QUESTION: Secretary Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, thank you so much for being with us today. Appreciate it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, David. It’s great to be with you again. Hope you’re doing well.
QUESTION: Hanging in there. I know you are too, and there’s a lot to talk about. I want to get to, obviously, China and the coronavirus. You made it clear that China has some explaining to do on this. I know you said that you don’t know if the virus started in a lab in China, and maybe not the wet market in Wuhan, but either way, do you believe the Chinese Communist Party is lying to the world right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: David, it’s incredibly important, even as we sit here today, that we get to the bottom of what transpired and that the Chinese Communist Party come clean about how this all began. Look, we now it started in Wuhan, China; that’s the origination of the virus. We need to figure out how it happened. It’s not just about political retribution or accountability. It’s important today. We need to know this so we can save lives going forward. We need our scientists, our academics, our epidemiologists all to have access to the data, access to a sample of the virus, access to the places it might have come to. Those are all things that matter so that we can solve this problem, get our country back to work, and save lives.
QUESTION: So the Chinese ambassador – just recently, the Chinese ambassador to the United States called for a serious rethinking of the relationship. Would you agree? I mean, has this situation fundamentally changed our working relationship with China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, there’s places that we work alongside China, and there’s a lot of places where the President of the United States has said look, we just weren’t being treated fairly. The obvious example is trade. President Trump made very clear from – shoot, from the time of his campaign, even before he was elected, that the trade relationship between the two countries wasn’t fair, it wasn’t reciprocal, and we needed to fix that for American workers so that we’d have jobs here in the United States that wouldn’t go someplace else because of unfair trade rules.
We’re very concerned about what China’s doing in the South China Sea. We watch as a company called Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company that is controlled by the Chinese Government, comes to countries around the world where American citizens’ data may be subjected to scrutiny by the Chinese Government. Those are things that existed before this virus, those challenges will remain, and President Trump is committed to protecting American people and keeping them safe and getting the trade relationships right so that we can have jobs here in America.
QUESTION: Speaking of relationships, you have emphatically stated about China, Iran, and Russia that they’re using this coronavirus crisis to launch a propaganda and disinformation onslaught against the United States. Do you believe they are in cahoots with one another on this? In other words, is this a coordinated effort by those countries?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, it’s hard to know the answer to that. What you can say is they’re observing what the others are doing and then they’re responding in a group. That is, they are taking information being provided by one and others are promoting it online and elsewhere too. This information, David – this disinformation campaign matters. The American people, people all across the world go to sources to get information – information for their safety, information for their health and that of their family members – it is nasty when a government runs a disinformation campaign and it puts those peoples’ lives at risk and their health at risk. We’ve done our best here in the United States, and frankly we’ve had other countries around the world call out this fake news, this disinformation. It is disingenuous, it is dangerous, and these governments need to stop, and they need to stop doing it in a coordinated way as well, if that’s what’s actually taking place.
QUESTION: So you’re not necessarily discounting the fact that it could be a coordinated effort. You think more investigation is needed on this, then.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, we see very similar messages propagated by a very similar means. It’s difficult to know the level of coordination.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about Joe Biden real quick. He did say the other day that the President – if he were president he would have made sure we got American health experts into China early to find out what was going on with the virus, to prevent its global spread. I’m curious to get your comments on that, maybe not from a political standpoint – I know you have to be careful on that – but that’s the criticism that he’s leveling.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Two things to say. First, this President and this administration worked diligently to work to get Americans on the ground there in China, to help to the World Health Organization try to get in there as well. We were rebuffed. The Chinese Government wouldn’t let it happen, indeed just the opposite of transparency. They kicked American journalists out and denied access to American and other Western scientists at the time that it was frankly most critical that we understand what was going on there.
My second thought is: I’ve seen the difference in how this administration relates to the Chinese Communist Party. The previous administration allowed China to walk all over us and gain trade, great opportunities, create wealth and trade benefits for China. This President has taken fundamentally a hundred and eighty degrees different approach with respect to how we respond to the challenge that China presents to American security.
