QUESTION: Well, I appreciate the time. So let’s get right back to it. This is your fourth trip back to Kansas this year. Why are you making a point of returning so often?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, first of all, it’s home. Always great to come home. I think this is the second time I’ve been back to Wichita since I became the director of the CIA – or three times; there might have been a third time in there somewhere. Lots of cabinet secretaries go home an awful lot more than that. We just have haven’t managed to do it. I frankly wish we’d get back here a whole lot more.
My point today is really straightforward. Senior Advisor Trump told me – gosh, probably four or five months ago – that she was coming out here for an event in Wichita State. Some really remarkable work was being done at Wichita State to train the 21st century workforce along with private sector companies – the biggest – Superior, Textron – some of the smaller companies too. And I reminded her that was my hometown, and I’d love to come out and be part of that.
Because that workforce development matters to my mission, too. To keep America safe, we have to have a strong, robust economy, and everyone needs to understand not only do we have that today, but that our workforce is prepared to continue to compete around the world for the next decade, the next 50 years. And so it’ll be a lot of fun to come here and talk about the great work this administration is doing to ensure that our workforce is prepared to compete all around the world in a globally competitive space for decades to come.
QUESTION: So given everything that is going on in the world right now, you feel that this is the best use of your time as the chief diplomat, coming here?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely, 100 percent. I’m also going to take a little personal moment. My son’s best friend’s getting married this weekend, so I’m going to do that, too.
QUESTION: Has the House impeachment inquiry into the President affected your consideration of a run for Senate in Kansas at all?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No change. I think I’ve answered this question – I think this is number 103, or 104 times. My mission set every day when I wake up is incredibly clear. Our task at the State Department is to use all our – all our skill to keep the American people safe, to execute American diplomacy to make sure that American markets are open for Kansas products all around the world. That’s what I’m focused on, it’s what I continue – intend to continue to be focused on.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the investigations, the subpoenas, you have testimony from respected diplomats – has that damaged your image and your leadership in the agency?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t think about that stuff. I work hard. I do the right thing as best I can tell every day. I try to make sure my team is similarly focused. You all talk about this noise an awful lot, that – you all are fixated on this. The State Department, you should know, is not. The American people should know that the State Department is focused on its mission. We’re working every day in 180-plus countries around the world to keep Americans safe, to keep young men and women from Kansas who joined America’s military – to keep them out of harm’s way so they don’t have to engage in armed conflict to keep us safe. Our mission is to use diplomacy, America’s economic power, to protect America. That’s what we’re focused on every day.
Whatever the noise is in Washington and whatever some journalist wants to ask about some storyline that’s going on, the American people should know that the State Department will continue to do its mission; we will continue to hire a diverse, talented workforce from all across America. Every Kansan who’s thinking about joining the State Department, I encourage you to come be part of this great team, this great organization, and we’ll continue to deliver on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: Bill Taylor told Congress this week that he sent you a cable on August 29th expressing his misgivings in the delay of military aid to Ukraine. What did you do with that cable?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’m not going to talk about the inquiry this morning.
QUESTION: So did you relay his concerns to the President?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I came here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas. This inquiry will proceed, Congress will perform its oversight function, the State Department will continue to do all the things that we’re required to do under the law and the Constitution. We understand their role. I was a member of Congress. I think it’s absolutely important that they perform their function in a way that is professional. I wish that they were doing that. Unfortunately, today they are not.
The same – those same inquiries that you describe, we’re not even allowed to make sure that our officers and civil servants are protected. We’re not allowed to have State Department officials in the hearing room to ensure that the information that we work with – when our allies share information with us, we have an obligation to protect that information. We don’t have anybody in the room to make sure that that State Department official who’s testifying is able to protect that. That’s not right. It’s not fair. I get notes from people in Kansas all the time saying they agree, they think it’s unfair too. I think the American people understand that.
I hope that they’ll proceed in a way that is transparent and fair, and then the inquiry will wrap up.
QUESTION: Were you comfortable with the President lifting sanctions on Turkey a day after Erdogan met with Mr. Putin? Isn’t Erdogan kind of the big winner under these circumstances?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let’s see, I think you had three questions in there.
