QUESTION: Welcome back. This is the Ben Shapiro Show. Joining us on the line is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Secretary Pompeo, thanks so much for your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Ben, it’s great to be with you today.
QUESTION: Why don’t we start with a couple of big announcements the State Department has made in the past few weeks. Obviously, the State Department announced – you announced specifically – that the American policy with regard to Israeli settlements would be changing. This has spurred wide outrage in the media particularly. What exactly was the policy and why is it changing?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So President Trump made clear we were going to recognize facts on the ground, the reality of the situation. And in this case, the State Department’s previous view had been that settlements were illegal under international law, and we now have taken another look at that issue and have concluded that the settlements themselves are not per se illegal. The Israeli courts are quite capable of making determinations about particular settlements, but it’s our conclusion – and we’re confident that we’re right – that the settlements themselves are not per se illegal under international law.
That’s important, Ben, because for so long this has been a legal issue, where folks thought about this as a – to try and get a legal solution to win. And we know that the resolution of the conflict that is there between Israel and the Palestinians is going to be a political resolution. We want to create the maximum space for that political resolution. And so our legal conclusion we think facilitates the – an increased likelihood that we can ultimately see a political resolution between Israel and the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: The Trump administration has obviously taken the viewpoint that basing negotiation on absolute truth on the ground makes a lot more sense than going along with sort of myth about legality being settled by a court and that – and then the problem being settled from the outside.
Secretary Pompeo, I also wanted to ask you about the situation in Iran. This has not been getting tons of international attention, despite the fact it should be. Apparently over 100 protestors have been shot by the Iranian Government. We’ve seen the Iranian people rising up in rolling protests for months on end at this point. What is the administration doing to either contribute to this or to militate against the repression of the Iranian Government?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Our policy from the very inception of the administration, Ben, is to deny the Iranian regime, the kleptocrats in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the resources to foment terror and to, frankly, punish their own citizens as well, and to put their citizens at risk by underwriting Hizballah and Shia militias in Iraq. So that’s been our effort, our international effort.
What you’ve seen in these past weeks is, frankly, a follow-on to what’s been going on at a low level for an awfully long time, is the Iranian people saying enough – enough of the kleptocracy; enough of the theocracy; enough of the imperialist bent around the world that’s putting our brothers’ and sisters’ lives at risk and denying us the capacity to simply live normal lives.
It was triggered by a decision that the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership made about gas subsidies. They removed some of them, and that fomented significant political protests and protests against the regime leadership. You saw over the past – goodness, it’s been now a week – in response to that what the leadership in Iran did. They shut off the internet so that they could engage in activities essentially in the dark, without communications. And second, they instigated a political crackdown, where – while we can’t verify the numbers – international human rights organizations have said there were at least 100-plus that have been killed as a result of violence perpetrated by the Iranian regime.
This is – Ben, you know this. This is simply the Iranian people seeking freedom and economic success and a regime that’s denying those two things to them.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, I would say that it would bewilder – that it’s bewildering to see the media’s near blackout of events in Iran, except for the fact that the media are passionately attached to the Iran nuclear deal that was funding the Iranian Government in issues like the crackdown and their expansion of power around the Middle East. And obviously, as Iran is deprived of money, that does mitigate against some of their aggressiveness throughout the Middle East. Obviously they’re posing threats everyplace from Yemen to Lebanon. I know a serious concern from the Israeli Government is the possibility of war breaking out now with regard to the Palestinians but on their northern border in Lebanon.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Ben, you’ll recall back in 2009 there were some protests as well, a significant level. And the Obama administration, President Obama and his team, refused to so much as put out a statement in support of those protestors. President Trump and our team have done just the opposite. We’ve made clear that we side with the Iranian people and not with the regime’s behavior. And so that’s, I think, a fundamental switch.
It is also the case that we are not fueling those regime thugs by providing them resources, while the previous administration put $150 million in an airplane and sent it across to the Iranians. We have done everything we can to deny the regime the resources they need to foment this bad behavior and their imperialist tendencies all around the region. You talked about it, right, whether that’s in Beirut or Baghdad or in Damascus, they are indeed the malign influence in the Middle East that is causing so much instability, and risk to our friends in Israel as well.
QUESTION: We’re speaking with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Meanwhile, switching over to the situation over in Hong Kong, local elections were held over the last week or so, and the people of Hong Kong rose up in these local elections and endorsed the pro-democratic candidates. They are standing up against the Government of China. Obviously the administration is in the middle of a trade negotiation with China at this point, and this has led to a bit of an impasse on a Senate bill that would crack down on China for its repression in Hong Kong. Where does the administration stand on the situation in Hong Kong right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Very simple. The Chinese Government made a commitment to the people of Hong Kong that they would – when they became part of China, they would still adhere to a set of rules that was called “one country, two systems,” thus guaranteeing the set of basic law freedoms for the people of Hong Kong. And so our direction, our guidance, our request to the Chinese Communist Party leadership, General Secretary Xi, is that he honor the commitment that China made to those people. And you – when you see these protests in Hong Kong, this is a reaction. They simply want Chinese Government in Beijing to honor the promises that were made to them, and President Trump has said very clearly we want there to be no violence on either side. We want Beijing to handle the situation politically, to resolve this conflict in a way that reflects the basic understanding of one country and two systems, and honor the autonomy that the Hong Kong people are permitted under what China – the Chinese Government of Beijing promised to them.
QUESTION: What sort of repercussions would be possible if the Chinese Government were to continue its repression in Hong Kong or accelerate that repression?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I try not to get too far out into the speculation of what might happen if somebody did something, but suffice it to say I know how much the world is watching this. I know they’re seeing how this is proceeding. We’re all trying to find a political resolution to these protests and the demands of the people there in Hong Kong, and we hope that that happens. In the event that – I think President Trump said – in the event that there was a hand that was too heavy or there was violence that wasn’t reflective of an appropriate response, I think President Trump has said, boy, makes it much harder for him or for anyone to deal with Beijing in trade or other issues as well. I’m hopeful that that won’t be the case, and I’m hopeful we can restore the right outcome. We want good things for the people not only of Hong Kong, but all the people of China.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the latest on the impeachment push by Democrats in the House. Obviously, they have requested your testimony before. There’s been talk about whether you are going to testify in this case, either in the Senate or in front of the House. Where do you think we stand broadly in this impeachment inquiry? And do you think the Democrats have anything like the sufficient evidence necessary to push forward in impeachment.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Ben, I’ll leave that to the political branches. I can say this: I was involved in our policy, how we addressed Ukraine for the last year and a half plus as the Secretary of State, for a year and a half before that as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. And I always observe President Trump demanding that we work with Ukraine to get rid of as much corruption as we possibly could. I watched too when we were talking about using American taxpayers’ dollars to provide resources to Ukraine, the constant question of is this appropriate or are other countries doing as well as burden sharing at the right level.
And frankly, ultimately, the President in each case made the decision that it was the right thing to do to move forward. It was this administration that provided the lethal defensive assistance to the Ukrainian people so they could defend themselves from Russia, whereas the previous administration chose to send no such thing. We’ve been better – as I think almost every witness has testified – we’ve been better, stronger, and more responsive to what Ukraine needed to protect itself from threats from Russia than the previous administration ever was.
QUESTION: Well, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, I really appreciate your time, and thanks for all the work that you’re doing. Really appreciate it, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Ben. Happy Thanksgiving to you, sir.
QUESTION: You too.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You bet.