QUESTION: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thanks for joining me for this interview.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great to be with you.
QUESTION: Thanks. You just toured the Denver Crime Lab, where they test for drugs like fentanyl. Your office has a role in trying to prevent illicit drugs from coming to the country.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: Colorado lawmakers have debated back and forth about lowering or increasing the penalties for using fentanyl. How does lowering the penalties impact you keeping fentanyl from coming to the country?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, the last thing I want to do is get involved in local politics. But having said that, look, this problem of fentanyl – first of all, number one killer of Americans age 18 to 49. Think about that for just a second. Last year we seized enough fentanyl to kill every single American, and that’s just what we seized, so there’s more out there. And by definition, this is a problem that can’t be solved at a local level, at a national level, or an international level; we need all three. And that’s why – why is someone in my job focused on fentanyl? It’s because there’s a big international component to this.
But when I’m going around the world, one of the things that people are asking me about is what are you doing in the United States? How are you addressing this problem? How are you dealing with reducing demand? How are you dealing with treatment, with caring for people?
And so coming to a city like Denver, which is doing such remarkable work in that area, is a very good proof point for me to tell people around the world what we’re doing in the United States. But at the same time, most of the fentanyl that’s coming into this country and that’s getting to Denver, getting to Colorado, is coming from outside the United States. And the way it usually works is halfway around the world, chemical manufacturers are making a chemical – perfectly legal. Sends it closer to us; it gets diverted into illegal use, into the manufacture of fentanyl, and then it comes into the country.
So how do we disrupt that supply chain? We have to get countries around the world to come together, to agree to work together. That’s exactly what we’re doing. President Biden is building a coalition of countries to do that, even as we’re also dealing with law enforcement, as we’re – even as we’re dealing with our border and trying to make sure that things don’t get across the border. Ninety-five percent of the fentanyl that’s coming into this country is coming through legal ports of entry. It’s not being smuggled across between those ports of entry. We have detection technology, but ultimately, it’s the local community.
And the criminal justice aspect of this is important, and it’s important to make sure that the penalties are sufficient to try to help deter use. But it’s also public health – you’ve got to be able to treat people, you’ve got to be able to engage them so that they don’t get addicted in the first place.
QUESTION: For you to keep doing what you’re doing on that front, you’d have to stay as Secretary of State, and this week President Biden announced he’s officially running for reelection. You, as a member of his cabinet, spend time with him privately – no cameras, no teleprompters. You see him in a way we don’t. He’s 80 now. What concerns do you have about his mental and physical ability to do this job into his mid-80s?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: None. I’ve got to tell you, you’re right. I see him virtually every day, and I see him grappling with the most challenging issues that we face as a country – both, in my case, mostly international issues, but I see a lot of the domestic work, too. And my problem is keeping up with him. So the challenge is really on me because this is someone who is very much animated by ideas and by doing things and getting things done. He is the one who’s constantly pushing us to dig in and get the job done for the American people.
QUESTION: Not one thing?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I do not.
QUESTION: Okay. This question is about disinformation and trust, and it’s about your time advising the Biden campaign before he was President. The House Judiciary Committee includes Republican Congressman Ken Buck and Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse. Last week Republicans in that committee said they want answers about your involvement in a 2020 letter calling the Hunter Biden laptop story “Russian disinformation.” Laptop analyzed by CBS News found no evidence it was faked or tampered with. What was your involvement in the letter calling it Russian disinformation?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So one of the great things about the job that I’m doing now is I don’t do politics because I’ve got too much else going on. We just talked about fentanyl; I’m deeply engaged in that. We’re dealing now around the world in helping to make sure we’re rallying support for Ukraine as it continues to face this Russian aggression. We have to contend with a very complicated and consequential relationship with China; I’m deeply engaged in that.
Around the world we’re working on transnational issues that are having a big impact on the lives of the American people – climate change, food insecurity. All of the challenges that come with emerging technologies that we’re carrying around in our pockets everyday, the rules, the norms, the way these things get used – a lot of that gets decided around the world in a windowless room probably somewhere else. That’s what I’m focused on.
So I don’t get involved in distractions and I don’t get involved in politics.
QUESTION: It sounds like you can multitask?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Oh, that’s a job requirement.
QUESTION: So how come you can’t do that and also explain what your involvement was in this letter about Russian disinformation?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So my job is to focus on what I’m here to do, the responsibilities that I have. As to the letter that you mentioned, I’ve got it and I’ll respond to it appropriately.
QUESTION: I have a weird question regarding the Colorado Avalanche, and I want to know if your office is involved. A star player of the Avs, Valeri Nichushkin, a Russian, has mysteriously left the team during the playoffs. There is a police report, and I shared it with your team ahead of this interview. It says the team physician went to check on Nichushkin at the team hotel and found an intoxicated woman. She told police she was Russian but born in Ukraine, and said some guy took her passport and he was a very – was a bad person.
Is your office involved in or monitoring the situation involving Val Nichushkin or the woman from this police report?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, this is news to me. So to the best of my knowledge, no. Now, I have to acknowledge, just in case there are any conspiracy theories out there, I am a New York Rangers fan.
STAFF: Last question.
QUESTION: When would something like this reach your office?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, in all seriousness, if there was some kind of legitimate international concern involving another country, of course that’s something that we’d be seized with.
QUESTION: Thank you. As a native of Colorado, I just want to ask this because this interesting to me. As a native of Colorado, when I go to other states, I like to show off I’m from Colorado. I’ll wear Colorado stuff. I know people who, when they travel outside this country, don’t want to be seen or known as American. Where have you traveled that if you weren’t Secretary of State you also wouldn’t want people to know you were American?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What’s interesting to me is what I’ve seen over the last couple of years, is our standing around the world is way up in country after country. And I have no hesitation to be going around the world with the American flag at my back; actually, it’s the great privilege of my job. So there may be – maybe Russia at this point in time would not be the most popular place for an American. But in country after country, our standing is stronger than it’s been in a long time. And that’s something that I’m not only proud of as an American but something it’s my responsibility, hopefully, to keep going.
QUESTION: And I learned that the flag has to be over your right shoulder for an interview. I learned that today, as it is right now. Thank you for the time.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great to be with you. Thank you.