SECRETARY POMPEO: “This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body. It is all the more reckless for this ruling to come just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan, which is the best chance for peace in a generation. The United States is not a party to the ICC, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, unlawful, so-called court.”
QUESTION: Well, the ICC is the International Criminal Courts probe into alleged war crimes. The man speaking there yesterday on tape, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We’ve got him live on the couch today. Good morning to you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning. Good morning, Steve. Good morning, everyone.
QUESTION: What are you talking about right there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Pete, you served. We have lots of young men and women who served in Afghanistan, and not only our military but intelligence warriors and diplomats who served there. Now you have this crazy, renegade body sitting in The Hague, Netherlands, who wants to come after them for actions that the American people wanted them to undertake.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s wrong, it’s deeply troubling, and I want everyone to know that the United States under President Trump is going to do everything we can to make sure that they never come after any of you.
QUESTION: I mean, the idea of the International Criminal Court was rogue regimes, dictators, others massacring people. Some people saw, though, that these international bodies can turn and can turn against you, and that’s precisely what’s happened here. They want to prosecute Americans who went to Afghanistan as war criminals.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Pete, when the President talks about these institutions, these international institutions just wandering off the mandate that they have, the things that they were intended to do, I think the whole world can see this isn’t what the ICC was set up for. It was about rogue regimes.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Not institutions like America. When somebody gets it wrong here, we hold our own accountable. We always have. We always will. We are not going to let them take on all the young men and women who went and served America. And we’re going to – we will make sure that this doesn’t happen. The American people should have confidence in President Trump on this.
QUESTION: There will be no prosecutions of American soldiers?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re going to make sure that this – this thing they call a court, which is really a political body that we believe has now had a disinformation campaign run at them, we’re not going to let them take on Americans.
QUESTION: Secretary, I want to ask you about the Taliban peace deal. I have been very skeptical of whether or not this will be successful, whether it will have a positive impact at all. There has been a surge in violence following the peace deal. What do you make – what can you tell the American people who are sitting at home and saying, you know what, you can’t make a peace deal with the Taliban given their history and given the way that they behaved, this is going to go nowhere? What’s your response to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So this is a historic opportunity for the United States and for the Afghan people. And your point about violence, violence is actually significantly down. The American people don’t think – spend much time thinking about the fact that on an average day over the last years there have been between 80 and a hundred violent incidents across Afghanistan. This is common. This is recurring. It is a difficult place.
President Trump has seized the moment. Look, we’re not naive. We all know who the Taliban are and what they have done to America. But it’s time. It is time to seize this opportunity. We did what President Obama had tried to do, which was to get the Taliban to make a public break with al-Qaida. The very reason we went there, the reason we went there after this city was attacked, was to go destroy al-Qaida. We’ve largely taken it down. Al-Qaida is a shadow of its former self. It’s now time to turn the corner to make sure that we never are attacked again from Afghanistan, and we can do that, but reduce our cost, reduce our risk.
We’ve got your friends who are on their fourth, fifth, six, seventh tour in Afghanistan. We can do better by the American people. We can reduce that risk, reduce our cost, and still keep America safe.
QUESTION: And Mr. Secretary, for the people who say look, the President is crazy for doing that, he ran on this. He ran on getting us out of Afghanistan and trying to figure a way out. And he’s had three years to figure things out. At this point, it looks like this is the best chance.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President gave me two missions. Mission one: reduce our cost, reduce our risk, bring our kids home. Second: do everything we can to make sure that America is never again attacked from the soil in Afghanistan. But we all know, right, the risk of terrorism isn’t just in Afghanistan. It’s in lots of places in the world. We have to make sure we get the balance right. We can do this from Afghanistan with a smaller footprint, with a smaller force, and we will accomplish each of those two missions sets that the President gave to me.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you’ve talked about it being conditions-based. There is a timeline ascribed to the agreement as well. We’re seeing the Taliban turn their guns on the Afghan Government, and the hope is that the Afghan Government can survive. Will America be involved in propping up the Afghan Government against the Taliban should they – because when I was there, we already saw how powerful the Taliban is. Underneath the surface and publicly with violent attacks, the Taliban is going after the Afghan Government. What if that dynamic changes?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Pete, first thing. One of the reasons the Taliban entered into this agreement is because President Trump let us unleash on them. So over the last two and a half years we have been taking it to the Taliban under President Trump. It’s why they came to us and said we want to have a chance for a different course in Afghanistan.
