QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. It’s great to have you with us this evening.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Martha.
QUESTION: So, today they’re releasing some new pictures, a little bit more detail on this raid that happened. You know, as you look back at it a couple of days, what does the ground there look like in terms of ISIS and the possibility of reemergence?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, there’s always that risk, Martha. But this was — this was a remarkable undertaking. And not only by the militaries were brave — folks who went on to that site, but this was months and months, in fact, you could argue a couple of years in the making.
This effort — this focus determined intelligence collection effort, joint intelligence community military effort, all along the way, supported by President Trump, guided, directed by President Trump, led to this really truly remarkable outcome.
You know had folks are somehow diminishing what took place here. I have heard some of that. Had this gone the other way and there’s always risk associated with this? Had it not been him at the site?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Had it gone — had it gone poorly at the site? I promise you, the criticisms would have been great. This was a, a bold, proper, appropriate, undertaking the President Trump green-lighted, and the execution was remarkable.
QUESTION: And I know that you have some thoughts on the Washington Post changing their headline, calling him a religious scholar in his obituary. What did you make of that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, they’ve lost their way. I must say. It was — it was sick to do that. This is a man who’d killed hundreds — you had last night on the show the parents of Kayla Mueller were still out there working to get her back for those, those two amazing people. She was a wonderful young woman.
To suggest them how that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was anything other than a murderous terrorist is truly sick.
QUESTION: So, there is still criticism and challenge about the decision to pull out of the safe zone between the Kurdish area and Turkey. This is Benjamin Hall’s been on the ground there. He talked to General Mazloum the other day.
Today, he was talking to people on the ground in what was the safe zone. This is a humanitarian worker from the United States. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) David Eubank, Volunteer, Free Burma Rangers: The hardest part of this mission has been the U.S. betrayal of these people. We are responsible then for this unleashing of evil violence. You watch this President Trump, I’m praying for you, I love you. But please change this and it’s not too late.
QUESTION: The reports are that Turkey is starting a genocide in Syria. Those reports are coming from the Kurdish militia, that man pleading with the President, saying it’s not too late to change this decision and protect these people. What do you say?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m getting reports from the ground. My team, the State Department team, is on the ground there indeed with General Mazloum. There has been no nation that has and no nation that will continue to provide more humanitarian assistance than the United States of America. USAID officials that work for me, State Department team that works for me, the people of the region can be sure that America will lead all the efforts in that region to make sure that there’s humanitarian assistance. We always do that.
QUESTION: Are you hearing that there’s genocide underway in Syria?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Our reporting is different from that. We’ll continue to monitor. The Turkish leaders made real commitments to the Vice President and me when we were on the ground and we intend to make sure that they continue to comply with them.
QUESTION: But with regard to the raid, Susan Rice, your predecessor in the prior administration, said that she believed that President Obama should have been contacted, that it’s customary to contact the predecessor president when these kinds of large events are taking place. What do you say to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We were very focused on one singular outcome, which was to make sure that we got this bad guy, took him off the face of the planet. We did that. We made sure we had the right security procedures in place so that the story wouldn’t leak, that the facts wouldn’t get around. We had American lives that would be at risk and we’d lose the opportunity to take Baghdadi from the battlefield. We did that. I’m proud of that.
For those who want to complain from the previous administration about what’s going on Syria, that’s bizarre. They unleashed this. They allowed ISIS to take all the real estate. They built up the caliphate under the Obama administration. For them to critique anything that President Trump has done in his noble effort to take down ISIS in western Iraq and in Syria, it’s outrageous.
QUESTION: All right. Let’s turn to the impeachment process that is underway now on Capitol Hill. There’s been a parade of State Department officials that have been going through and testifying before Congress. Yesterday, it was Alexander Vindman. He says that there were things that were deleted from the transcript of the call that were specifically about the Bidens and about Burisma, investigating both of those. And he claims that there was a quid pro quo for a White House meeting and for the aid to be released to Ukraine.
You were on that call as well. Do you agree with him that those items were not part of the transcript, but they were part of that phone call?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, I don’t know what any of the witnesses have actually said. We’re now reporting on leaks from Democrats who have a mission set here to take down President Trump. What I know is I was on the call, I listened to the call, I thought the way the President handled it was appropriate. We were incredibly focused on a couple of simple things with respect to Ukraine strategy. We’ve executed on that. Don’t forget, Martha, this is the administration that provided defensive weapon systems to Ukraine. The previous administration —
QUESTION: That’s true.
SECRETARY POMPEO: — I couldn’t tell you why, I couldn’t answer if it’s because of Hunter Biden that Barack Obama and Vice President Biden didn’t give defensive weapon systems to Ukraine. They’ll have to answer for that. Maybe I just don’t have the full story.
Here’s what I know: If you’re looking for an administration that’s been tough on Russia, helped the Ukrainian people, helped the Ukrainian leadership fight back corruption, do the things that that country needs to do, this administration’s actions are fantastic.
