QUESTION: Here now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us tonight. Now, when you hear a member of the House of Representatives put the blame squarely on the, quote, “bullies” in the United States, what we’re seeing tonight in Venezuela, what’s your reaction?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the nicest thing I could say is it’s unbelievable ignorance. It’s just factually wrong. You hit it in your opening, Laura. The problems of Venezuela have been years in the making. It’s been a socialist regime, first with Chavez, now with Maduro – the destruction of a wealthy nation, the nation with more oil reserves than any other country in the world.
QUESTION: A beautiful country, too.
SECRETARY POMPEO: And a beautiful country with beautiful real estate, beautiful shorelines, all kinds of opportunity. For a member of Congress, who – frankly, one who sits on an important national security committee – to make a statement blaming America first in this way, it’s not only ignorant, it’s disgusting.
QUESTION: What can you tell us tonight? Still not a successful transition in Venezuela? Guaido is a guy that the world community chose. Why is he the right one at the right time?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the world community has certainly supported him, but the Venezuelan people chose him through their National Assembly and through their constitutional process. The military didn’t fracture in the way that we would hope, but it’s just a matter of time. It’s the case that Maduro may rule for a little while longer, but he’s not going to govern. Structurally, there’s no way he stays in power. It’s time for him to leave, and we need the Cubans and the Russians to follow him out the door.
QUESTION: Now to Americans who say, look, we have a problem at our southern border – we’ve got 100,000 people a month being apprehended and released into the country – why are we focusing at all on Venezuela, what do you say to them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we can do more than one thing at a time. We have an obligation to secure our southern border, but we’ve had 3 million people, 3 million migrants, leave Venezuela, too. They will end up somewhere. Today they’re in Colombia, Chile, Peru.
We have an important responsibility in Venezuela. First, we want to support democracy in South America. It’s important for our vital national security interests. But it’s also the case, when we see a humanitarian crisis like this, the American people understand that taking food and providing humanitarian support is something that’s in our nature.
QUESTION: I want to move on to another topic, which is China, something that you’ve been addressing lately. I’ve been talking about this for 20 years. But Joe Biden doesn’t seem to think China is a big threat. Let’s watch:
“MR BIDEN: China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east – I mean in the west. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not a – they’re not – they’re competition for us.”
QUESTION: I don’t even know – I don’t personally know what to say about that. But China not a threat to the United States – what is the truth there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump and our administration has taken the threat from China very, very seriously – very different from what we just heard there.
QUESTION: They want – he’s leading in the polls.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We understand the threat. There’s a trade imbalance that President Trump has taken on to try and get fair and reciprocal trade between the United States and China. The fact that the Chinese are working to put their systems in networks all across the world so they can steal your information and my information and —
QUESTION: How about in American universities?
SECRETARY POMPEO: And American universities, to feed this information back into their system. You’ve talked about this. We’ve talked about a million of their ethnic minorities being held in re-education camps in Xinjiang. This is stuff that is reminiscent of the 1930s that present a real challenge to the United States, and this administration is prepared to take this on.
QUESTION: American high-tech companies in China, there’s a lot of concern that there has been, I guess, inadvertent assistance to the communist regime there as they seek to dominate – part of their Belt and Road Initiative – dominate every major industry, including space and weaponry, artificial intelligence. What can you tell us about the concerns about American big tech going to China, setting up shop?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve talked about this, and we’ve gone out to talk to each of these businesses. Laura, it’s true; I think America was slow to recognize this challenge. The previous administration, the Obama administration, just didn’t want to touch it.
The first step is to make these businesses aware. This is what this technology is being used for; here’s who you’re selling it to; the separation between private companies and government doesn’t exist there, not remotely like we have in the United States. And so we’ve made clear to them that their technology is being used in ways that they may not be aware of and the impact, not only the impact it has for American national security, but the impact it will have on their business and the business’s reputation is very real.
QUESTION: And Mr. Secretary, I also want to get your reaction to something one of your predecessors said last night on MSNBC. Watch:
“MRS CLINTON: Why should Russia have all the fun? And since Russia is clearly backing Republicans, why don’t we ask China to back us? Not only that, China, if you’re listening, why don’t you get Trump’s tax returns? Let’s have a great power contest, and let’s get the Chinese in on the side of somebody else.”
QUESTION: A leading Democrat. She was on for an hour last night. The “great power contest,” asking China to dump the tax returns.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there is a great power contest taking place. I think that’s true. I only wish when she was secretary of state, she would have taken it on instead of allowing it to get where it is today and turning a willful blind eye to that.
We’re taking this seriously. I hadn’t heard those comments before. They don’t remotely sound like what ought to be done by America, and they’re certainly not what President Trump and this administration are going to do to make sure we keep America safe, that we recognize China is 1.5 billion people, there will be commerce between the two countries, but we’ve got to make sure that America is prepared so that we can continue to be the world’s leading power 10, 20, 50 years from now.
QUESTION: Are you having more fun now than you were as CIA director? I was thinking about that. If I could choose between one or the other, like which one – what’s more fun?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re very different jobs. I’ve enjoyed them both.
QUESTION: Oh, what a diplomat. (Laughter.) Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here tonight. Really appreciate it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, Laura.