QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, good morning. Great to have you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hey, good morning, Hugh. Good to be on the show with you.
QUESTION: I am not going to waste time speculating whether, like James II throwing the Great Seal of the United States into the Thames, you are going to throw the Great Seal of the United States into the Potomac. I want to talk about serious stuff.
Chuck Schumer’s measured more drapes for more offices that are in his basement than anyone else, but a lot of people are measuring drapes for your office. Some of them are talking about returning to the JCPOA. Now, this is nuts. The wake that – for that ill-fated deal has become a watch party for the ghost of it. Will you oppose, as long as you are Secretary of State and long into the future, normalizing the Iranian regime?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Of course. The right time to normalize with Iran is when the regime complies with the basic set of rules and behaviors that we expect of every nation. Today, they continue to build out their missile program, to extend their capacity to wreak terror across the world. They continue to behave in ways that are inconsistent with the commitments even that they made under the JCPOA itself, as crazy as that was. This is a theocracy, a kleptocracy. They have destroyed so much wealth and basic prosperity for the Iranian people themselves who we have supported for four years now. This is – it’s a crazy idea to think that you’re going to get back into a deal that permitted a clean pathway for the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon by which they could terrorize the entire world.
QUESTION: So many people who have spent four years demonizing President Trump – and a lot of that demonizing you – will not say a bad word against the Iranian regime. Now, I know you think about international relations a lot. What is that? Why can they not come to grips? Have you thought about what it is in the American psyche on the left that will not let them denounce a cruel, barbaric regime?
SECRETARY POMPEO: One might add anti-Semitic and one that continues to put at risk the basic understandings that we’ve built out over four years throughout the Middle East. No, I can’t comprehend it. I couldn’t comprehend it when the Obama-Biden administration before went for the JCPOA and made Iran the linchpin of their foreign policy in the Middle East. But going back to it would just be crazy. Look, we’ve built that. We’ve put sanctions on them, we’ve made it more difficult for them to expand their terror regime, we’ve made clear they’re not going to get a nuclear weapon. It’s simply not going to be possible for them, putting deterrents back in place.
And then we built out a set of strategic alliances throughout the Middle East that resulted in a number of good things, including of course the Abraham Accords where we now have, for the first time in over two and a half decades, nations recognizing the simple fact that Israel has the right to exist.
So no, I can’t come up with a rationale. I remember, Hugh, the debate. It was either – it’s either the JCPOA or war. That’s what – that was the mantra for two and a half years of the Obama-Biden administration. Well, there’s no JCPOA and you can see that the Middle East is a more stable place today than it was when President Trump took office.
QUESTION: Are the Abraham Accords, Mr. Secretary, going to thrive, not just for four years but for four decades and beyond?
SECRETARY POMPEO: What fundamentally shifted is by President Trump making a few simple decisions based on his belief in conservative realism – right? – Jerusalem is in fact the capital of Israel, Golan Heights in fact are inside of that country, it’s not illegal per se for every settlement to be established, those basic understandings along with a commitment that says to the Gulf states you are better off with a foreign policy that recognizes Israel – that is the direction of travel for humanity. It’s the direction of travel in the Middle East.
And President Trump took away this notion that absent solving the Israel-Palestinian problem, you can’t increase stability, security, and prosperity in the Middle East. That is now gone. No one can possibly believe that anymore. And I think that’s deeply connected to the pressure that we’ve put on Iran. If you undermine that pressure, if you undermine the confidence that the Gulf states have that the United States will be a partner for peace in the Middle East, we are in for a very difficult, long time.
QUESTION: Now, Mr. Secretary, I want to turn to the Chinese Communist Party and to the conservative realism about it that you and President Trump have articulated and defended. Do we expect, short term, more sanctions in December and January on entities like Huawei?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t want to get out in front of what decisions the President will make, but make no mistake about the work that we’re doing to counter the threat from the Chinese Communist Party continues. So there’s still a fair amount of work to do. The State Department’s got work to do. Treasury’s still got some things that they’re going to do. And I’m confident the White House will have decisions that it will make as well, each of which will be designed to continue the effort that is historic, that the President took on this recognition that bending a knee, appeasing China, giving them an exception to every international ruleset puts American jobs and prosperity at risk. It started with trade. It moved to telecommunications and infrastructure, for example, with Huawei and with ZTE.
The work we’ve done to build out this central idea that if American information is going to flow across some telecommunications infrastructure, we ought to know who’s touching it, and the persons touching it can’t be part of the Chinese military apparatus. We call it the Clean Network. We’ve got now 50 countries – 50 countries, Hugh, nobody gives us any credit for working with partners around the world – 50 countries that have now signed up to say yeah, we agree, you’re right, you got it America, we don’t want to have Chinese infrastructure inside of our telecommunications systems. These are the kinds of things that we have achieved to date and we’re going to continue to do it so long as the people of the United States give us the license and the capacity and power to do it.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when I interviewed you at Langley and you were the director at the agency, and when I interviewed you at Foggy Bottom and you were the Secretary of State, both occasions you said our commitments to Taiwan are clear and they will be maintained. I know you talk to Democrats all the time. Do you believe that is a bipartisan commitment that the CCP has to realize? Because there is crazy talk among the most radical elements of the CCP that Taiwan ought to be retaken by force if necessary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Hugh, remember, when we talk about – it’s always important to get the language right. Taiwan has not been a part of China, and that was recognized with the work that the Reagan administration did to lay out the policies that the United States has adhered to now for three and a half decades, and done so under both administrations. No, I actually think this is in fact bipartisan. I think the central understandings that this is a model for democracy, that the people who live on Taiwan ought to be honored by having the Chinese live up to the commitments that they have made – I think this is something that both parties can agree to.