So the first question was: Was I comfortable? Yes, I recommended that to the President. Vice President Pence had led a delegation – I was part of it – where we went and laid out for President Erdogan the fact that we were against what he had done, that the President was very unhappy that he had conducted an incursion into Syria. We wanted to stop that incursion to save lives. We did that. We set up a five-day pause so that we could extract SDF fighters safely, they wouldn’t be killed as they moved back. We were largely successful in doing that.
The Turks agreed. The Turks then halted what they called Operation Peace Spring precisely as they had agreed to do if we were successful getting the first part of that done, and now we’re in the permanent ceasefire phase, and we’ll watch, we’ll monitor. Our sanctions were put in place to convince the Turkish leadership that it was in their best interest to halt that operation, to stop the death, to stop the killing that would have taken place, and now we’ll monitor it.
As President Trump said yesterday, in the event that the Turkish Government decides to go a different direction, the capacity to put those economic sanctions back in place remains.
QUESTION: Has Russia been able to fill the power vacuum that was created by the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m actually very familiar with this issue from my time in Congress. I remember who invited the Russians into Syria. It was President Barack Obama. I mean, he didn’t just let them come in. He invited them in. He had them come in and pretend to be chemical weapons inspectors. He actively worked with the Russian leadership, said no, come on in, come on into Syria. And this administration’s taken a very different approach in the Middle East. We’ve identified the worst actor there, the Islamic Republic of Iran. We’ve taken real actions to reduce their capacity to inflict harm, to create instability throughout the Middle East.
We came into office – you’ll remember this – there were people in cages, heads being cut off, you remember, you’ve seen these pictures, cages on fire. The caliphate had taken a piece of real estate that was enormous. ISIS was on the rise. And – this administration took a set of policies not only in Syria, but in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East that destroyed the caliphate entirely. We still have counterterrorism risk. Radical Islamic extremism continues to exist not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world too.
This administration is determined to keep the American people safe, to push back against the threat from radical Islamic extremism wherever we find it, whether it’s in western Iraq or Syria – northeast Syria in particular – Asia. Wherever we find bad actors who are seeking to impose harm on the American people, this administration will seriously deal with it.
QUESTION: And what good, really, is the word of the U.S. in light of the President’s treatment of the Kurds? Has that undercut U.S. credibility?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The whole predicate of your question’s insane. The word of the United States – I’ll give you a good example. The word of the United States is much more respected today than it was just two and a half years ago. The previous administration in Syria, where you – you asked a question earlier – the previous administration said, boy, if you use chemical weapons, that’s going to be bad, and the president drew a redline. President Obama drew a redline. He then duly ignored it. This President said if you use chemical weapons, I’m going to take action, and we fired Tomahawk missiles in to take down that threat, to let them know that the cost – the cost of violating – this massive violation of human dignity, these massive human rights violations by using chemical weapons – that there would be a cost imposed for that. And what the President said he would do, he did it. I see that all across the world. We make clear the things that we will do.
We also make clear the things that we’re not prepared to do. I think it’s important for people to understand that other countries have to step up too. Other countries must share the burden for not just the security of the world, but security for their own countries. So this President’s been very clear – that says we have high expectations for other countries – not just our European partners, but countries in Africa, countries in the Middle East, countries throughout Asia who depend on the Strait of Hormuz to be open. They need to do that for themselves as well, and when they do, America will continue to be an enormous partner.
I get a chance to travel the world, and when I show up, people want to meet the American Secretary of State. They don’t want to meet Mike; they want to meet the American Secretary of State who they know can work alongside them to deliver security for their people in an important way.
QUESTION: And then lastly, will you – on the domestic front, will you comply with yesterday’s court order to release documents on State Department communications with Rudy Giuliani within 30 days?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I haven’t – I saw a headline. I haven’t seen the ruling, but I can assure the American people that their State Department always complies with everything we’re required to do under the law. There’s no reason to think we would do any different there.
QUESTION: All right. Anything else you’d like to talk about?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, that’s it.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great. Thank you.