QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. Good to see you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Everybody ready for our big trip? You all are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: We got to State at about 3:00 a.m. So we’ve been ready.
QUESTION: Do you ever sleep?
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Once. (Laughter.) I want to resolve this once and for all, all right? (Inaudible). I’m going to challenge you to a duel in honor of (inaudible). I’ll lose (inaudible).
MS ORTAGUS: All right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I’m happy to take a couple questions. It’s a trip that we had to put off once before because of the activity in the Middle East.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’re right. It’s the second time. I look forward to getting to London as they approach their January 31st exit. A lot to talk about with the United Kingdom as they enter a new phase of their sovereignty. Then we’ll head off and have a good set of conversations in Ukraine with the team and with President Zelensky on a set of important issues about European security.
And then on to Central Asia, where there is lots of activity – Chinese activity, Russian activity – and a set of countries that want to be sovereign and independent, and America has the important opportunity to help them achieve that. And then on to Belarus to have a conversation on a similar set of topics about ensuring that these countries are secure and know that they have America’s support.
Meanwhile there’s a lot going on, happening in China with the coronavirus as well. We had a flight of American diplomats that work for me and their families leave Wuhan within the last 24 hours. Lots of activity. We have an obligation to do our best to make sure that every American knows what the risks are of traveling not only to Wuhan but to China more broadly. We’re going to make sure the State Department is monitoring that situation closely so we can provide good, accurate information for American citizens who have business travel or have family members there in China.
Then yesterday we rolled out a historic Middle East peace plan that provides the Palestinians a real opportunity to make their lives better and provides security for the State of Israel.
QUESTION: What’s your message going to be to embassy staff in Kyiv?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The message is very similar to every embassy that I get a chance to talk to when I travel. I almost always – I may have missed it once in 20 months now – almost always meet with the team and tell them how much we love them, appreciate them, appreciate their family members and their sacrifice, and talk about the important work that the United States and Ukraine will continue to do together to fight corruption inside of that country and to ensure that America provides the support that the Ukrainian people need to ensure that they have a free and independent nation.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could address the dispute with Mary Louise Kelly, and I’m wondering if you could respond to her claim that you said, “Why should Americans care about Ukraine?” Was that an accurate depiction of the conversation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I just rolled through a lot of really important things going on in the world.
QUESTION: You had put out a statement about it, so I’m just wondering if you could just elaborate on the statement that was —
QUESTION: Today the President gave you props. He brought it up during a pretty big day yesterday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s a lot of really important things going in the world. Look, go back and take a look. There’s a lot of history with NPR and Mike Pompeo and Iran. It goes back to 2015, 2015 where NPR lied. They took money from Ploughshares. They were part of the Ben Rhodes echo chamber, and they ultimately had to go on air and say yep, it’s true, we took money from Ploughshares and didn’t disclose it – after enormous pressure from Congressman Pompeo. So there’s a lot of history there.
So I took a leap of faith with Mary Louise and invited her to the State Department back in December. We had a great conversation. She asked me if I’d give her the favor of granting her an interview. I said, “Sure, there’s a lot of history to fix. Let’s talk about Iran.” She agreed that we would talk about Iran. Then we set up an interview. I hope she finds peace.
QUESTION: Will you talk to NPR ever again?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sure I will. I’m sure I will. It’s a – there’s lots of important things. I hope that they’ll do that in a way that’s objective. This is a state-funded entity. I hope that they’ll be objective. The – you can go look at the interview and judge for yourself whether you think that was a straight, down-the-middle interview or not, looking to really talk about the facts that the American people care about and the things they really value. And of course, the American people care about the people of Ukraine.
QUESTION: And part of her questions I think were about —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, look, there’s lots going on in the world.
QUESTION: Can I ask about something a little bit different?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Huawei. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: And Britain. You can’t be happy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, we’ve spoken to the United Kingdom at great length about this both at the political level and a lot at the national security level over the past months and months. Our view of Huawei has been that putting it in your system creates real risk. This is an extension – an extension of the Chinese Communist Party with a legal requirement to hand over information to the Chinese Communist Party.
