QUESTION: And pleased to welcome back to the show United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome. Good morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, it’s great to be with you this morning. Good morning to you as well.
QUESTION: I was listening to your speech in Berlin on the plane yesterday and you remarked to a lot of laughter that this was the first time you had spent two nights in a foreign destination in a row for as long as you can remember. Is that true?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s often the case I’m in and out of these places, traveling to many places, trying to be as efficient as possible. So it was great to get to spend what was really, goodness, almost two full days there in Germany commemorating an important part of American history and German history.
QUESTION: It is a terrific speech. We’ll come back and talk about it, about your Hudson Institute speech as well, but first, a couple of questions. House impeachment hearings open today. Mike Gallagher, your friend from Wisconsin and a member of the House, said moments ago on this show that these hearings in the impeachment vortex create, quote, “a permissive atmosphere for communists and the authoritarians.”
Secretary Pompeo, do you think American political soap operas endanger our friends in Hong Kong, the poor people of Venezuela, even our neighbor — or even our ally Israel by taking our eye off the big ball?
SECRETARY POMPEO: My job, Hugh, is to make sure that doesn’t happen. Look, there’s a lot of noise. There’ll be noise today. There’ll be noise for the rest of this week. My mission here and my team’s mission at the State Department is to make sure that it doesn’t do precisely what you describe. I’ve told the team to stay focused. There’s all this chatter, but then there’s challenges and opportunities for America around the world, and our mission set has to be to make sure that that risk that Representative Gallagher identified doesn’t come to bear.
QUESTION: When you were a member of the House, and specifically when you were on the Benghazi select committee, did the majority block two-thirds of the witnesses the minority wanted to call, which is what Adam Schiff has done here?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That process was very different from this process. We were patient. We allowed the agencies to produce their witnesses at a time when they were prepared. We allowed them to have counsel. It was a completely different process than what’s taken place so far. I regret that. I regret that for the team that works for me here at the State Department that I believe has been treated incredibly unfairly, but most importantly, I regret it for the American people that we haven’t had a process that has allowed an inquiry to proceed in a way that’s fair and equitable and gets the facts in an appropriate way to the American people. I hope that’ll change.
QUESTION: Last question on these hearings, Mr. Secretary: A couple of news outlets have attempted to create a narrative that you are at cross purposes with career staff and morale is low at the State Department. I know morale at the State Department because my son works there. I always disclose that when I talk to you. But your support for the career staff has never been in doubt in my mind. What do you make of these stories?
SECRETARY POMPEO: More Washington insider-y stuff, a long history of the press reporting about unhappiness at the State Department, especially, frankly, in Republican administrations. The truth of the matter is my team, my senior team, which includes folks like David Hale and Carol Perez, very capable senior Foreign Service officers, are doing good work investing in the future of the institution, investing in our diplomacy, working hard to deliver good outcomes for the American people. I’ll leave it to others to characterize morale. It’s a big organization. I’m sure there’s lots of different thoughts, but suffice it to say the American people should be comfortable knowing that we are continuing to do the hard work to deliver good policy outcomes for President Trump and the United States.
QUESTION: Now I want to turn to your Hudson Institute speech, Mr. Secretary. You received the prestigious Herman Kahn Award. I don’t know that there’s an award that matters more among center-right and intellectually-minded foreign policy mavens. In it, you talked about a pivot time, and you and the Vice President and the National Security Advisor have all talked about the pivot that is happening with the People’s Republic of China, but you preceded that – we’ll get to that – by saying, “Look, we have a long-cherished tradition of friendship with the Chinese people.” I’m quoting here. “We continue to do so today. We have a Chinese American community here in America that we love and treasure. I’ve known them through business and personal ties.” You went on to try and reassure people there is no new McCarthyism on the horizon, which I think is important because I’ve heard it from some of my Chinese American friends.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s very important, Hugh. We know the people of China. We know the people who come to do business here from China. We know people who have emigrated here from China. They’re great people trying to do the same things Americans want to do: live a life of freedom, live a life with liberty and all the human dignity that comes with the nature of humanity. But what’s happening inside of China today is a threat to that. It’s a threat to that both inside the country and it’s a threat as President Xi uses tools that put that freedom at risk. We saw it with what happened with the NBA. We’ve seen it happen with other commercial endeavors where pressure has been put in place. And then we’ve seen it as they’ve used economic power throughout the world to put real pressure on governments to behave in a way that’s politically inconsistent with what those governments should be doing for their people.