QUESTION: So is all we’re seeing here – I mean, these were all people that worked in the State Department under you. They obviously have a lot of problems with the way that this was carried out, these people who worked in the Ukraine department. Do you feel torn between the policy that you’re upholding under the President of the United States and the policies that they wanted to see enacted? Because they sound very disappointed that things got pulled away from them and they are all pointing to the common thread of Rudy Giuliani here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Martha. I actually – again, I haven’t seen the testimony. I frankly wish that I had. We’re not allowed to have State Department lawyers in the room. That’s deeply troubling. But my understanding is that every one of these individuals had the same Ukrainian policy that President Trump had. This is a Ukraine policy that wanted to provide Javelin weapon systems. We did that. This was a Ukraine policy that wanted to ensure that Mr. Zelensky had the resources he needed to push back against the corruption that we all know has existed in Ukraine. I actually think the policy that every one of my officials was trying to achieve is the same one that President Trump and I were trying to get the outcome on.
QUESTION: So just to go back for one second, you were on the call. Was there anything that was on the call that pointed to a quid pro quo?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The call was consistent with what I had a long set of conversations with President Trump on our policy for an awfully long time. I was part of this administration from the very beginning – first as CIA director, and now as Secretary of State. Our policy has been very clear all along with respect to Ukraine. The President had real concerns that the Europeans weren’t doing enough, that we were —
QUESTION: That part is understandable. It’s the question about —
SECRETARY POMPEO: — we were having to spend more than our fair share.
QUESTION: — Joe Biden and investigating him that is the part that I think is of the greatest concern. Did you hear anything on that call that is not in the transcript?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I heard the President very clearly on that call talking about making sure that corruption – whether that corruption took place in the 2016 election, whether that corruption was continuing to take place, that the monies that were being provided would be used appropriately. It was very consistent with what I’d understood President Trump and our administration to be doing all along.
QUESTION: When Rudy Giuliani was here and I was speaking with him about this, his – he expressed the fact that he felt that they kind of didn’t get it, the people who were working on Ukraine, and that he did, that he understood the corruption that was happening in the country, and that they might have great intentions but that they just weren’t on to what he was on to in terms of the dark underbelly of what’s going on in Ukraine. Did he express those concerns to you, and do you agree with him that some of the folks that worked on that didn’t see it the way he did?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, our team was focused on a singular mission there. Every conversation I had with every one of the State Department officials that was working on this was focused on a singular mission. Our team’s been deeply aware for an awfully long time of corruption in Ukraine.
QUESTION: So you weren’t aware of any friction between people who thought that Rudy Giuliani was overstepping his bounds? They didn’t bring those concerns to you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha – Martha, there is always friction inside an organization —
SECRETARY POMPEO: — of 70,000 people. Lots of different ideas, people looking for lots of different things. It is – in every mission – and I must say too Ukraine is one of dozens of issues that we address every single day at the State Department. I know you’ve got people out here who are thinking about impeachment every day and all day, it’s on every TV, it’s breathless reporting. The State Department is out making sure that the American people are safe. There’s a government in Lebanon that has just fallen, protests in Chile that rise to the level that we had to have a meeting council that was very important for the world.
QUESTION: Well, did anything —
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re focused on these big, broad issues, Martha.
QUESTION: Let me ask you this, then, because that’s one of those issues that – with regard to this, and then I have one more question for you on a totally different matter. But the question is: Was there anything with regard to Joe Biden or Burisma that you guys were concerned about in terms of national security at the State Department?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Martha, we were focused on corruption. And if that corruption involved —
QUESTION: So you were – you were concerned about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: If that corruption involved individuals who had business interests there, we want to know that these oligarchs that have operated in Ukraine outside of Ukrainian bounds for too long need to be stopped.
QUESTION: Okay. With regard to this – Joe Biden was speaking out about State Department policy and about Jared Kushner’s role pursuing peace in the Middle East. And here’s what he had to say about that:
“VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: The idea that you’re going to have his children – his son-in-law, et cetera – engaged in the day-to-day operation of things they know nothing about, just think it’s —
QUESTION: You don’t think Jared Kushner should be negotiating a Middle East peace solution?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: No, I don’t. (Laughter.) I don’t. What credential does he bring to that?”
QUESTION: What do you say?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Vice President Biden had eight years to try his hand. He failed miserably. He created worse conditions for people in the region. The United States policy and our peace plan that Jared Kushner has led the effort on I think provide a vision and a direction. I hope we can roll it out before too long. We’re looking forward to the formation of the Israeli Government. And when we do, I’m confident that people will look at what this administration does and say we got it right.
QUESTION: Do you want to say anything to Senator Menendez, who is bringing up Hatch Act concerns about your trips to Kansas? What do you say to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s pretty rich that Senator Menendez is taking shots like that. Maybe I’ll just leave it like that today, Martha. I went home to Kansas. I love it in Kansas. I hope I get to go back more often. Susan and I have our church, our family —
QUESTION: To maybe serve as senator? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: — Susan – I’ve answered that question a hundred times.
QUESTION: I know you have. So you’re not going to —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I went back for my son’s best friend’s wedding. It was fantastic. The food was great. The company was great. We got a chance to go to church in our home church. It was a fantastic trip, and I hope I get to go back again before long. It’d been over two years since I’d been to Wichita. It’s an awful long time to be missing home.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you very much. Good to see you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Martha.
QUESTION: Thank you for being here tonight.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.