with civilians around them in order to protect from return fire. This is terrible. The Israelis have every right to protect the sovereignty of their nation, and I hope that we can return to the ceasefire that had been in place for weeks and had been holding significantly before this.
QUESTION: The Pentagon issued a report this week that China is making tremendous progress in replacing the U.S. as the preeminent leader in the Pacific. It also is projecting economic power as well. But former Vice President Biden said this this week:
“MR BIDEN: China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not a – they’re not – they’re competition for us.”
QUESTION: Does former Vice President Biden know something you don’t?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It seems a little disconnected from the reality that is China today. Maybe when he ran for president the first time, this was the situation, but it’s certainly not today. China poses an enormous challenge to the United States of America. I agree with him; ultimately, America will prevail. I’m confident of that. We should bet on our nation. But it’s going to take a serious, concerted effort; a president like President Trump, who is prepared to push back against China, whether that be on trade or their military buildup or the theft of our intellectual property. We need a president who will be serious in protecting America against the challenges that China presents.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Chris.
QUESTION: Thanks for your time. Always good to talk with you, sir. Safe travels.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.