QUESTION: Good morning, Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning.
QUESTION: Thanks for sitting down with us today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great to be with you.
QUESTION: I kind of want to start with why you’re here. So how did you get to be a part of this visit to WSU Tech, to Textron? Did you want to show off Wichita?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I did. It’s a lot of fun. So a bunch of months ago, I was talking with Senior Advisor Trump and she and I were discussing – she said, “I’m headed out to Wichita, to your hometown,” and I said let’s see if we can schedule a time I can make it. I’d love to get out there. I know that industry; I know the people out there. They are great, talented, wonderful, committed patriots. It would be a lot of fun if we went out there together, and here we are. It all worked out.
QUESTION: And you know Wichita well and the hard working aviation workers. What do you hope the rest of the country will see by you and Senior Advisor Trump coming here?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so this has two things. From my perspective, a strong American economy, Wichita at work, people building airplanes, selling them all across the world is incredibly powerful for American diplomacy. So I have a diplomatic interest in this too. As a Kansan, I want to make sure that the administration and the world get a chance to see the great work that’s done here. And this project that Senior Advisor Trump has put together to get companies to commit to building their workforce, to training, providing the human capital so that these people can take care of their families and build the next generation of the American economy is so important to what we’re doing all around the world. It’s a privilege to get a chance to come out here and be a part of it. I hope it will be a lot of fun for everyone today too.
QUESTION: Do you see this pledge to America’s workers working?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s working. The numbers are off the charts. I mean, you can begin to see it. You see people reentering training, reentering the workforce. There’s data that supports that. You can also see it in the workforce numbers. The most people ever in this history of the United States at work, very low unemployment rate, historically low for minorities across the country as well. This is good stuff. It’s a result of the administration’s policies, and it’s a result of people here in Kansas doing the thigs that we all know that is in the finest tradition of this wonderful place.
QUESTION: Staying to aviation news, the Wichita community has a lot of ties to the 737 Max and its ability to get off the ground. Are you at all concerned with the amount of time it’s taking to get it off the ground and the impact it might have on aviation jobs?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I wish it was faster. It’s not directly in my lane as the Secretary of State today, but we’re mindful. We want to make sure that international aviation organizations that will have to provide certification for these aircraft to return to the air do so in a way that is based on sound science and reason and not on politics. We want to make sure we get them back. We want to get that 737 Max back in the air. It’s important – it’s important for commerce, for people to move around and for our products to move around. It’s important for the businesses that are building those aircraft, and frankly, it’s important for the world so that we have economic growth, which raises people out of poverty all across the world.
QUESTION: When our viewers turn on the national news at night – I want to turn to news of the day – or they turn on the cable network they watch, they see the lead story, and lately it’s something about the impeachment inquiry and whatever is happening that day. And a lot of the time, they hear your name in those headlines, one of them that you’re not cooperating with Congress. Why not? And would you change your stance?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve cooperated fully with what they’re doing on Capitol Hill and we intend to do so. What’s been so troubling is that this inquiry has been conducted in a way that is fundamentally unfair, fundamentally unfair to the State Department. We’ve not been able to have counsel in the room to advise our employees. It’s complicated, Melissa, when you go testify. We have classified information; we have confidential information. We want to make sure that information is protected. To put that burden on that Foreign Service officer or that civil servant is deeply unfair. And we’ve said all along we’re happy to comply. We’re happy to do the work to make sure that Congress can perform its oversight function, but it’s got to be conducted in a way that’s consistent with the deepest – the deepest, most fundamental due process values that are enshrined in our constitution. And when we get that right, we’ll make sure that we get – that Congress has its opportunity to perform its duly constituted function.
QUESTION: What’s your response to U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s 15 page statement to Congress Tuesday? Did you want to clear anything up with that? Was he lying?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t want to talk about the impeachment inquiry. We’ll all have our chance to speak when the time is right. We haven’t had a chance to see the testimony. It’s another thing that I find just so troubling. The State Department hasn’t had a chance to see the transcripts of the interviews of State Department employees. This is unheard of, and the American people need to understand this is not the way these inquiries have been conducted before, in secret, keeping away from even the agency that these talented Foreign Service professionals work – that the agency they work for hasn’t even had a chance to see their testimony. So what we get are pieces and parts that are leaked for someone’s advantage. It’s not frankly – it’s unfair to the American people as well.
QUESTION: And then, speaking of the American people, our viewers see how politicians are behaving, and – but how do you see the country, Americans, at this time in history? Do you see this impeachment inquiry dividing Americans?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope not. I – as Secretary of State, I stay out of U.S. domestic politics, but I see it – I see the noise. My responsibility runs deep. I lead an organization of tens of thousands of people. I want them every day not to be focused on some story that appears in some journal or not some scandalous thing that someone suggested may or may not have happened. I want them to be focused – this mission that we have to keep Americans safe. I’m here today in Kansas to talk about how we train the next generation of our workforce to get the private – make sure the private sector is working alongside the U.S. Government to train, educate, create the human capital for the next generation. I hope Americans focus on – my observation is that when – when I travel outside of Washington, there’s a lot fewer people worried about these things that are less important, and they’re more worried about the things that matter to them: taking care of their family, making sure their company is doing well, going to church, doing all the things that we know the people of Kansas care most deeply about.
QUESTION: Okay. I have a few seconds here. How do you define America’s security? This is in your wheelhouse right now. And do the recent developments in Syria have an impact on it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Complicated world, dangerous world. When we came in two and a half years ago, America was – I think the previous administration described themselves as leading from behind. We’ve flipped that. America’s now leading from the front. We’re doing it right; we’re doing it well. We recognize that America can’t be everywhere to all things. The work that Vice President Pence did when he traveled to Ankara to stop the Turkish incursion was truly lifesaving. Now the complexity of the Middle East is even greater. You’ll recall, Melissa, when we came into office two and a half years ago, ISIS had taken over a large piece of Syria and western Iraq. That’s now gone; the caliphate is no longer. We still have threats from terrorism all around the world, not just in the Middle East, in Asia too. Our team’s focus is on making sure we keep the American people safe, certainly from terrorism, but from the bigger threats too, the threats that are posed by countries like China and the Chinese Communist Party as well.
QUESTION: Before I let you go, I asked you this question last month, but a lot can change in a month. Does Senator Pat Roberts’ seat look appealing to you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You did ask me last month. I hope I’ll give you the same answer. I – I’m very focused on what I’m doing, and I intend to continue to be the Secretary of State as long as President Trump will have me as —
QUESTION: Okay. I can’t press you too long because I have to ask you to do this ridiculous thing.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh yeah. (Laughter.) I’m happy to do it. Did I do it last year or two years ago?
QUESTION: You might have.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think so. Yes, happy to.