QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. How are you, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m very good, Mark. How are you today?
QUESTION: I’m good. It’s a pleasure. I want to thank you for coming on the program this evening. I want to get into some of these hot topics. Mexico – President of the United States, he put his foot down. He said this is a national security issue, people are flooding into our country from Central and South America, Mexico’s not doing enough to stop it. He threatens them with a 5 percent tariff, they appear to have responded properly to that, and then of course what’s happening is the media and the Democrats are saying, oh, this was all going to happen anyway. Can you elaborate on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can, and you’ve actually described it pretty well, Mark. I was in the negotiations both last week and then have been working this for a year on plus now. None of this would have happened without the President raising the specter of placing tariffs on the Mexican Government. It brought a level of seriousness to the discussion that matches the seriousness that is this flow of illegal immigrants into our country. And so we got the Mexicans to agree to things that we previously not been able them – get them to agree to do inside of their own country, not only security at their southern border – and we’re happy to try and assist them with that as well – but real efforts to allow us to return asylum seekers who come to America seeking asylum, allow them to remain in Mexico during the pendency of their claim. That’s a big deal to the tune of – when we get it right, to the tune of tens of thousands of people a year that’ll be returned to Mexico and not be here in the United States.
We have to do this, we have to do this well. This is a national security and humanitarian crisis, and President Trump got a good outcome this past week. We now just have to execute on those agreements.
QUESTION: So I want to underscore this point for my audience – I just really want to underscore it – that but for the fact that the President said look, I’ve had enough of this, we’re going to put the tariffs in place, 5 percent, increase it every month, we wouldn’t have had a deal. Isn’t that your point?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. When he raised the specter, they flew to Washington – Mexican leaders flew to Washington, we had intense discussions over two and a half days, and got an outcome which is now executable.
QUESTION: Why do you think the media, led by The New York Times and, of course, the Democrats, resist facts? In other words, why don’t they at least accept the fact that the President of the United States was right about this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, Mark, I try to stay out of the heads of —
QUESTION: All right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: — of some of those media folks. Because it’s unexplainable. This is – this is just a simple set of facts, pretty comprehensible, and pretty transparent, I think, to your listeners.
QUESTION: Let’s move to China. I’ve been watching China for many, many years – actually, even before this administration. They are very aggressive. The military they have built and are expanding is not about regional security, it’s about a superpower that seeks to replace us as the number-one superpower in the world. Can you tell us what’s going on in terms of our relations with China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, the President has taken an incredibly strong position that previous presidents of both political parties have refused to take as the concerns and threats from China have mounted, as their economy has grown, as they’ve attempted to use unfair trade rules against us, as they have militarized the South China Sea – the list is pretty long. We talk about their use of Huawei and other state-owned enterprises to infiltrate the United States in terms of information grabbing. The President’s taken a very strong response to that. These are serious national security challenges. And while the President is working diligently to get a good trade deal – and I hope when he’s in Japan, and he meets with Xi next week, they can make arrangements on trade that correct those imbalances and the trading rules to give us a free, fair, reciprocal set of trading understandings. The challenges from China are broader than that; I think the President knows that. And we’re determined to make sure that we protect Americans in every dimension from the challenges that China presents to us.
QUESTION: And China does present challenges, doesn’t it? I mean, it has a substantial economy, although not nearly the size of ours; it is stealing our technology left and right; it is infiltrating our colleges and universities with these Confucius centers; it’s in space now with killer satellites; it’s big into cyber warfare activity, or potentially so; it controls through contracts both sides of the Panama Canal; it’s in North Africa. I mean, this is a country on the move, is it not?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, it certainly is. And you see that – you talked about Africa. Their efforts, these infrastructure efforts – they call it their Belt and Road Initiative – we’ve talked to countries all around the world and reminded them that if these are straight-up commercial transactions it’d be one thing, but most often they are not. Most often they are commercial projects – or national security projects masquerading as commercial projects, an attempt to use their state-owned enterprises to gain political influence and power. And we – we’re reminding the whole world of these risks, and we are mindful of it for our U.S. businesses as well as Chinese companies seek to invest here in the United States. We welcome that investment if it’s purely commercial and it’s designed for a noble end, but we have to be ever mindful of the national security risks presented from each of the challenges that you just identified.
QUESTION: Are our allies in the region really alert to all this in a significant way? I mean, Japan and South Korea and the Philippines and so forth.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It varies, Mark. I think it’s fair to say that the whole world was too slow and a little bit asleep watching as the pot began to boil and the risk began to increase. But I do think as the United States has taken serious efforts and we have now done our task of educating and informing others about these risks, I think we’re seeing real progress. We’re seeing real progress of people identifying the risks to their own people in their own countries, and those countries beginning to exert their own sovereignty to protect their countries from the risk that China presents to them.
QUESTION: Let me move to Iran. Now, this is a terrorist state. This has been a problem since I was in the Reagan administration, obviously, and even before during the Carter administration. They’ve just gotten more aggressive, they’re conquering neighbors, they are inciting terrorist activities, they’re funding terrorist activities, they’re responsible for the death of God knows how many American soldiers.
I’ve been reading lately that they are sprinting towards their goal of ICBMs with nuclear warheads. Do we know anything more about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, what I can say is this: The deal that the previous administration entered into actually greenlighted much of the activity that you’re seeing in Iran today. Certainly the missile activity, which was prohibited, now is less so, less constrained – their capacity, that is to deliver heavy payloads, which could include nuclear warheads, over longer distances with more accuracy was freed up. And importantly too, there was a whole lot of money. There was a lot of wealth created for Iran by lifting the sanctions and giving them the capacity to pay scientists, bring in materials, do all the things you need to do to build out a full suite of nuclear weapons capabilities, from the weapons systems to the delivery vehicles and the fissile material that goes with that. It was the central flaw of what John Kerry and President Obama negotiated; it greenlighted their capacity to do that and created the wealth that underpins a capable program.
President Trump has turned that around and we’re putting enormous pressure on Iran. And I’m very hopeful that we can get to a place where we can get to a real outcome that prevents Iran from threatening the United States and our allies, including Israel, in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Do you find former Obama administration officials sort of circumventing our policies by going around you and dealing with surrogates, or directly with the Iranian Government?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve seen this happen.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And – (laughter) —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I —
QUESTION: You don’t sound happy about it. I know you can’t —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, it’s unfortunate when it happens. No former official ought to be engaging in this kind of activity. Look, former officials talk to other leaders from other countries all the time. That is certainly normal. But it’s very different when you’re out trying to make a case that’s different from what the current government, who’s trying to protect Americans, is trying to do.
QUESTION: Now, I know you need to go. I want to tell you something. You are a terrific Secretary of State, and I’ve seen many secretaries of state. And you are serious about America’s national security, you’re former director of the CIA, former member of the House Intelligence Committee, and I want to just thank you for what you’re doing. I know it’s a tough job, I know people are biting at your ankles, but from my perspective, just keep moving forward because we need people like you in our government to protect this country. So I want to thank you, Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. Thanks for the kind words, Mark. I promise you, President Trump and I will keep at protecting the American people every day the American people give us the privilege to serve.
QUESTION: God bless you. Be well.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bless you too, Mark. Take care.
QUESTION: You too.