QUESTION: Now, I am today chairing the meeting of the Nixon Foundation. President Nixon opened China about 50 years ago, and you said at Hudson, “We’ve been slow to see the risk of China.” That’s a quote. But this President sounded this alarm on his very first day. You added, “We didn’t realize how China was evolving. Frankly, the American people didn’t get the full story.” Truth be told, we fell in love with China, didn’t we?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think that’s a pretty fair description. We, for an awful long time – when I say “we,” it’s collectively – collectively it’s the United States and the West more broadly, democratic institutions across the world, watched as China used the tools of internationalism, right – the WTO, the United Nations, those institutions that we think of as creating rule of law and democracy. And we watched China use them in ways that were deeply inconsistent with that, and China rose and is now engaged in activity – the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in activity that poses real risk to nations like the United States. Not today, frankly, it’s not tomorrow perhaps, but as – it is time that we turn our attention the way that President Trump has done over these first 18 months that I’ve been his Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Now, Secretary Pompeo, you were also the director of the CIA and so you’re uniquely positioned to answer this question. Michael Pillsbury and others have written that the Chinese have developed asymmetric capabilities that actually threaten the United States in ways that the Soviets never did because we were in the era of assured mutual destruction. We are now in an era of technology, anti-satellite weapons, cyber attacks, under-the-water sorts of things. Do you have any doubt that we can survive and respond to any sort of destabilizing attack on the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is what I was talking about in my remarks about our need to make this transition, to make this pivot, to recognize these risks. We didn’t do it fast enough; we didn’t do it soon enough. Having said that, I have enormous confidence in American ingenuity, creativity, our democratic system to respond when challenged. I’m very confident that we will do the things under President Trump’s leadership that will build back American security, that will build back American capacity, and will engage the American people in a way that is appropriate to explain why this matters, how it is we should deliver against this challenge, and ensure that prosperity and peace for the American people continues.
QUESTION: I want to quote your Hudson Institute speech one more time. Quote, “Today, we’re finally realizing the degree to which the Chinese Communist Party is truly hostile to the United States and our values, and its worse deeds and words and how they impact us.” General Secretary Xi, who’s also President Xi, is an enormously talented individual. Do we have to be in conflict with him or is it possible that upon recognition and recalibration we can develop the relationship in mutually beneficial but very appropriate ways?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, I hope that’s the case, and we are working to make that the case. President Trump has done real good work developing a relationship with General Secretary Xi, working to develop a situation where China will begin to act in ways that are consistent with what I’ve just described to you. That is our hope. It is more than just our hope. It is the project on which we’re working, but we all need to be eyes wide open. We all need to understand that that may not be the way that the Chinese Communist Party proceeds, that – the way that their interaction with the world develops. And we have to be serious about ensuring that we protect the American people.
QUESTION: What is the message of the United States about the demonstrators in Hong Kong to General Secretary Xi?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Two messages. First, for all those who are in Hong Kong, we – we’re telling them, please, no violence. This is a political dispute; they should settle it in that way. They should have conversations that – we’re asking each of them to engage in this activity in a way – the President’s described it as behave in a humane way.
Second, we’ve spoken to our Chinese counterparts and made clear to them the American expectation that they will live up to the commitments that they made. Not commitments that the United States imposed on them, but commitments that they made when they agreed that there would be one country but two separate systems there in Hong Kong.
QUESTION: Okay. Turning to your Berlin speech of last week where you said you mixed celebration with sobriety – “The Lessons of 1989” – you said about President Reagan – I agree – that we had the ultimate advantage, leaders who believed in good and confidence – and who were confident in a free people. I think we still generally have that, but there is a lot of confusion about American exceptionalism that I think goes back to President Obama’s rhetoric and to the left’s move to blame America for everything, back to the 1984 Democrats. How do we fix this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve talked about this a lot; so has President Trump. It’s an imperative that the American people understand that America, wherever we go in the world, is a force for good, and that this is truly the greatest nation in the history of civilization. That’s not bluster, that’s not hype, that’s just – that’s the reality of what our founders created for us and what the American people have continued to create in the intervening couple hundred-plus years. We should be proud of that. We should work hard; we should be humble.