And I hope that this will continue for as long as it’s the case that the Chinese and the Taiwanese can’t figure their way through this. We ought to honor the commitments that have been made and we have a set of obligations. You’ve seen our announcements with respect to weapon sales to Taiwan to assist in their defense capabilities. All of these things are designed to live up to the promises that have been made between, frankly, China and the Taiwanese people.
QUESTION: Now, Mr. Secretary, the Blob, the foreign policy establishment, is forming up, and as I said, they’re measuring drapes everywhere. I am wondering, though, do they see the penetration of even some of their institutions by CCP cash, and can the states’ attorney general carry on the work of finding out which institutions have been penetrated by CCP cash if that work fades for a time in D.C.?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s a lot of work to be done, and your point, Hugh, is well taken. I hope that it continues to be done at the national level. There’s – the work that we’ve done to push back against the Confucius Institutes, against the United Front Department, the Chinese Communist Party’s essentially infiltration and effort to conduct influence operations here in the United States. We’ve kicked out spies that were operating in Houston, we’ve made it more difficult for their propaganda arms to operate without registering as foreign agents here in the United States, all really important things.
But yes, it is the case governors, city councilmen, school board leaders all across America need to understand that the Chinese Communist Party is coming for them in ways that they may not appreciate. They need to understand those risks. They need to identify where monies are flowing. And they need to make sure that if there is money, that they understand where it came from, what its purpose was, and that they fully understand the costs connected to accepting that money from the Chinese Communist Party or one of its affiliates.
QUESTION: Now, President Trump’s first term was defined at home by judicial appointments, and I think abroad by clarity about the CCP. And President Reagan warned famously that there was a bear in the woods. You and President Trump have been saying there is a dragon in the sky. Does the Blob know that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s getting closer, Hugh. There’s still – there are still skeptics, there are still those that want to trade some little bit of business, some perceived market in exchange for American national security. They haven’t accepted the responsibility that comes with leadership to recognize that there may be short-term costs, there may be businesses that can no longer operate inside of China because of the risks attendant thereto.
It’s – there is, however, an awakening. I talked about the tide turning and I see this all across the world. For a long time, since the early 1970s, the world has refused to present the real face the Chinese Communist Party is, in fact, showing to the United States. And I think we can see now in Europe, we can see it in Africa, we can certainly see it in Southeast Asia. These countries have come to recognize the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses to their nations. And I think it’s increasingly the case that the foreign policy establishment here in Washington is coming to accept what President Trump knew for an awfully long time, is that we have a responsibility to the American people to make sure they’re not continuing to rip us off, steal our stuff, and present a security risk to the United States of America.
QUESTION: Specific – religious liberty mattered a lot to you. It didn’t matter in the Obama-Biden administration. Do you believe future administrations will take up the cause, specifically the plight of the Uyghurs? Do you think that is on the agenda for everyone now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s an imperative. The irony is that it’s often Democrat administrations that are thought to be – think of human rights and the human condition as more important than some other things. This administration and President Trump have taken this on very seriously. Religious freedom has been a hallmark of something that the State Department had led on for four years. We hold these big gatherings, the largest human rights gatherings ever at the State Department. We call them “ministerials” where we bring religious leaders from all across the world here to the United States. They’re really glorious gatherings.
And the plight of the Uyghurs, the plight of these people in western China where there are situations that look for all the world like what happened in the 1930s in Europe, these are the kinds of things that authoritarian regimes do to suppress opinion and to try and stamp out the very nature of the central condition of humanity. I hope every administration and I hope every leader, whether they’re working in a nongovernmental organization or inside the United States Government or businesses that are contemplating doing business inside of China, are very careful. We don’t want to do anything that would contribute to the Chinese Communist Party’s capacity to continue to undermine the central humanity of the individuals living there in western China.
QUESTION: Two more questions, Mr. Secretary. The so-called “pivot” of the Obama-Biden era was rhetoric; it wasn’t reality. The Quad that you and the President put together is real. Has that strengthened enough to endure as a super-structure for a generation or more that it is needed?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, it has, and it has because the hard work that has been done not just by the United States, but the Australians, the Japanese, the Indians – we’ve all come to recognize that if we work together in the South China Sea, we work together in the Indian Ocean, we work in the ways that the four great democracies can continue to work, we will build out a set of common understandings that deliver increased security in the region for travel, navigation, all the things that the United States cares deeply about.
QUESTION: And then finally, you, Ambassador O’Brien, Ambassador Lighthizer, you’ve all credentialed scores, even hundreds of young national security professionals. I expect Silicon Valley and other places to try and recruit them in. Are you going to be able to connect them up and keep them in touch in the event that they scatter to the wind?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, I’m confident that the ideas that President Trump has put forward, this – the central notion of realism inside of our constitutional founding, will continue. And so I think all the team that has come together to deliver that increased security and prosperity for the American people will remain. I don’t think this understanding of the world is going away.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you for joining me this morning. Good luck to you and a Happy Thanksgiving if I don’t talk to you before then.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Hugh. So long.