QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, for the time. These goggles are just – the glass is fogging up here. Why travel to a battleground state 41 days before the election?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I came to Wisconsin for the same place – the same reasons I’ve gone to New York and California and all across the country, communicating to ordinary Americans the importance of what we’re trying to do: “America First” and how President Trump is delivering on good security outcomes. Today in particular I came to talk about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party. It’s here in Wisconsin. I came because Senator Roth had a outreach from the diplomat in the consulate in Chicago, and what that diplomat tried to do was to undermine the way of life for ordinary people right here in Wisconsin. I wanted to talk about that challenge. It’s not a – it’s not a partisan issue. There’s bipartisan consensus that the Chinese Communist Party poses a threat, and I wanted to come talk about what the United States State Department is doing. And I love coming back to the heartland. I think people in the heartland sometimes don’t get the attention that people on the two coasts do. They have every right to know precisely what it is America’s State Department is doing.
QUESTION: I know some of the Democrats have been saying this looks like a campaign event. It’s 41 days before the election. They’re saying that this is violating the norms and also the rules of diplomacy. I know you put out a wire back in the summer that said there shouldn’t be any observation that this looks like diplomats are getting involved with partisan politics.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I came here today to deliver an important foreign policy speech about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party. That obligation continues every single day while I’m Secretary of State. Campaigns come, campaigns go. The obligation to keep the American people safe continues every single day.
QUESTION: You made out – you warned the country and warned Wisconsin about the threat that Chinese communists play, and you said they even are at the local level. Is that happening in Wisconsin?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is. It’s happening all across the country. When the federal government pushes back, the Chinese Communist Party tries to circumvent that. So they go to city councils and county commissions and state legislatures and to PTA meetings trying to influence how Americans think about the threat that’s posed by this predatory activity. We love the Chinese people. What the Chinese people are desirous of are the same thing the American people are desirous of. But the Chinese Communist Party is working diligently to undermine, to use predatory economic activity that destroys tens of thousands of jobs right here in Wisconsin. So we have a responsibility to make sure that every elected official, and frankly, every business leaders all throughout Wisconsin understand the challenge, are aware of the threat, and engage in the kind of behaviors that will preserve prosperity for the people of Wisconsin.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what about the election? How are the Chinese getting involved with meddling maybe in our election as well?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we are very mindful of international threats to the security and safety and the fair conduct of our elections. Certainly we’re worried about China and we’re worried about Iran and we’re worried about Russia. Our FBI and our Department of Homeland Security will deliver a free and fair election that doesn’t permit them to actually interfere in the outcome. The Chinese Communist Party has certainly tried to have an influence on that. They’ve tried to undermine the very bedrock of our nation and our democratic principles. The Trump administration is working diligently to prevent that and I’m confident that just as we did in 2018 when it was a not a – non-presidential election year, those countries were trying to interfere then; we stopped them from doing that. I’m confident we’ll deliver that again.
QUESTION: And are we confident that the election results – we can trust those election results, whatever comes on the week after the election when all these votes are counted?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I mean, there’s a bunch of issues around ballot counting. I – my mission is to make sure that outside influence doesn’t impact how the American people are thinking about it nor that they have the ability to do something which would actually impact a ballot count or something like that. I’m confident we can prevent international interference in that.
QUESTION: What’s the one issue that keeps you up most at night?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re just focused on a broad array of issues that have to do with American prosperity and security. President Trump talked about “America First.” When we deliver “America First,” we are a force for good all across the world. And so we need to get the economy going after the challenge that it presented from this virus that broke free from Wuhan because the Chinese Communist Party covered up what they did there. We need to get the global economy back going. And then we have just been incredibly focused on making sure that freedom and predatory activity that imposes on that freedom is not something the United States will turn our – turn the other cheek. And that’s, of course, the China challenge here today.
QUESTION: You mentioned China covering up the dangers of COVID-19. President Trump, though, himself has been on record saying he purposely downplayed the threat that this posed to the country.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think President Trump’s been pretty clear. He took actions well ahead of what the World Health Organization directed that we do. He took actions well ahead of what most nations did. He’s worked diligently to protect the American people from this virus. We watched – we watched closely the World Health Organization conspire alongside the Chinese Communist Party to permit information to be inaccessible by the world’s best epidemiological professionals. Those were the things that needed to happen in the early days and the early weeks. We’ve responded in a way that’s consistent with our obligation to the American people. It is a tragedy that we did not get a head start on this because the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization decided they would cover up what was truly happening inside of Wuhan, China in the early days of this virus.
QUESTION: Isn’t that the same thing President Trump did by downplaying this in February?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President worked diligently to make sure the American people had all the tools, all the access, all the resources that America can provide to keep them safe. He did that. He still does that to this day. I mean, it’s an ongoing challenge.
QUESTION: If President Trump wins the race this November, are you going to stay on as Secretary of State or will you follow Hillary Clinton and retire in February of 2021?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I try not to follow Hillary Clinton in much. But the President will ultimately make that decision. I’ve had the privilege to do this now for, goodness, two and a half years or so. I still have work to do. If the President is re-elected, I’m confident he will sit down with each of his Cabinet members and make the best decision for America. I still have work to do. We’ll see what happens.
QUESTION: Do you want to stay on?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll see what happens, right. In the end, I try not to – I try to give the President all the space to make the right decision for him and for his team.
QUESTION: Who made the decision to come here to Wisconsin? Was that your decision? Was that —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s my decision. I saw what happened to Senator Roth. I watched the good work he did, how he responded in exactly the right way from exactly the threat that the Chinese Communist Party imposes where they ask state legislatures to act in a way that is inconsistent with the truth. And I was so proud of what he did. I talked to him and he – we both thought it would be a good idea if I came here. And so we’ve been trying to put this on for months. We finally got it figured out.
QUESTION: Did the campaign have any role in that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: None. Just me.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir. You have a good day.
QUESTION: You too. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks for having me.