QUESTION: It is my absolute honor to welcome to the show Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Hello, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me on today.
QUESTION: You’re very welcome. There’s all kinds of things we want to try and get through in our limited time. But first of all, you have to be incredibly proud of your department for getting 70,000 – I mean, 70,000 – Americans home from 128 countries. That’s a remarkable thing.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks for that. The American people – I am proud. The American people should be proud, too. The State Department came through. We had people – you can imagine – when planes stopped, ships stopped, we saw with the cruise lines, the Amazon forest, Mount Everest, you name it, we had Americans there and they were stuck. And the State Department swung into action and got these people back to their families, back to their homes, so I’m proud of the work we did. I’m proud of how there were friends and allies around the world that helped us, too. It was the best of American diplomacy getting these people back home.
QUESTION: It really was, and a logistical nightmare, I’m sure, but so anyway, well done. We don’t get to say “well done” to a government department very often. (Laughter.) But well done to the Department of State for pulling that one off.
Let’s talk about some of the things that we’re facing in the world right now. Of course, it was just a few days ago, really, that the President – rightly, in my opinion – threatened the Iranians to stop messing with our ships or else. They appear to have stopped messing with our ships.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. What they did was unacceptable. You’ll remember, too, just to contrast, when they took 10 of our sailors and made them kneel down, when the Iranians did that back in the previous administration, that secretary of state apologized. President Trump took a very different approach. They brought some of their boats up too close to ours. He made clear we were going to allow our sailors to defend themselves. As he’s done every place during my time – he’s always told our team we’re always going to take care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. He gave them the right guidance. And to date, at least, the Islamic Republic of Iran hasn’t chose to challenge President Trump.
QUESTION: I know a lot of Navy veterans, and I can tell you, that moment with our sailors in that position was a real low point for them (inaudible).
SECRETARY POMPEO: It was really, really bad.
QUESTION: Right. I’m very pleased that that’s the situation we’re looking at so far.
There’s also, though, the misinformation or disinformation. It’s coming from places like Iran. It’s coming from Russia. It’s coming from China. What are we doing about that and how dangerous is it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s always very dangerous when countries think they can manipulate the information space with real fake news about what’s taking place. We respond. We always correct the record. We do our best to convince those countries that it’s not in anyone’s best interests for them to out-and-out push out disinformation. It’s especially dangerous when it’s with respect to something like this virus, when we know what happened here. We know this came from Wuhan, China. We don’t know precisely how. That’s what we need an investigation to determine.
But we know where the virus originated, and when they tell stories, when they use disinformation to suggest somehow that this was a European thing or the Americans started it, that’s dangerous. Not only dangerous because it fails to inform, but dangerous because we need to know the answers to these questions so that we can save lives and get the economy started back up and, frankly, to make sure that something like this can never happen again.
QUESTION: Right. I mean, because I’m sure they’re watching as well what we’ve done – the reaction. I mean, we had an absolute booming economy. It’s never happened in history where we – we ourselves – said shut it all down. And that has not gone unnoticed by the likes of China and Russia.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely true. The cost that has been posed on the United States economy not only monetary but, right, we’ve had now more than 50,000 people whose lives have been lost. We’ve got to get the economy cranked back up, but all of this is a direct result of the fact that this virus came out of China. The Chinese Communist Party has a special responsibility to explain how this happened, to let the world come in to see what took place.
They tell me all the time they want to be our partner, they want to cooperate with us. Reliable partners, reliable countries share information; they open up. They don’t – when a doctor wants to report on what’s happening in their hospital, they don’t shut them down and tell them you can’t talk about that. That’s not how reliable partners work, how cooperating countries work. We need the Chinese Communist Party to begin to be a better partner here for lots of reasons.
QUESTION: Right. I mean, some of those doctors have been disappeared as well, Mr. Secretary. It is very serious stuff. Now, if it did escape from a laboratory in Wuhan, is it potential – is the potential there that they know how to cure it and maybe are about to make a huge killing – the most bad choice of words – financially on the cure? Or am I being naive here?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we don’t know precisely where it began. We don’t know if it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We don’t know if it emanated from the wet market or yet some other place. We don’t know those answers. It’s why President Trump has made clear we need to get those answers. The people who know the answer to that, or at least most likely to know the answer to that, reside inside of China. It’s the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. I hope we can get to a better place.
Look, the Chinese scientists, Chinese doctors, if they were operating here in a democracy, we’d have information being exchanged. You’ve seen it as we try to prepare a vaccine – good idea, some of them don’t work, and that’s how democracies and freedom-loving people work. We don’t shut down information. We don’t (inaudible) out journalists. We don’t (inaudible) doctors. We engage in the exchange of ideas, and that’s how you keep people safe.
QUESTION: I’ve got about a minute left. The former governor of Iowa – you’re talking to the whole state of Iowa and a big chunk of Illinois right now – is our ambassador in China, and I called for that appointment, by the way, very publicly. I said he wasn’t just a great choice; he was the choice because he’s supposed to be really good buddies with the President. Has that served us well?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Terry has done a fantastic job. Governor – Governor Branstad has done fantastic. Ambassador Branstad – I’ve got to get it right – has done fantastic work. He has been put into an incredibly difficult place and he has managed that relationship as effectively as you can. They are a tough country to work with. We wish that it were not so. I’m very proud of the work – Ambassador Branstad and his team. We – the first repatriation – we began by talking about getting Americans home. The very first one was getting our team out of Wuhan, where they were under an enormous amount of stress, and we got not only the State Department team but 800 Americans out of Wuhan, China. That’s the direct result of good work by Ambassador Branstad, his leadership, and his team’s work.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, absolute honor to have you on my show. Thank you very much for joining us today, and hopefully we’ll get you back. Stay safe out there, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I would love it. I would love it. You stay safe, too. Thank you for having me on your show, sir. So long.