Second, we have the full right that if the Afghan Government is attacked, to defend. You know we have Americans serving alongside many Afghan forces in the field, so it’s often the case that there’ll be Americans co-located there. We have the right. This is a conditions-based movement.
President Trump – we’re committing to this. We’re committed to having the Afghan Government, the Afghan people, get to the negotiating table for the first time in 20 years and begin to plot a path forward for a better Afghanistan.
QUESTION: But the ball’s in their court. I mean, we’re not going to intervene ultimately two, three years from now if the Afghan Government can’t defend itself. This is an Afghan issue.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. But President Trump has also made clear that if two years from now or five years from now there is a threat to the United States of America, we’re going to come right back at it.
QUESTION: Shifting over to the coronavirus, many Americans deeply concerned about the spread of this virus and want to have confidence that the administration is taking it seriously, taking proper steps. Can you reassure the public in any way on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So this is a complicated challenge. The Wuhan virus that began at the end of last year is something that this administration is taking incredibly seriously. The State Department has been very involved from the beginning when we worked diligently to get hundreds of Americans out of Hubei province, out of Wuhan, and get them back to the United States safely.
We continue to work around the world. We’ve provided assistance to the Chinese Government – not just what the CDC and our technical health care professionals are doing, we’re trying to make sure they have the medical supplies they need to stop the spread of this globally. That’s my mission at the State Department. The Vice President’s got the con on all of the missions, but we’ve got an important role too to make sure we get travel restrictions right, that we get travel advisories right, so that we know who’s coming across our border, who’s coming into the country that may present risk to Americans here at home.
QUESTION: Well, we’re starting a little behind the eight-ball, though, because China had this festering, they knew about it, and they didn’t tell us anything about it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The data set out of China has been imperfect.
QUESTION: That’s a polite way of saying —
QUESTION: — that they were keeping us in the dark, but you called it the Wuhan virus, and I haven’t – that’s an accurate way to depict where it’s coming from. But does it also show the vulnerabilities the President has talked about for a long time? In an interconnected world where we’re dependent on a geopolitical adversary for so many things, how do you manage the fact that we are interconnected while rejecting the globalists who say that’s the way it has to be?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Pete, that’s a really good point. As a first matter, the Chinese Communist Party has said that this is where the virus started.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So don’t take my word for it; take theirs. They are right on this one. But second, this does highlight the risks when you have an interconnected world. There’s enormous opportunities. We sell products.
QUESTION: Yeah, sure.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We create wealth through this interconnectivity. But when you have an entity like the Chinese Communist Party who is providing data sets that aren’t transparent and aren’t clear, this is the risk that gets – that is increased. And it’s why wherever we’re working – South Korea, Italy, other places that have had big outbreaks – we welcome the fact that they’re open and transparent. We need to do the same all across the world. And when we do, I’m confident – we’ve taken this seriously, we’ll continue to work, and we will reduce risk not only to Americans but to people all around the world from this virus.
QUESTION: An imperfect data source set. (Laughter.) We are going to write that down.
Before you go, about a half an hour ago in our news we heard this story. Apparently, there’s this new documentary coming out on Hillary Clinton, who once upon a time was also the Secretary of State, your current job. One of the quotes attributed by the Daily Mail, she said: “I am the most investigated innocent person in America. This is not just politics. This is deep cultural stuff.”
But more importantly, the quote that I was looking for is she said there is no regulation against a secret email server. Okay. Is that true?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, she has been investigated a lot. I think there might be a reason for that.
But second, we have an obligation as senior leaders in the United States Government that our records are protected and available through FOIA and all the other mechanisms. No, having a private email server, keeping your government records on that, is completely unlawful.
QUESTION: And so is destroying records, the last time I checked?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s a bad idea.
QUESTION: Well, you mean sticking a server in a bathroom closet, sending emails over that, and then having somebody destroy it with a jackhammer, just not something you’d recommend?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Not a model that I recommend to any leader anywhere. Yes.
QUESTION: Bleaching it?
QUESTION: A jackhammer.
QUESTION: BleachBit, yeah.
QUESTION: Nice move. All right. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all for having me on this morning.
QUESTION: Thanks so much for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.