QUESTION: So you’re suggesting that the previous administration was soft on China or dealing with them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Relative to this administration, they were wildly soft. It wasn’t just trade. It was during the previous administration that the Chinese Government began to arm the South China Sea, something that General Secretary Xi said he would not do. The previous administration didn’t respond. It allowed them to continue to develop their capacity to move their People’s Liberation Army – excuse me – People’s Liberation Navy out and around in the South China Sea. That was the kind of things that the previous administration permitted, and this administration has worked very hard to turn that around and make sure that everywhere there was an American interest we strongly protected it.
QUESTION: I want to turn to the World Health Organization. What would get the WHO back in good standing with the United States at this point? I mean, in other words, what needs to happen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, David, it’s hard to know. It’s important that your viewers understand the history of the World Health Organization as well. This is not the first time that that institution has failed to protect the world. You may recall SARS. The same kind of thing happened, where the WHO was unable to do its primary function – stopping a pandemic from spreading across the world. And this time they were unable to; you can see it. They said don’t close your borders. President Trump made the decision to do that and keep American people safe.
They were too slow in declaring that this was something that could transmit from human to human. Those are the kind of things that the WHO has failed in. It’s nothing against any individual that may work at the WHO. It’s about an institution that has fundamentally failed to do its primary task, keeping people all across the world – and in our case, the thing that matters most: keeping Americans safe.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to get to Iran, obviously, in a moment, very important. But on Saudi Arabia and oil, I know there have been some Republican lawmakers sent a letter to you. They’re upset at Saudi Arabia. They say basically we’re under direct threat from them as they continue to send oil here to the U.S., oil that we don’t need basically, basically accusing the Saudis of trying to kill the American oil industry through over supply. What are your thoughts about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, full disclosure, before I came to Congress I worked in a company that sold equipment in that industry. I know the Kansas oil patch and the Oklahoma and Texas oil patch pretty well. We were a small company, but I know how these companies have been impacted by what has been the largest decline in demand for crude oil products in recent history. What President Trump’s been focused on is two things: getting stability back in the marketplace – he was centrally involved in talking to the King and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and with President Putin and ultimately with the Mexican Government as well. I was working on it, too. And the President got them to a place where they reduced their output.
The second thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to get the American economy back up and we’ve got to get demand back. When that demand begins to come back, you’ll see prices start to get back to a good place, and then you’ll see the American energy industry begin to thrive once again. I know these people. They are tough; they are strong. President Trump’s committed to making sure that they have everything they need to make sure that this industry comes out on the other side of this virus in a way that allows them to continue to do the important function of providing more independence for America on foreign energy sources.
QUESTION: So no harsh words right now, at least, for Saudi Arabia on this. So it’s a wait-and-see approach?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, we’ve got to get it right. The President was very clear what his expectations are for the – were for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well. He wanted to make sure that they engaged in a thoughtful way in those negotiations. And he got a really good outcome there, a real serious reduction in the total output that would come not only from Saudi Arabia but the other Arab OPEC nations as well, in addition to Russia.
QUESTION: Fair enough. On Iran, I know it’s something you’ve worked on for a very long time as a congressman, of course the Secretary of State, CIA, all of that. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, obviously been designated a terrorist group by the United States. Now we know they launched this military satellite into orbit. You said that Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done. How exactly might that happen going forward, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, it was really jarring yesterday to see that the Iranians had lied once again. They told the world that they didn’t have a military program that was involved in missiles and satellites, and yesterday the IRGC, the cutting edge of the Iranian military, announced that they had launched a satellite into low Earth orbit. What we intend to do is to gather the nations across the world. The French put out a statement today. They, too, know how dangerous and destabilizing what Iran did. I’m confident that there will now be more countries that understand what President Trump has understood since he first came into office, that the Iran deal was a crazy, bad deal, that we all need to move away from it, that the world needs to disassociate itself from Iran, and that the community of nations needs to come together and convince the Iranian regime to cease their activity, which has led to them being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror for so many years.
We’ve done that; we’ve put real pressure on the regime. We continue to do that. We have to deny them the resources to conduct the activities that you saw them undertake just yesterday.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, always good to see you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
QUESTION: Stay healthy. Stay safe there in the world.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, David. You stay safe and healthy, too. Bless you.