QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you very much for talking with us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Judy, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on.
QUESTION: I want to turn first to Syria. Today, as you know, Turkish armed forces crossed the border into northern Syria with a mission of, in essence, cleaning out, wiping out the Syrian Kurds, the YPG. Right now, it appears that we don’t know where this invasion is going to end up. Does the U.S. take responsibility for whatever the outcome is? Because the U.S. has given Turkey a green light.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, well, that’s just false. The United States didn’t give Turkey a green light.
QUESTION: President Trump spoke with President Erdogan, and after the call, the President said that Turkey would be moving in. U.S. forces were withdrawn from the area, so there was a change in U.S. policy, one that you had supported. You had supported staying close to the YPG, the Kurdish – Syrian Kurdish U.S. allies that had helped in the fight against ISIS.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, remember the mission, Judy. The mission was that when we came into office, there were people being beheaded, people being burned, people in cages. President Trump made the decision that we would begin a campaign that would take down the caliphate. We succeeded in that. On the phone call on Sunday night, it became very clear that there were American soldiers that were going to be at risk, and the President made a decision to put them in a place where they were out of harm’s way. That’s what we’ve done.
President Trump’s been unambiguous about making sure that radical Islamic terrorism, wherever we find it, this administration will take it seriously. And I think the success that we’ve had in Syria, along with many allies of the defeat ISIS coalition that the State Department put together – numbers countries in the dozens and dozens – I’m confident that we will continue to protect the American people from that terrorist threat.
QUESTION: Have you personally changed your thinking about being – viewing the YPG as U.S. allies?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Turks have a legitimate security concern. We’ve talked about that; I’ve talked about that repeatedly. They have a terrorist threat to their south. We’ve been working to make sure that we did what we could to prevent that terror threat from striking the people in Turkey while trying to achieve what is in America’s best interests – the threat from radical Islamic terrorism emanating from Syria. We’ll continue to do that.
QUESTION: It’s striking, the Republican opposition to this, not just the Senate majority leader, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said it’s a mistake, in essence. Lindsey Graham is – has called it a stain on our honor, American honor. This morning, he said this will ensure the reemergence of ISIS.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, that’s certainly not what I believe will happen. I’m confident that President Trump understands the threat. Remember where we were – and I love Senator Graham, he’s a friend – but remember where we were when this administration came into office, and now just judge us by our results. We have achieved a good outcome there. We have taken down the caliphate. There are ISIS remnants that remain. We’ll continue to be in a position to do what we need to do to keep the American people as safe as we possibly can from this threat.
But it is not only in Syria. It emanates from Iraq. There are a dozen other countries where the threat from radical Islamic terrorism continues to exist, and we, the United States, has to make sure we position our forces, our resources, appropriately to reduce that threat to the United States. That’s the mission set, Judy.
QUESTION: But just as a quick clarification, you’re saying the U.S. does not take responsibility for whatever the outcome is here – casualties, ISIS reemergence, and so forth?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re going to work to make sure that ISIS doesn’t have the caliphate that extends across a broad swath of Syria and Iraq, which is the place that we found ourselves when this President took office.
QUESTION: China. The NewsHour has just completed a series of reports on China, and I want to ask you about what the administration is doing with regard to China. Just yesterday, the State Department has been – and this week is stepping up sanctions on Chinese officials, Chinese firms that have been involved in repressing Muslim minorities in China, the Uighurs, the Kazakhs, and others.
But how complicit, my question is, is China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, in all of this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Xi Jinping leads the country. Just like the leader of a tank platoon, a small business, or a country, you’re responsible for the things that happen in your name. We’ve watched – we’ve seen the dustup this week with the NBA, but this problem extends far beyond this. The desire and the actions that have been taken on the ground to take down the Muslim faith or destroy the Uighur ethnicity in the West there in China is something that the State Department has spoken out about loudly. We hope China will change its direction. We think – I think this is not only an enormous human rights violation, but we don’t think it’s in the best interest of the world or of China to engage in this kind of behavior.
QUESTION: Will Mr. Xi himself be held accountable in the end, do you think?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re doing everything we can to reverse the course of action that’s been chosen there. We’ve now put 28 new countries – Commerce Department – on the entity list, companies that were enabling the repression that’s taking place there, and the rest of the State Department did its part by placing visa restrictions. We’re going to continue to talk about these human rights violations. As the President said in another context, in Hong Kong, we want to make sure that these issues are handled in a way that is humane.
QUESTION: Hong Kong, and you mentioned what’s going on with regard to the NBA. The Chinese are now retaliating against Americans who speak out in favor of the protestors in Hong Kong. The manager of the Houston Rockets, the professional basketball team, they’re now pulling – they won’t air a couple of NBA games in China as a result. Is what they’re – how appropriate is this? What does it say about China that they’re doing this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think American businesses have the right to make the decisions that they make as long as they’re lawful. They’ll have to make their own business decisions. But I think not only what we saw this week, but this has been going on for some time. I think American businesses are waking up to the risks that attend to their company. It may seem – it may seem that it makes profit in the short run, but the cost, the reputational cost to these companies, I think, will prove to be higher and higher as Beijing’s long arm reaches out to them and destroys their capacity for them, their employees – in the NBA’s case, team members and general managers – to speak freely about their political opinion, something that we value so deeply here in the United States.
