QUESTION:  Joining us now is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us tonight.  Your statement seemed to signal the beginning of a new era in U.S.-China relations, and can you tell us tonight, without getting ahead of the President, that this is a serious turn away for our – from our engagement with China to a much tougher approach to what they’ve done to Hong Kong?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Laura, it’s great to be with you.  The statement that I made yesterday was something that the President and I had been working on.  The Chinese Communist Party is crushing what was so special about Hong Kong, what made it different from the rest of China; all the financial center that was there, all of those things, are now tragically going to be gone.  And as a result of that, the President no longer believes that it’s justified to treat Hong Kong differently than we treat the rest of what takes place under the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party.

So I think you’ll see in the coming days the President make a series of announcements with respect to this that recognizes the threat to the United States of America, the American people’s security, as (inaudible) emanates from this tyrannical regime inside of China.  Make no mistake about it:  President Trump is the first president – and this isn’t political – President Bush, President Obama, they all refused to recognize the threat that the Chinese Communist Party presented to the United States of America.  They were stealing intellectual property from us, they were moving in the South China Sea – all the things that you know.  And presidents before just turned their head; they wouldn’t do it.

QUESTION:  Biden’s foreign policy advisor – you won’t be surprised to hear this, Mr. Secretary – has some unkind things to say about your administration’s dealings with China, saying, “President Trump has talked tough on China” – as you just did – “but he failed to make any meaningful stand against the Chinese Government, and that’s why it’s no surprise China’s leaders hope for four more years of President Trump.”

Mr. Secretary, Biden himself then said that you’ve all been weak on China because the President has an affinity for authoritarians, noting that he has praised President Xi.

Your response to the Biden camp tonight?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Nonsense.  This sounds like they’re pretty worried about having to defend eight years of what Barack Obama failed to do to contain the threat to America from the Chinese Communist Party.

QUESTION:  Do you think China would prefer, all things considered, Biden to win in November?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I can tell you this:  The President is going to make sure that we protect the American people from the threats that the Chinese Communist Party presents to the United States.  I saw none of that during the Obama-Biden years.

QUESTION:  The New York Times said today that the U.S. is planning to expel Chinese grad students with ties to China’s military schools, and saying that the “universities are wary of a possible new ‘Red scare’ that targets students of specific national background and that could contribute to anti-Asian racism.”

Mr. Secretary, number one, are you worried about anti-Chinese racism?  And number two, aren’t all Chinese nationals who come here, aren’t they all vetted in some way, shape, or form by the CCP?  So why not expel all of them, at least temporarily, until China somehow changes its tune?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Laura, I’m not surprised to hear that from The New York Times, frankly.  We’re taking seriously the threat that students that come here who have connections deeply to the Chinese state, they shouldn’t be here in our schools spying.

As a former CIA director, I take seriously the threat of espionage inside of our country.  We know we have this challenge.  President Trump, I am confident, is going to take that on.  I don’t want to get in front of what he’s going to say tomorrow, but the American people should know that the Chinese Communist Party has worked to have enormous influence here in the United States.

This isn’t a “Red scare” and this isn’t racist.  The Chinese people are great people.  This is like the days of the Soviet Union; this is a communist, tyrannical regime that poses real risks to the United States.  And we have an obligation – a duty – to make sure that students who are coming here to study, to take the benefits of coming to America to learn and to benefit from what we can provide to them, aren’t acting on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

QUESTION:  Well, I just don’t see how you prevent – prevent anyone coming in here from China under the current circumstances from not being connected to the Chinese Government, but I’ll move on.

The firing of the department inspector general.  This was Speaker Pelosi’s reaction.  Watch:  “When they come close to looking at behavior that might cause them some unease, they fire them.  And Secretary Pompeo said he should have fired him a long time ago because he wasn’t acting in the manner in which we wanted him to act.  What did that mean?  Turn a blind aisle – eye to wrongdoing?  What is it that they are afraid of?”

Secretary Pompeo, was the IG fired for investigating you, your dealings with staff running errands, the Saudi arms deal?  Can you go into any detail about why he was let go tonight?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I can, and I said it earlier.  I regret that I didn’t recommend to the President earlier that he be terminated.  He was acting in a way that was deeply inconsistent with what the State Department was trying to do.  His office was leaking information.  We tried to get him to be part of a team that was going to help protect his own officers from COVID-19; he refused to be an active participant.  He was investigating policies he simply didn’t like.  That’s not the role of an inspector general.  This didn’t have anything to do with retaliation.  This was about an IG who was attempting to undermine the mission of the United States Department of State.  That’s unacceptable, and so I recommended to the President he terminate Steve Linick.

QUESTION:  And Secretary, finally, the first terror attack on American soil after 9/11 planned abroad took place in Pensacola with three of our sailors being killed by a Saudi national who was linked to al-Qaida last December.  Why are any Saudis training with our troops who have any ties to any organization or terror-related after what happened on 9/11?  I just don’t understand why any of them are here training on American soil, given the fact that, apparently, they can just go off and end up killing American sailors.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’ll leave the details of the program to the Department of Defense.  Your viewers should know the United States takes seriously anytime we have anyone coming in to train alongside our soldiers here in the United States from whatever country they’re coming in from.  We have a responsibility to do our best to vet them.

Clearly, this fellow got in and was a bad actor and caused enormous harm and pain to the United States of America.  I know the Department of Defense is reviewing that process, trying to make sure we get it right.  We do conduct important training programs so that young American kids don’t have to fly all the airplanes all across the world to keep America safe.  We want to sell American armaments; we want to train foreign military actors to operate that equipment so that we don’t have to put young American lives at risk.  I know that’s why those training programs exist.  We have to execute them in a way that doesn’t present the very risk that you identified there, Laura.

QUESTION:  Was that an intel failure – the fact that we didn’t pick up the chatter that he was involved with planning a special operation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t know the details.  But clearly, as this unfolded, as the FBI has done its work, they have concluded that he was member of al-Qaida, and we didn’t identify that in a timely fashion.

QUESTION:  Secretary Pompeo, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  We look forward to seeing the President’s remarks, I believe tomorrow, on the next move with China.  Thanks so much, sir.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, Laura.  Have a good evening.


U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future