QUESTION:  Hey, good morning, Secretary Pompeo.  We certainly appreciate your joining us here on AM Tampa Bay.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great to be with you.

QUESTION:  Yeah, we hear you’re in Miami, and then later on this afternoon you’re going to head north up here north of us to Bushnell for a major speech and talking about U.S. foreign policy.  We want to ask you about the difficulties we’re facing in the Middle East now in Iran and Iraq.  And what’s our future going to be over there?  Are we moving away from that or are we going to be continued in involvement there or what?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So President Trump’s made clear our policy is about protecting Americans, “America First,” if you will, from a foreign policy perspective.  We’re very realistic and pragmatic about how we approach this.  I think your listeners will recall when we came into office, the previous administration had handed billions of dollars to the Iranian regime.  They had the capacity to continue a glide path to a nuclear weapons program.  And President Trump is determined to make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.  It’s how he began his remarks the other day, by identifying that as the biggest priority.  So our mission set is twofold: to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and then to make sure that that country, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, can’t inflict harm on Americans.  So we do everything we can each day to reduce that risk, all the while trying to deliver on the President’s commitment, which says we want to make sure we’re taking care of Americans.  So reducing our risk, reducing the number of American young men and women who are at risk in the Middle East is a twin objective for President Trump.

QUESTION:  What was the process like for you and the President, of course, earlier this month, with the death and the killing of Iranian military leader Soleimani?  What was that process like getting in the ear of the President and really leading up to that, noting obviously the threat that he is and finding the capabilities to take him out at the time that you did?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we’d seen this man, terrorist Qasem Soleimani, who had the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands.  We’d seen him traveling in the region.  He was in Beirut and in Damascus, and we knew he was headed to Baghdad, and he was working to plot against America, to take further American lives.  President Trump made the bold decision to say, “No more.  We’re not going to let this happen.”  And we found the capacity, the opportunity, and we took a strike, and we reduced the risk to the United States of America and our – members of our armed forces when we did that.

QUESTION:  The amazing thing is some people were upset.  Some Democrats were upset about that, saying that was the wrong thing to do, and I’m thinking, “I hardly think that was the wrong thing to do.”  You took out a murderous killer, a person who has taken American lives and everything, and it’s just great that it worked out successfully.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  He was a bad guy, a bad guy who killed people that I’m sure many of your listeners knew, service members who lost their lives or were severely injured as a direct result of the actions of Qasem Soleimani.  He was continuing his efforts.  He was putting more American lives at risk. And President Trump has made very clear we’re simply not going to accept that.  The – a few days before that, there had been an American killed in Iraq, and our response that day was appropriate, it was lawful, and it made America safer.

QUESTION:  It certainly did.  And you’ve also traveled now to Colombia and Costa Rica and countries in the Caribbean, and these have a lot of people who are trying to get into the U.S., and most of them illegally, which is not a good thing.  And of course, the President has campaigned to build that wall to try to keep them out.  I might add, I think ultimately we need to put three divisions of our military down there and protect America.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, your point’s quite right.  President Trump has made clear that we’re going to secure our southern border and other places where people may travel into the United States of America illegally.  We have to continue to do that.  The State Department has had a role in that.  We worked with the Mexican Government to develop a process whereby when someone was able to get through we could return them some place outside of the United States more quickly.  The Mexican Government was very cooperative.  They helped us.  They continue to do so, but as you can tell, there’s still more work to be done.  We have to be vigorous, we have to be vigilant, and we have to deliver on this commitment that President Trump made to the American people.  I think we’ve made real progress in President Trump’s three years on that important mission.

QUESTION:  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joining us.  You’ve got a busy day today.  9 a.m. you’re going to be meeting with Governor Ron DeSantis in Miami, then 4:00 you’ll deliver some of your remarks at the Sumter County Fairgrounds in Bushnell.  And then next week, you’ll be traveling to Ukraine to meet with President Zelensky, correct?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s always busy times.  I’m looking forward to being with the governor – I’m looking forward to being with the governor today.  We’re going to talk with a number of Floridians about Venezuela and Cuba, these communist regimes, and how it is America can have a role in making lives better for those people while at the same time ensuring that we do the right thing for America too.  I’m looking forward to this morning.

QUESTION:  Well, thank you for the great job you do, and thank you for joining us on AM Tampa Bay.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you very much.  It’s great to be with you.  Have a great day.

U.S. Department of State

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