QUESTION: There’s been talk, as you know, about whether the Hong Kong authorities will have the Chinese army involved in dealing with the protestors. Does the U.S. have a plan for what it would do if that happened?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President’s made clear our objectives there and the way that we want to make sure this proceeds. China made a commitment. It was with the United Kingdom, then submitted to the United Nations – they made a series of promises. And I think the whole world’s watching. They’re watching Beijing to see if it truly will live up to the commitments that it made. It made promises to the people of Hong Kong, and indeed to the world, about their system: one country, two systems. Our expectation is they will continue to live up to that, to the extent that they take action, the President has said it needs to be the case that they behave in a way that is humane.
QUESTION: The – our reporter Nick Schifrin, when he was in China, did extensive reporting, talked to a lot of officials about exporting – Chinese exporting their surveillance technology to many other countries so that they can, frankly, surveil on their own citizens. Is it too late to stop the spread of Chinese technology for those kinds of purposes?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Judy, the world’s got to make some decisions, and every country will make its own sovereign one. I’ve been out talking about this for a year and a half now. The Chinese Communist Party has access to information that runs across Chinese networks. It’s in their basic laws. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of any country to take the data from their private citizens and place it in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. And I ultimately believe that the world will see that communications networks that are built on Western values of openness, transparency, rule of law, contracts, property rights, all of the things that we’ve come to know and rely on for our capacity to communicate around the world – I think the world will see that and they will demand that every network, every system comply with those rules. So no, I don’t think it’s remotely too late.
QUESTION: And the so-called Belt and Road Initiative, China exporting its infrastructure expertise around the world, it’s clear now – Nick Schifrin talked to a number, again, of officials who say the Chinese are everywhere with this. And they’re – they say the U.S. is just not on the playing field.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so China is free to have their companies come compete around the world. We want that. We encourage that. If they show up with a straight-up transaction and a Chinese company beats a European company or an African country or an American company, so be it. That’s fair. That’s reasonable.
But what you have seen and what we are pushing back against – and I will concede that for 20 years the world underreacted to this, not only the United States but all of the West – what you’re beginning to see is an acknowledgement of this challenge where these transactions aren’t fair.
They’re showing up with money in brown paper bags. They’re putting debt on nations that they can’t possibly repay so that they’ll ultimately be able to exert political influence. I think the world is waking up these threats and these risks, and I am confident that over time this will not prevail. And to say that America is not present is just inaccurate.
QUESTION: In just the short time that we have left, I want to raise Ukraine. You were on that phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine. Did you think at the time when you heard it that what the President was asking for was appropriate?
SECETARY POMPEO: Everyone keeps asking about what the whistleblower said on this phone call. I heard last night people talking about someone heard the call and was frightened. We have the readout from the call. We have what was the best effort to put together a transcript from the call.
And I know what this administration has done with respect to Ukraine. We’ve worked diligently on this. I’m proud of our results. I remember where Obama left Ukraine. It left it at 80 percent of the size that it was when he came into office. And Vladimir Putin hasn’t done that.
And I think, frankly, the most important reaction to that call – because I was on it. I was on the call. I listened to it. It was consistent with what President Trump has been trying to do to take corruption out. I found that to be wholly appropriate to try and get another country to stop being corrupt. But the most important reaction is from President Zelensky himself, who said, no, I didn’t feel pushed. I didn’t feel pressured.
Everyone keeps suggesting that somehow there was undue pressure. I assure you countries all around the world every day call me to try and get America to behave in the way that’s in the best interests of their country. They try to apply pressure to me. And we work on it. We work on it diplomatically to achieve good outcomes for the American people. And the results – the results that President Trump has achieved with respect to our relationship with Ukraine I think will stand on their own as a hallmark of success of the State Department and what this administration has done.
QUESTION: And just finally, you know that there’s been no proof of any misdoing on the part of Vice President Biden.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You all keep repeating that line as if you’re working for the DNC.
QUESTION: I’m definitely not working for the DNC. I’m an independent journalist. But the European Union, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, the International Monetary Fund, and other international organizations felt that that prosecutor was corrupt and thought he should be removed.
There’s no evidence that what Vice President Biden was doing was corrupt in some way. So my question is, where is the rationale behind this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There is no one who has stared at Ukrainian activity over the last years that doesn’t understand the risk of corruption from that government. Oligarchs behaving in ways that are deeply inconsistent with basic, fundamental rules of law, principles, private property. No one disputes that.
For a nation to seek help from another country, to say, did you mess around in our elections in 2016? Was there corruption that was engaged in? That is completely appropriate activity.
QUESTION: Have you decided, just finally, that there will be cooperation with the House impeachment? Have you talked about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness, I’ve made clear. I think the White House has made very clear. We will ensure that we do everything we’re required to do by the law and the Constitution. Every time.
QUESTION: Secretary Mike Pompeo, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Judy.