QUESTION: Okay, there’s the President yesterday being very clear, we’re going to close the border in a year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is here. He said unless they stop the flow of drugs and migrants, in a year we’re going to close the border maybe and – but we will start slapping tariffs. So it sounds like the President is giving them a little breathing room rather than closing it tomorrow.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Steve, I think that’s right. But make no mistake, Congress shouldn’t have any breathing room. We’ve got to change these laws. This is a real crisis at the border, not only the people – the tragic stories that you hear about folks coming across, the risk to security it presents. I think about this as the Secretary of State every day – the drugs that are coming across the border: fentanyl, opioids, other substances moving is a serious issue. President Trump is using every tool in his toolkit to try to stop this.
QUESTION: I’m sure you’re in communication with the administration down in Mexico. What are they saying? Are they saying they’re going to work with the President and they’re going to stop these migrants from crossing our border?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They are. They’re saying they’re going to do it.
QUESTION: They are? What are they going to do?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we need to see action. So it’s one thing to talk about it, it’s one thing to say it. What we need to do is see not only that they have the will, which they have communicated to us they do; now we need to make sure they have the capacity. So we’ve worked with them to help them for years and years. We’ve provided lots of resources, not only to Mexico but to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador as well. They need to get a handle on the situation in their countries. We’re happy to help them if they need technical assistance to do that, but it is going to be about their decision, and they have to do it, and if not, the President is going to ensure that we protect our nation.
QUESTION: If we can pivot over to Venezuela, you guys made the bold move to say the standing government under Maduro should not stand, and you have Guaido who says, “I’ll take over,” and you look at him as the rightful leader of that country. As it’s about to fall, in come the Russians again, like they did in Syria, and they’re propping up Maduro. Reports are that they’re bringing even more troops into that country. With the Russians there, Maduro stays. How do you stop this game? Because we saw the script already and it worked in Syria. How do you stop it from working in Venezuela?
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is our neighborhood. This is going to be fundamentally different. President Trump’s made very clear that we have an important national interest in ensuring that the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they deserve. This is – Brian, you know – a once-rich nation. We’re going to return them to that. And so I don’t want to talk about the options that we are working our way through, but the President was clear. The Russians must leave and the President has also been clear Maduro must go.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re working to deliver on each of those.
QUESTION: Have you spoke to Lavrov and was there – is there a shot across the bow to him, your counterpart in Russia? Because it’s really these two guys making all these decisions.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you let me know how that – how did that conversation go? How would you describe it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Direct. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And do they – do they show any sign of budging? Because if their troops don’t move, then Maduro stays, and then we end up in a standoff and people suffer.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve started to move out. Indeed, there’s risk that it will get worse before it gets better, but we’ve made very clear that the costs will be high. We’ve done the same thing with the Cubans, who are also there, helping Maduro stay in power. We’re working with the Chinese, who also have interests there. We’ve built out a coalition of now 50-plus countries that are working to make sure the Venezuelan people have the chance that they deserve.
QUESTION: Down in Central America, the Triangle countries – you mentioned them a moment ago – El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. The President cut off aid to those countries officially.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: Have you heard from them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: I’d imagine they were direct.
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re – they’ve made commitments. They made commitments to the State Department and to DHS. We’ve seen them begin to marshal resources to try and take down the big piece of this, the caravans that are moving across, and we’ve seen them take real actions. I want to give them credit for that.
QUESTION: Like what?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They begin to put police on the streets, run checkpoints, put some security. Look, they have some limited capacity challenges too. Controlling one’s border is hard; we know that. But the first step is recognition that you have a problem and that American support is contingent on changes in your behavior.
QUESTION: So they’re doing more now —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: — than they did six months ago?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Six months, even as recently as two or three weeks ago.
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re doing more, but, Steve, there’s still more that they can do. They have this responsibility to ensure their folks do not flee across their borders.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: You got this award. It was the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation award for freeing these hostages, and then they decided to revoke the award. Is that bullying? How did you feel about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So first I want to say that President Trump has made an enormous priority getting hostages back. It was a blessing. I got to bring three —
SECRETARY POMPEO: — folks back from North Korea. We brought back Pastor Brunson. Danny Burch just a few weeks ago from the Middle East. The list is long. The accomplishments we’ve had there are enormous. We’d been recognized by this organization for that good work. I was personally going to receive the award on behalf of the administration and the State Department and then —
QUESTION: But what happened?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They had announced it and then all of a sudden I wasn’t invited anymore, and it’s sad. I regret it because the work we’ve done —
QUESTION: Why did you get uninvited?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The – well, the return of hostages isn’t partisan. It’s not political.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is an American – this is an American activity. We’ve worked with Democrat members of Congress on this. This is not partisan. And yet, it sounds like some in the media who were underwriting this event, sponsors for the event, said, “If Pompeo is there, we won’t be.” And I think that’s why the organization ultimately pulled —
QUESTION: Is it about money?
QUESTION: They took it away from you because they wanted to sell more tables?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’ll have to talk to them about it. We don’t know. Here’s what I know: I was invited for the great work we’ve done. We continue to do great work. I had all of the hostage families out at the State Department on Tuesday of this week. It was quite – it was emotional, it was special. I wanted them to know what was on President Trump’s heart about getting these people back, and then we had this happen. It’s really unfortunate.
QUESTION: Well, and the reason they do it, they do not think you’ve been strong enough against Saudi Arabia about the murder of Khashoggi, and in fact, the House and Senate voted to stop supporting in any way we do the Saudis’ war in Yemen. But when you do that, that might be fine, but you’re actually giving Yemen to Iran. Do people know there’s – you might not like Saudi Arabia, but do you want to give Yemen to Iran? That’s what happens.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This has been the administration’s point all along. The true threat there in the region is the Islamic Republic of Iran. We don’t want to do things that benefit them. I regret – I don’t know, maybe it was because of they don’t think we’ve done enough with respect to Mr. Khashoggi. I actually think we’ve done a great deal and are prepared to do more. But make no mistake about it, regardless – Diane Foley, this organization – she’s a great lady. Her son was beheaded.
QUESTION: Yeah, of course. James Foley.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We love her dearly. And make no mistake, we will – regardless of the fact we were disinvited, we’re going to keep bringing Americans home.
QUESTION: Seventy years since NATO, and it’s time to celebrate that anniversary, and we know that they were here addressing a joint session of Congress, and the President said how much more money he’s brought into the organization. But there are signs of fraying in the middle when Italy goes and ignores us and goes and does a deal with China; when a lot of these Eastern European nations go to authoritarian rule, that doesn’t look good; and when you have Turkey decide I want the Russian system instead of F-35s from America, that’s not good. Are you worried about the foundation of the world’s longest alliance?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not worried about it at its core, but I am worried about this: its collective defense. That means each of those countries has to contribute in a substantial way to the collective defense, and that’s what we talked about when they were all in Washington this week to celebrate 70 amazing years of work. They need – the European countries need to do more. When we see countries like Turkey make a decision to buy an important, significant, not just – not just AK-47s but a significant, complex Russian system, that doesn’t work, and we’re doing everything we can to convince them that they ought not complete that transaction.
QUESTION: And you think you’re making progress with Italy not – getting them not to do this China deal and making progress with Turkey not to do this Russian deal?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think we’re making progress in each place, but at the end of the day, these countries will have to make their decisions and then the United States will make ours.
QUESTION: All right. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us. What an honor.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. Thank you all.