QUESTION: Joining us tonight, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, great to have you with us. And the President today – moving straight to that issue – saying this is the worst attack – the pandemic that has struck this country and claimed so many lives is the worst attack in American history. Give us your thoughts.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Lou, thanks for having me on. It is undoubtedly the case that we’ve now had tens of thousands of lives lost here in the United States, enormous economic wealth destruction here in the United States and all around the world. What’s taken place here didn’t have to be. We know this virus came from Wuhan, China. We know that the Chinese knew about this at least by December and didn’t act fast enough; that the World Health Organization, at the behest of the Chinese, failed to declare this a pandemic in a timely fashion. These are the kind of things that caused this problem.
And I must say, Lou, even today as I sit here as we do this interview, we still don’t have the information we need. We still continue to implore the Chinese Government to turn over the samples, to allow Westerners in to look at these labs. We still need information not only to work on this particular crisis but to do everything we can to take down the risk that something like this could happen again.
QUESTION: Reports that the Chinese, the CCP, ordered the Wuhan laboratory, the virology laboratory there, to absolutely clean up, to destroy all specimens of the virus that they had on hand, all samples from the epidemic that broke out in Wuhan and Hubei province. Is there – have we confirmed that? Has the United States Government confirmed that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Lou, I’ve seen those reports as well. I can’t say much about the intelligence we’ve collected with respect to this, but we know enough now to be confident of this: We saw what they did to the journalists that they kicked out, American journalists they kicked out; we saw what they did to some of the doctors who early on raised the flag and said hey, we’ve got a problem; we saw that they just wandered off, not to be seen again. We’ve seen this kind of behavior, this kind of activity. It’s what authoritarian regimes like the Chinese Communist Party do. They hide, they dissemble; they then propagate disinformation propaganda that we saw when they tried to pin it on the United States – it seems like forever ago, but just a few weeks back. Those are the kind of things that regimes like this do. It’s why democracies
flourish and authoritarian regimes treat their own people – there were thousands of lives lost in China, too – treat their own people with such little regard for life.
QUESTION: And complicating this, the World Health Organization and its role, hardly acting as an independent United Nations agency-in-arm, but rather as a satellite, if you will, of the Xi government, the – Dr. Tedros simply echoing the propaganda emanating from Beijing and Wuhan province about what had transpired, and I know the administration is considering a number of alternatives, amongst them creating an agency that would supplant, replace the World Health Organization itself. Can you tell us where the administration stands on that as of now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I sure can, Lou. So the White House, secretaries, or myself are all trying to evaluate what’s the best path forward. Our mission given to us by the President is very clear. Allowing the World Health Organization to fail again is unacceptable. To put hundreds of millions of American dollars to the World Health Organization if it’s not going to deliver on the outcomes is unacceptable. So we’re working to deliver.
What does that look like? We’ve done this before. We’ve done this with PEPFAR, where Americans went in and took on the challenge of AIDS. We know how to run international health operations, and we are determined to find a good way so that we can be, as we have always been, the leader in global health policy. That’s saved lives all across the world. It’s saved American lives when we do it well, and President Trump has demanded that we do that in this situation as well.
The WHO simply didn’t accomplish what its intended mission was, and as the President says about organizations that are multilateral in nature, if they work, fine; if they don’t, we’re simply not going to be part of it.
QUESTION: Well, that’s straightforward. Mr. Secretary, the motivation of the Chinese here. What happened in Wuhan in that laboratory – the idea that this was a naturally occurring virus in – a virus that emanated from nature doesn’t really answer the question was it in any way a virus that was manipulated or engineered in any way as a bioweapon. We know the Chinese have a sophisticated biowarfare structure and capacity and – led by General Ho in the – at least in the planning and research stages.
Is – why are we not hearing more discussion about the actual construction of this – the construct – I’ll put it that way so as not to imply outright engineering – the construct of this virus? And why are people so eager to dismiss it – and by people, I’m referring to some of the public health authorities – to dismiss it as simply a natural phenomenon and that there is no sense looking at the evidence here; that is, the capacity of China in biowarfare shouldn’t even be considered, some are saying.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Lou, we’ve seen what our Intelligence Community said about this. I have no reason to disbelieve what they have concluded. But your point about the origin of this virus, the nature of it, how it got out into the wild in the way that it did, is something we still have lots of unanswered questions about. I have said before I’ve seen evidence that this likely came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Happy to see other evidence that disproves that.
We should get to the bottom of it. It’s why we’ve been asking for months now to give Westerners access to this information.
The people who can answer these questions, Lou, that you just described are the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. They have an obligation to the world – not one from last month or two months ago, but one for today. They have an obligation to the world to share this information, to open up, to be transparent. China claims that that’s what they want; they want to be part of this great civilization of nations all around the world.
To do that, to be a reliable partner, you have to be transparent, and they have done exactly the opposite here. They’ve done what authoritarian regimes do, and that’s not only caused loss of life so far, but it continues to be a danger and a threat to the American people.
QUESTION: Well, as we wrap up, let me ask this: Are you in active conversations with the foreign minister, President Xi’s office, with the communist government of China right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, we are in active conversations, urging them to do what I just described: to help us – not just the United States, but the world – understand how this could possibly have happened and how we take the actions to make sure that BSL level four, these high-end labs that the Chinese are running, operate in a way that’s safe and we don’t end up with infection all around the world again.
QUESTION: Secretary Mike Pompeo, always good to see you. Thanks for being with us this evening. Appreciate it.