QUESTION: Welcome back, America. I’m Hugh Hewitt. Thank you for joining me on this Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020. I’m joined now by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, it’s great to be with you this morning.
QUESTION: Well, thank you. I had never expected to say this, because John Bolton is a friend of mine – he’s been on this show many, many times. He was generous with his time to me as well when he was national security advisor. But I’m shocked – not by his book, I haven’t read it – but by what Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in his ruling about the book.
The judge concluded, quote, “The Court is persuaded that Defendant Bolton likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations.” “Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm.” “With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe – many in newsrooms – the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo.”
So the injunction was denied because the judge basically said there’s nothing we can do about it, but “jeopardized national security” – how much damage did this book do, Mr. Pompeo?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Hugh, I haven’t had a chance to read the book either. I’ve seen a number of the excerpts that have been put out. I’d say three things about it, first of all.
First, a number of things I’ve seen: I was in the room too. I was present for those. I remember them very differently. These are things that have been either fully spun or are, frankly, just lies that don’t reflect what truly happened there.
Second, the book says he was in the room. The truth is he was such a difficult person and leaked so much information, even while he was still in office, that it was often the case that he wasn’t a participant in the meetings because we all had come to see that there was a real risk that this information would end up in places it shouldn’t have.
And then finally, to your larger point, I think Judge Lamberth has it right. This is unprecedented, what John Bolton chose to do while a current president is still in office. To have his most senior national security staff member write a book containing detailed, asserted quotations about what was said to foreign leaders, what was said in very private meetings on sensitive topics presents enormous risk.
I’ve also seen instances where there’s information that I am confident was classified, and I am saddened because this is a horrible precedent, and I hope – I’ll leave to Attorney General Barr to make the final decision, but as I stare at that, this is the kind of thing that we’ve seen happen. I was a soldier once, Hugh; you know that story. I saw young soldiers who were prosecuted for releasing classified information at a much lower level, who were much more junior, and who didn’t have 30 years of experience handling classified information. This is something that has real criminal risks – risk associated with it, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it’s the case that this can be permitted to stand without a real response. If this becomes the pattern in practice, this is truly damaging to American national security.
QUESTION: Have you discussed this with Attorney General Barr yet?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I have not.
QUESTION: All right. Let me ask you: President Trump has never been well served by his national security advisor. The first was taken out by James Comey. The second had a staff that leaked – I liked General McMaster, but it leaked. The third, John Bolton – you recommended Robert O’Brien. Is the NSA finally working in – hand-in-glove with you and with the President?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They have a functional process that is aimed at executing a interagency coordinating function to deliver good option sets, fact-based, data-driven option sets for the President of the United States. It’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s how it’s happened in Republican administrations that have been very successful.
The good news is that in spite of those challenges – I could tick through a list of enormous foreign policy accomplishments – when John Bolton says that the President’s decisions were based solely or nearly solely on his aim to get re-elected, I just – that’s not what I have remotely observed. When the President made the decision – difficult decision to go after Qasem Soleimani, it wasn’t about getting re-elected. When he went after Hamza bin Laden or Baghdadi or Qasim al-Rimi, when we work on religious freedom all across the world, the pro-life policies that we’ve put in place all across the world, those aren’t about getting re-elected. Those are trying to deliver the fundamental role of the United States: protecting Americans, keeping Americans safe. And President Trump has delivered that.
QUESTION: So is it now working? Do you think he’s being well served by the entire national security staff now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I do.
QUESTION: All right. Let me ask you about one particular charge, the most troubling charge by Ambassador Bolton: Did the President in any way condone or encourage General Secretary Xi’s concentration camps for the Uyghurs, on whose behalf you’ve spoken – you personally have spoken frequently and forcefully?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I have indeed. When I was in Central Asia, I had a chance to meet with Uyghurs who had family members that were in those camps in Western China. The President signed – while I was meeting with my Chinese counterpart in Honolulu last week, the President signed a piece of legislation. It was a bipartisan piece of legislation that is historic, calling out the human rights violation in Western China. I don’t know where John got that information.
My observation is the President’s been very clear. We have a complicated balancing set of issues when it comes to human rights, but he’s always been very clear about what the expectation should be about how America will be a leader on that issue. Whether it’s freedom for the people of Hong Kong, human rights in – for the Rohingya, all across the world, this President has understood that it’s important for America to be a true beacon for freedom and liberty and human rights around the world.
QUESTION: So did you ever see him encourage Xi to put Uyghurs in concentration camps?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, absolutely not.
QUESTION: I – it makes no – it just is crazy. I just had Secretary Gates on – former Defense Secretary Gates. He told me he stood by his assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden being wrong on every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades. Would a Biden administration, in your opinion, Secretary Pompeo, mean a return to the appeasement of the O-Biden – of the Obama-Biden years?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I can only take the data points that the Vice President was very involved in a number of these decisions when he was serving under President Obama. And you’ve seen – whether it was the Paris climate accords or the appeasement of the ayatollah in Iran or the underwriting of the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to the United States of America today – there’s no reason to think that a President Biden would take any different action. That’s not political. That’s simply an observation of 30-plus years of Senator Biden and then eight years serving as vice president. We’ve seen how he approaches these problems around the world, and I have no reason to believe that his views on these issues would have changed.