We’ll evaluate what the United Kingdom did. It’s a little unclear precisely what they’re going to permit and not permit, so we need to take a little bit of time to evaluate that. But our view is that we should have Western systems with Western rules, and American information only should pass through trusted networks, and we’ll make sure we do that.
QUESTION: But is it fair to say that this is a primary agenda item for your talks?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s a lot. There’s a lot of topics. There’s a lot of things we work on the United Kingdom on. There’s big, broad national security issues. Our militaries operate together. There are enormous trade issues. There’s big commercial issues. And there are obviously issues that relate to telecoms and their security, and we’ll – they’ll be part of the conversation.
QUESTION: If they do let Huawei in, are you concerned about our national security?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m always concerned about our national security, of course. Look, we’ll do the right thing with American information. We will make sure that when American information passes across the network, we are confident that the network is a trusted one. So we’ll work with the United Kingdom. We were urging them to make a decision that was different than the one that they made, and now we’ll have a conversation about how to proceed.
QUESTION: And sharing intel —
QUESTION: Can I ask about the coronavirus?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Can I ask about coronavirus? We’ve – there’s been some reports that the administration —
QUESTION: He’s going to drop us all in Wuhan. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — that the administration is —
SECRETARY POMPEO: That was Matt Lee, for those of you recording. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — is possibly in discussions to halt flights to China to throw out all —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sorry, who?
QUESTION: That the administration is in discussions to stop flights to China. Is there truth to that? Is that something that’s being considered? Do you know at what point will we get there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t want to get ahead of any decisions or talk about internal deliberations, but the American people should know there are enormous efforts underway by the United States Government to make sure that we do everything we can to protect the American people and to do our part to reduce the risk all around the globe. So I am confident the World Health Organization, supported by the United States and other international groups, would have the capacity to help the Chinese Government push back against this real risk. We’ll put all the resources that we can manage to do that.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say it’s something you’re looking at, or —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, look, the State Department constantly evaluates risk to travelers. We’ve raised the level to level four inside of Wuhan, and we will evaluate on a continuous basis, literally hour by hour, whether that’s the appropriate level in Wuhan and whether – we’ve got to get it right in other parts. That includes travel advisories that could encompass a wide range of things, including banning travel. All of those things will constantly be under consideration. We want to make sure we get it right. At the same time, we don’t want to over-react either. We don’t want to react in a way that actually has the potential to make things worse and not better.
QUESTION: One more on Huawei.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure.
QUESTION: How real is the threat of reducing information sharing with the Brits, given that they’ve made their choice?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll have to see what they actually do and how they – and importantly, how they implement what they laid out. We’ve had a chance to review what they’ve said about it so far now. We’ve got to figure out what that means from an execution and implementation perspective as well. It’s pretty complex. There’s also a chance for the United Kingdom to relook at this as implementation moves forward.
And then it’s important for everyone to know there is also real work being done by lots of private companies inside the United States and in Europe to make sure that there are true competitors to Huawei so that we can deliver the very outcomes that I know the United Kingdom was contemplating when they took the decision they did, so that we can deliver true commercial outcomes across real secure networks that aren’t subject to the Chinese Communist Party’s control.
QUESTION: Can I ask you quickly on the Middle East peace plan? What do you say to people who say it’s dead on arrival, that regional partners were not in the room yesterday? What’s your reaction to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, regional partners were in the room yesterday.
QUESTION: But not all of them, and some have already come out and said that —
SECRETARY POMPEO: They were in the room. The Omani ambassador was there. The Bahraini ambassador was there. The —
QUESTION: But UAE was not there.
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, the UAE was there. Yousef Otaiba was sitting one row behind me six seats to my right.
