QUESTION: Well, Secretary Pompeo, welcome to Wisconsin.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be back. It’s good to see you.
QUESTION: Well, let’s start with this visit. A lot of people, a lot of your detractors might say this is a political visit. Why is it important for you to be here in Madison to share your thoughts with lawmakers?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s always great to come back to the heartland. I think as a Secretary of State, it’s important that the people of Wisconsin understand precisely what we’re doing, how “America First” is being rolled out all across the world. I’ve traveled to New York, been to California, been to Massachusetts, all across America. It’s very important to me that the American people understand what the Department of State and President Trump are doing so that we can deliver security for the people of Wisconsin.
I came here today to talk mostly about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party, but to talk more broadly about how the American economy and prosperity and success here in Wisconsin delivers good international outcomes for the American people as well.
QUESTION: This started with an email to Senator Roth. Talk a little bit about that, and what the Chinese Government you say is trying to do. I mean, they’re trying to get the subnational levels of government to react in a PR effort? What is it, exactly?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, you’ve got it right. This began when Senator Rodney Roth received an email, a propaganda email asking him to take actions that would have been fundamentally inconsistent with the truth, right. And so I reached out to Rodney and said, “Well done; you handled this exactly right.” The Chinese Communist Party is trying to undermine our democracy, our freedoms. They’re engaged in predatory activity that’s caused tens of thousands of job losses right here in Wisconsin. And President Trump and our team are doing our best to push back against that.
We love the Chinese people, but the Chinese Communist Party poses a real threat. We simply ask – there’s nothing special. We want China to engage on the world stage the way we ask every other nation to, and it’s not partisan, it’s not about politics. This is about the American people’s security, and so they are – when the Trump administration pushes back at the federal level, they’re trying to circumvent that, going to state governments and city councils, and even to PTA meetings. And the people of Wisconsin need to know that, so I spoke about that here today. I hope you all will take that on board.
QUESTION: We export a lot of product from Wisconsin to China, and right now the farmers – a lot of industry here is dealing so much with the pandemic. How do you sell them on the concerns of China while they’re just looking for a place to sell their product?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s great. We want that, too. I hail from Kansas; Kansas farmers have the same challenges. Indeed, the entire focus of President Trump’s trade policy with China has been to open that market up. It’s the case for 20 years – I know your farmers would tell you this, too – they were treated abusively, poorly, treated unfairly by China and by the Chinese Communist Party. What President Trump is trying to do is say we’re not going to let that happen anymore. We’re going to go create a fair, reciprocal, balanced trade relationship. The Phase 1 trade agreement begins to accomplish that. It’s the first step towards accomplishing that. In the end, this will end up delivering really good outcomes for people all across Wisconsin, including the Wisconsin agriculture community.
QUESTION: We’re dealing a lot – a lot of people, the virus is top of mind. Can foreign policy – have we learned something from – this whole email started with them trying to shape policy on how they handled the virus. Have we learned anything in foreign policy that can help us in the future when dealing with something like this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s a great question. I think a couple things come immediately to mind. First, it reminds us that authoritarian regimes are prone to cover-ups. That’s how this virus began its travel all across the world, with a Chinese Communist Party that disappeared doctors and wouldn’t let journalists talk about what was really going on at the most critical time and juncture in the expansion of the virus. The Chinese covered up for this virus. We expect that they will be held accountable for that.
Second, I think as we stare at global supply chains and as small businesses interact with China, I think they’re now more aware of the political risk from doing business there, and they need to demand that when they have a Chinese counterparty, a supplier, or a customer that the agreement be fair and reciprocal. If they do that, if we get that right, we’ll increase prosperity here in the United States and in Wisconsin.
QUESTION: I’m a parent of two teens that are on TikTok. That’s been a big topic lately. You talked about intellectual property rights that China has been taking from American businesses, you say, for a long time. Why should a typical American parent be concerned about TikTok? Is it more than just the President’s upset about Tulsa? Tell us why a parent should be – who’s going to the polls, who has two kids that are on TikTok, why they should be worried.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So TikTok in its current incarnation takes that data – your child’s location, their friends, their contacts, their home address, their phone number, all that information that we readily expose to that device they hold in their hands – and they have the capacity to bring that back to their national security state with an Orwellian surveillance system that puts everyone at risk. President Trump said no more. We’re not going to let America’s national security and the private information of American citizens be held in the hands of the Chinese national security apparatus. And so we’re going to fix that, we’re going to right the ship, we’re going to flip the switch, and we’re going to protect your kids, everyone’s kids from the Chinese Communist Party having access to their data and information.
QUESTION: Now, shifting gears and looking at Russia, Director Wray has said they’re at it again with regards to trying to target our election. What has the State Department done to make American voters feel comfortable as they go to the polls in November that Russia isn’t involved in our election?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So Russian efforts to interfere in American elections goes back a long ways. It happened in the early 2000s, it happened again in 2016, it happened in the off-year elections in 2018, and well, we did a remarkable job. I’m very confident that in 2018, the Trump administration protected everyone’s vote. We’ll do the same thing here. It’s not primarily the State Department’s role. It’s DHS and FBI here in the homeland, making sure that votes are counted properly and that everything is done with precision. But we’ve also made clear to the Russians that that kind of behavior is unacceptable, and I’m confident we’ll deliver a safe and secure election where the Russians don’t impact the outcome.
QUESTION: Why does what’s happened in the Middle East, the President making those agreements with Israel, why does that matter to voters in the heartland? Why should they commend him for those efforts?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Wisconsin depends a lot on energy, stable energy markets. It depends on there not being conflict in the Middle East that has an adverse impact for economies all across the world. So many, many jobs depend on a safe, secure Middle East, and of course we know the terror threat that has emanated from the Middle East as well. When this administration came in, ISIS was beheading people. You’ll remember those pictures. There were people in cages burning. We took down the caliphate. We have now reduced risk.
And so the Abraham Accords not only made these countries recognize an important ally – the state of Israel – but also reduced risk for people right here in Wisconsin. It’s a good thing. I hope more countries all across the Middle East will join what the Bahrainis and the Emiratis did week before last.
QUESTION: My last question, a little more personal for you: You mentioned in there in your speech 70 secretaries of state, only 45 presidents. If President Trump is to win a second term, will you be a part of it? Do you look at this as there’s more work to be done?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s definitely more work to be done. In the end, that decision will be made by the President of the United States, but I’ve had the privilege —
QUESTION: It’s a job you want.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve had the privilege for two and a half years to do it. There’s still a lot more that I’d like to get done.
QUESTION: Secretary, thank you very much for your time today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: And thank you for visiting Wisconsin.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: Appreciate it.