QUESTION: I’m going back a little bit to John Bolton and to James Comey. Attorney General Barr said on Sunday and the week before that what he has seen with regard to the attack on the transition to power, of which you were a part – you took over the CIA – the attack on President Trump is quote, “very troubling.” Is that assessment of John Durham’s investigation as ominous sounding to you as it is to me, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, I don’t want to comment on the work that Durham and the Attorney General are doing there.
QUESTION: All right. The Attorney General also told Maria Bartiromo this past weekend she is worried about the threat of foreign – he is worried about the threat of foreign actors counterfeiting mail ballots. Now this isn’t about absentee ballots, it’s about the mass mailing of ballots. From your time as CIA director, your time now as the head of the State Department, do you share that concern about the ability that our enemies have to interfere to an even greater degree with our election than they did with the Facebook ads last time around?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, I’ll share with you what I can. It is absolutely the case that it is multiple nations who have demonstrated both a capability and mixed information with respect to their intent to interfere in our elections. You should know that President Trump made it a very high priority to push back against that. The Department of Homeland Security has the primary responsibility along with the Department of Justice. We do our part here at the State Department. The Intelligence Community does its part. I know that we are all working hard along every vector, whether it’s ballot maintenance – maintenance itself, protection of the ballots, protection of electronic balloting systems, often state-level work that gets done, but DHS is very involved in partnering and trying to help those states be successful now, providing resources, training, and talent.
I know we are all working hard to make sure that this election come November is conducted in a free and fair way, and that the American people can have confidence in the outcome. There’s a lot of work to do. There are many bad actors around the world that would like to create uncertainty around that, and our task, our mission is to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Tom Rogan at the Washington Examiner today has a column saying that your meeting in Hawaii last week was actually a Chinese plot to split you from President Trump. Do you believe that’s what it was? And if so, did it work?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I’ll leave to others to speculate about the Chinese motivation for meeting with me. I know why I wanted to meet. I wanted to meet because we have a Chinese Communist Party that is behaving in ways that fundamentally put the American people’s security at risk. I work for a president for the first time in decades who has taken this threat seriously. That’s not partisan; those were Republican and Democrat presidents. It was a different time in history. Today, the absolute clarity we have about the risk of the Chinese Communist Party in all of the vectors – we see what’s happening in Hong Kong, we see what’s happening in the Himalayas with India, we see what’s happening in the South China Sea, we watch as they steal intellectual property. I could go on.
I wanted to go meet with my – with Yang Jiechi, my counterpart’s boss, to share with him how America was thinking about this, how America was going to act, and our expectations – not for about what the Chinese Communist Party would say, but how the Chinese Communist Party would act. And they sometimes think that flowery language works and that sending out communiques matters. In the end, what we need to see from them is a change in behavior. When I left that day, I did not leave optimistic that the Chinese Communist Party was prepared to give us any notice that there were changes that were going to be made. And then of course, within a handful of days, it looks like they have now moved on their national security legislation, putting at risk the freedom that the people of Hong Kong have been promised.
QUESTION: Secretary Gates just told me – or just confirmed for me that we are in Cold War 2.0. In fact, he said, quote, in fact, it’s “a little riskier,” close quote. Do you agree with this assessment?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll leave to Mr. Gates, who I have enormous respect for and who has been very kind to take my calls over these past three and a half years when I had questions or thoughts, things I wanted to hear as a historical matter and get his wisdom – I’ll leave to him to characterize it for now. I can say this much: We have an integrated economy with the Chinese Communist Party. That is different from what we had with the Soviet Union when we were in the Cold War in the 1980s. We have to think about this in a way that reflects that, because the challenges of American economic growth and prosperity are deeply intertwined today with the Chinese economy.
And we now know too that if we don’t challenge that, if we don’t protect our intellectual property, if we don’t call out when they are using Chinese communications infrastructure to connect to the MSS, their security apparatus, when we don’t take seriously the threat of their state-sponsored enterprises, our economy is at risk as well. And President Trump has said enough, we’re not going to do that. He’s imposed tariffs, he’s engaged in economic response that are fully justified by the aggressive Chinese economic activity that is engaged in here in the United States, and frankly against our European friends as well.
QUESTION: Last question, Mr. Secretary: The People’s Liberation Army Navy has threatened maneuvers in August, which Taiwan – some people believe threaten Taiwan and threaten islands that are governed by Taiwan which are empty. Did those maneuvers come up in your talks in Hawaii, and what is the position of the United States Government concerning those maneuvers?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We talked a great deal about military activity, ours – they’re not happy that our Department of Defense, our Navy has been exercising its right to navigate in free open waterways all across the Indo-Pacific and expressed our clear intention to continue to do so. And then we talked too about Taiwan. There’s a clear understanding between our two countries about the expectations about how each of our two countries will behave. They were concerned. This administration is now notified of a sale of F-16s to Taiwan. They’re not happy about it. This is completely appropriate, consistent with how previous administrations have treated Taiwan. And we will continue to do all the things that President Trump outlined when he was campaigning and what he’s talked about in these last two and a half years to ensure that we do the right thing to keep the American people free and safe and prosperous, and don’t allow the Chinese Communist Party to put that at risk.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining me this morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Hugh. Have a great day.
QUESTION: I appreciate your time. Take care.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So long, sir.