QUESTION: Okay. But some people are saying that —
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, they were there. Don’t say things – don’t say things that aren’t right. We had a lot of – we’ve worked —
QUESTION: Well, what do you say to people who say that they were —
SECRETARY POMPEO: These are the same critics who have failed for 70 years. The Palestinian people have an enormous opportunity for a better life for the Palestinian people. And I watched the Palestinian leadership yesterday. They called for a day of rage, and we called for diplomacy to sit down at the table and have a negotiated resolution to a longstanding conflict. This plan provides for real security, and it reflects the reality on the ground for the Israelis, and it reflects an enormous opportunity – $50 billion, and the Palestinian leadership called for a day of rage.
We’ve asked them to be thoughtful and considerate. They’ve got a long runway to do that. But we are truly confident that this is a plan that is good for everyone – every Israeli and every Palestinian. And they’re free to come up – they now have an offer on the table. They are free to come up with a counter offer, if that’s what they think is appropriate. We’d look forward to that. We’re prepared to listen, and I know the Israelis will be prepared to sit down and negotiate on the basis of the vision that the President laid out.
This is the most detailed plan ever presented. It’s the first time the Israelis have ever conceded to a map that actually lays down real outlines of what this will look like and what this means, and it provides a clear pathway for a Palestinian state. This is a real vision. We hope that all the parties – all the Palestinian people both in the West Bank and in Gaza – will consider it thoughtfully and move forward on this basis. And it gives us a real opportunity. Whether that opportunity comes along again in – well, you’re younger than me – in our generation or the next one, we really do hope that there’ll be this chance. We’re prepared to do our part to help the parties resolve this.
QUESTION: Okay. What do you —
QUESTION: I have a Ukraine question, but I will wait and ask it if you will commit to coming back to talk to us on the way to Kyiv.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You should ask it now.
QUESTION: I should ask it now because you can’t do that? (Laughter.) Obviously, corruption is a big part of the administration’s focus in Ukraine.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: And so not wanting to rehash all of the – everything that has been talked about before. But when you talk to them about corruption, are you including the Bidens and Burisma? Is what we’ve seen from Ambassador Bolton’s manuscript regarding you and your concerns about the legitimacy of the complaints about Ambassador Yovanovitch, is that accurate? But more importantly, is Burisma-Biden something that you want to bring up in person with Zelensky?
QUESTION: Yeah. Will it be in the conversation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ve been working on this for 20 months as Secretary of State and trying to do my part as the CIA director as well developing the facts and data. When we were talking about corruption, we talked about every element of corruption inside of Ukraine, whether it was corruption that took place inside of commercial entities, private businesses, quasi-private businesses, corruption inside the government, and Ambassador Volker’s work in the southeast, right? He was working to help deliver a good outcome in the Donbas region. He was also focused on trying to help us deliver a proposal where we could create an environment where we would stamp out this longstanding corruption, and we continue to work on those very same programs today.
I don’t want to talk about particular individuals. It’s not worth it. It’s a long list in Ukraine of corrupt individuals and a long history there. And President Zelensky has told us he’s committed to it. The actions he’s taken so far demonstrate that, and I look forward to having a conversation about that with him as well.
QUESTION: And then this could be off the record if you like it be and my colleagues agree, but there’s no ambassador there now. Are you looking at —
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have a charge. We have a charge there now.
QUESTION: Well, I know. Yeah, but there’s someone in line, and I’m just wondering if you don’t think it would be a good time when you’re in Kyiv to announce —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry? What’s the question?
QUESTION: If there would be – if it would be a good time while we’re there for you to say hey, the President’s going to —
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I’m not —
QUESTION: No imminent staffing announcement?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not in the position to make that announcement.
QUESTION: No, no. You not – no, but I mean he could. And then you can say by the way, here we now have ambassador, nominee —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I have confidence in the team that’s there in Kyiv today.
QUESTION: All right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks, everybody.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all. Get some rest.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, while we’ve got you, I would love to put in a word for our colleague, Michele Kelemen. If you would reconsider letting her back on the plane, I think we’d all appreciate that. Thank you.
QUESTION: By the way – by the way, Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the NPR Ploughshares thing. Remember who wrote that story. He was my former colleague.
MS ORTAGUS: It was. It was an AP story, yeah. I noticed —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I remember. Thanks, everybody. Get some rest.
QUESTION: Thank you.