It’s not that we get everything right every day, Hugh. You know that. But it’s that our motive, what it is we’re trying to do, is deeply rooted in American history and in our founding and in these central notions of life and liberty. When we do those things and do those things well, we should move – here in the United States and as we travel around the world, we should act with our counterparts in a way that reflects the greatness of our nation and our willingness to help other peoples rise to live in a way that’s consistent with what it is we believe every human being should have.
QUESTION: In Berlin, you also said, quote, the practices of the Communist Party of China would be “horrifyingly familiar” to the people of the German Democratic Republic. That’s the old East Germany run by the old Stalinist, Honecker. They had the Stasi, which you talked about. But truth be cold, the CRP in Beijing is better equipped, largely because of American technology companies. It’s sort of as though American armament factories were selling weapons to the Krupp iron works in the ’30s. What are you telling our friends in Silicon Valley about the uses to which their technology is being put in these repressive regimes?
SECRETARY POMPEO: This trip was really special. It was the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’ve been a young soldier patrolling that border 30 years ago. I left in October of 1989 just before the glorious moment. And what we shared that day there in Germany was that we need to make sure that history continues to march forward, forward towards liberty and away from authoritarianism and the kinds of conditions that you just talked about.
When we talk to our private sector friends about the tools, I remind them – you talked about in the context of information authoritarianism. I think about it from our networks as well. No one, Hugh, would have thought that it was appropriate to put Soviet technology in their communications infrastructure back in the 1980s. In that same way, we need to make sure that our networks today are secure, and we should urge every company to think about what it is they’re providing, what – who it is they’re providing that information to, and what the Chinese Communist Party might take of that information or that technology, and to what ends it might be put.
QUESTION: Let me then close with Iran. I have been talking to Michael Oren about his piece in The Atlantic, which I hope you have had a chance to read. You’ve been abroad, though. He warns of a full-scale war with Iran as Iran moves towards nuclear breakout, as they move towards arming the Hizballah militias with deadly weaponry and Hamas opens up a southern front.
What is going on there, Mr. Secretary? Are we ready to stand by Israel and under any circumstance?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir. The President’s policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran has been very clear. We have worked to deny them the capacity for just the things that Michael Oren described, right. We’ve denied them resources. We’ve been very effective at that. There’s still an awful lot of work to do. And we have, at the same time, tried to ensure that there was adequate level of deterrence, and we’ve seen that Iran is determined to inflict harm not only on its neighbors, but the world by taking down – gracious, what, 5-plus percent of the world’s energy supply.
President Trump understands that the driver of instability in the Middle East is, in fact, the Islamic Republic of Iran. We took over from an administration that had decided to make Iran its partner in security. We’ve flipped that script, and the United States and Israel are working together along with our friends in the Gulf, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, the Bahrainis, and others to try our best to ensure that there’s adequate levels of deterrence and make sure that the Iranian leadership knows that we will not tolerate their continued creation of instability in the region.
QUESTION: With threats everywhere, Mr. Secretary – last subject – have you discussed with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Esper the need to back up these recent speeches with spending and resources: a 355-ship Navy, the latest technology in cyber anti-satellite weaponry and satellite defense? Is this an ongoing commitment of the administration to raise the level of attention the way Reagan did on the need for the buildup he oversaw?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is, Hugh. It’s one thing to make remarks. It’s another thing to make sure that resources are aligned against the problem set that you’ve identified so that you can actually deliver the outcomes that you’ve hypothesized at the remarks you give. So it’s an ongoing conversation. I hope – I hope that on Capitol Hill, we’ll do better than a CR, that we’ll get an actual budget that begins to realign American taxpayer resources to the true challenges that confront the American people.
QUESTION: Sir, the last question: Your old colleagues in the House haven’t even passed a National Defense Authorization Act, much less a defense appropriation act – so caught up with this impeachment circus are they. What is your message to them about the message that sends to our genuine enemies? Not our political opponents at home, but the people who would have us dead.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, this is where we actually began, about whether this noise in Washington, D.C. puts America at risk. It is absolutely the case that if we don’t pass an NDAA, if we don’t pass defense appropriation bills, we put the world on notice that we’re not serious about confronting these challenges. And I hope – I hope the House of Representatives will begin to take these measures up. They’ve got just a handful of weeks in session here before the year ends. This needs to get done.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, thank you, sir. So long.