QUESTION:  All right.  Well, thanks for speaking with us.  The first thing that I wanted to ask you about is every administration sort of has this opportunity to assert their influence on how the country builds allies around the world.  The Obama administration had a strategy; presumably everyone before them did, too.  Can you articulate how you would describe your philosophy on that, on strengthening allies, strengthening relationships, and building that sort of global coalition?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, it’s great to be with you today, it’s great to be on the show, and it’s great to be in Nashville.  I came here today to talk about one part of that, religious freedom, protecting religious minorities around the world, to talk to a big group of people who have traveled to Nashville from all across the country who care deeply about this issue.  It’s part of our effort with respect to coalitions.  We want likeminded countries, countries who share our value set, to work alongside of us.  So whether it was the campaign to defeat ISIS, where we had some 80-plus countries, our current efforts in Venezuela to support Juan Guaido, the duly elected leader there in Venezuela – we’re now at 54-plus countries.  We’ve built a coalition all across the world to denuclearize North Korea and have unanimous support at the UN Security Council.

We’ve done this in a way that’s very different.  We’ve been realistic about what it is we can achieve, how it is we can achieve it.  We don’t pretend, we don’t create fantasy worlds, we don’t lead from behind, like the previous administration.  We’re leading from the front, to build out coalitions that can effectively deal with some of the most difficult challenges facing the world today – and most importantly, the most difficult challenges that present risk to the American people.

QUESTION:  Let me ask you about Syria.  The Kurdish population in Nashville is the second-largest Kurdish population in the United States, and I think that they want to know how the U.S. sees the Kurdish population in the Middle East.  Are they an ally?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, I think every American wants to know how we’re dealing with security challenges around the world.  Certainly, the Kurdish people both here in the United States and around the world are watching how the world response to this threat.  What America did, which no other nation was prepared to do, was to build out a coalition with the Kurds to destroy the ISIS caliphate in the very land where it threatened the Kurdish people.  I’m very proud of what we did.  When we took over – you’ll remember this, Alex – there were people in cages, heads being cut off.  This was the Obama administration’s policy with respect to the Kurds and how they handled northeast Syria.

Our administration took this seriously, not only in Syria but in western Iraq as well, and we destroyed the caliphate.  We’ll continue to work to protect people all across the world.  President Trump’s policy in Syria is aimed at achieving that.  And even as I sit here today, we’re working to convince the Turks that the actions that they’re taking in the strip along the boundary between northern Syria and southern Turkey doesn’t present enormous risk to the Kurdish people.

QUESTION:  When you work with President Trump, describe what you try to do for him every day.  I mean, you are in some ways a servant of him, right, trying to make his job easier in some small capacity, or at least empower him to make decisions.  He’s a unique decision maker from an outsider’s perspective.  Can you talk about that relationship and how you’ve worked together – I mean, now successfully in two different spots?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So my mission in the previous role as the director of the CIA, I had a different function there.  It was to provide basic important intelligence information, facts, and data so that the policy makers – a role that I am now in – have the opportunity to have the best idea in the world real-time and with the depth and accuracy that they deserve.

But now my role is different.  It’s to use the State Department team to provide the President with the information he needs and the policy recommendations he needs consistent with the goals that he has set out.  So he’ll provide guidance, the commander’s intent, if you will, what it is he’s hoping that we can achieve.  And the State Department’s mission, including mine, is to provide him a range of alternatives and a set of recommendations that will work towards achieving those objectives.

QUESTION:  I think if some people in the country knew how to understand what he says better, they might be more apt to understand what his objectives are.  I mean, I’ll give you an example.  Earlier this week he had said somewhere – and it escapes me where he said it – that when he came into office, generals were concerned they didn’t have ammo to fulfill certain missions, right?  People – certain people that were working with him at the time said, well, that’s not really what we said.  Now, I don’t know that he’s making that up, but I mean, how should an American take something like that to still have confidence that he is absolutely the foremost authority on these issues that we’re talking about that are going to very deeply affect the country?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I think the most important thing that the American people need to see is the results that President Trump has achieved.  I could go through a litany of places – I know we don’t have a lot of time, but I could go through a very detailed focus on the outcomes.  A lot of folks like to talk about words.  They think whether it’s language or statements are the most important thing.  What’s important to the American people is that we reduce risk to them, that we deny terrorists the capacity to inflict harm upon them, that we keep them secure, that we’ve built out the coalitions that matter most to them to keep Americans secure, and on that count history will reflect incredibly well on President Trump, and I hope I’ve been some small part of that.

QUESTION:  I’ve got two more questions for you, one about the Ukraine call.  I’m sure you’re going to eventually be tired of talking about that, maybe.  But right after that call, which you admitted that you were on with the President, do you recall what you thought of the nature of it?  And perhaps it was regular enough that there was no certain – it was almost ordinary work between you and the President and the Ukrainian president?  But do you recall what you —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’m on scores of calls every day, a handful with the President every week.  Our Ukraine policy has been consistent since the very time I admit – entered this administration.  We had to flip what the previous administration – as you’ll recall, in the previous administration, Vladimir Putin seized Crimea and moved forces across into southeast Ukraine.  That was on President Obama’s watch.  We have taken decisive action.  We have provided the Ukrainians with defensive weapon systems.  We’ve provided them with financial support so that they could secure their own country.  We’ve demanded that Ukraine begin to weed out the corruption that has been so endemic in that country for so long.  When I look at the transcript of the President’s call, that’s what I see: a president who was very focused on making sure that if we’re going to take your money, the people who are watching your show’s money, if we’re going to take taxpayer resources and provide them to Ukraine, that we need to be sure that it got to the place that was intended and that corruption in that country was reduced.  That’s been the State Department’s singular focus with respect to Ukraine.

QUESTION:  One last question for you, and I ask it of everybody that is of prominence in politics.  The country, as soon as you look at it, we can barely confirm a Supreme Court justice now.  There are other institutions that are now sort of being weaponized.  Why should Americans feel good about the health of our democracy?  I’m sure you probably do, but reassure me.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So seeing it up close and personal from two branches of government – I served as a member of Congress from Kansas for half a dozen years, and I’ve now I’ve served in the Executive Branch for coming on three – I’ve watched these vigorous debates.  It’s – frankly, it’s the best of what our founders understood America was supposed to do – enormous First Amendment freedoms, the right to assemble, the right to gather, free and fair elections held to say these are the individuals we want to represent us and build out our government.

I’m also mindful too of history.  I think back to those founders.  I remember there were people on the House floor caning each other.  This is – we’ve had wide-open debates.  The time of the Civil War – if you read those histories and the conversations, the things that were taking place across America, these were vigorous debates about what was right and what was the right direction for America.  We’re having those today.  I think that’s deeply consistent with the most important American values.  And so our responsibility as leaders is to be transparent and clear, to speak the truth, to do our best to deliver on what the American voters asked us to do.

QUESTION:  Thanks for speaking with us.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.


U.S. Department of State

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