QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us now in a Story exclusive. Secretary Pompeo, good to see you tonight. Thank you very much for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’re welcome. Great to be with you, Martha.
QUESTION: So what do you make of that? Now, that’s a pretty interesting story given what we’ve been watching unfold in Hong Kong.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, Martha, I’ve seen those reports. I also know the history of China and its efforts in cyber space conducting cyber crime. This is another element of their efforts to manipulate data.
What we know is this: In Hong Kong, these are protesters who are simply seeking liberty and freedom. They’re asking only that China uphold its commitment, the promise that it made, which was that there would be one country but two systems, respecting Hong Kong in ways that were appropriate for the Hong Kong people.
That’s what President Trump’s made clear. He said he is for liberty, he is for democracy, and we hope that the Chinese Government will respect that.
QUESTION: I mean, this puts President Xi in a difficult position in the middle of this trade discussion that is going on, and now he’s under a ton of pressure as this movement that is trying to really preserve the democracy that they were promised in Hong Kong continues to fire up. And then you’ve got the question of Huawei and whether or not the Trump administration is starting to sort of back down a little bit on that discussion.
Here’s the President sort of talking about this in a big way, and I want to get your reaction to this:
President Trump: “I think it would be very hard to deal if they do violence. I mean, if it’s another Tiananmen Square, I think it’s a very hard thing to do… At this moment, it looks much more like we’re not going to do business. I don’t want to do business at all because it is a national security threat.”
What are your thoughts on that? He’s talking about Huawei there at the end.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Look, with respect to Huawei, this administration has taken actions that no previous administration was prepared to take. President Trump has done the same thing on trade. We understand the challenges that China presents. We’ve asked them multiple times just to honor their word. We talked about that in Hong Kong, right? They have to honor what they promised the Hong Kong people. They made a commitment that they wouldn’t militarize the South China Sea. They have made promises about human rights. The activities that are taking place in the western provinces in China are of an enormous scale of human rights violations.
When we try to negotiate a trade agreement with them, we’ve tried to put in processes that ensure we have the opportunity to verify because we need to make sure that we don’t suffer from China breaking a promise or have to watch Chinese disinformation about the agreement that’s entered into.
QUESTION: So, I mean, you have really dug in in diplomacy. You have traveled all over the world. I don’t think you sleep in the same place probably very often throughout the course of the week and probably not home a whole lot either. But now that you’ve met these – the individuals who are dealing with all of this in China, how optimistic are you, given everything that we just talked about, that they can enter into a good faith trade agreement that we can count on, that we can trust?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Martha, it’s the right question. It’s the question that Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Mnuchin have been asking for the entire set of negotiations. We want to make sure that we have a set of agreements that have the real capacity to verify and enforce. We are eyes wide open with this and it’s been – the President’s shown great leadership. We’ve had unfair, completely unreciprocal set of relationships with China on trade for an awfully long time now, and President Trump is determined to fix that on behalf of the American people. It’s a commercial imperative so that we can continue to grow our economy, but it’s also a national security imperative to make sure that we get that right.
QUESTION: One last question: China’s very upset that we are doing this F-16 deal, selling jets to Taiwan. They’ve spoken out about it. They said basically you better change your mind on this deal or else there’s going to be consequences. What do you say to them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President approved the notice that went up to Capitol Hill on Thursday or Friday of last week so that we could move forward with these F-16 sales. These are deeply consistent with the arrangements, the historical relationship between the United States and China, the three communiques that layer on top of that. Our actions are consistent with past U.S. policy. We are simply following through on the commitments we’ve made to all of the parties.
QUESTION: All right. Question for you on Iran: Their tanker was released by the British that was being held in Gibraltar. Do you think that that was a mistake by the British?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s unfortunate that that happened. These are oil profits that, when this is ultimately sold somewhere into the market, that will run back to the – Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian Qods Force, their elite forces that have sown terror and destruction and killed Americans all around the world. And now they’ll have, if they’re successful – and we hope that they’re ultimately not – but if they’re successful, they’ll have more money, more wealth, more resources to continue their terror campaign, to continue their assassination campaign in Europe.
QUESTION: Yeah, but, I mean —
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is what we’re trying to stop, so it’s very unfortunate that that ship was released.
QUESTION: So they’ve got 23 British crew members on a ship, and no doubt they’re hoping that this move is going to help get those guys back home and women back home. Is that a good bet on their part?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Weakness never is the right outcome.
QUESTION: Okay. With regard to Afghanistan, take a look at what is happening at the camps, the IDP refugee camp. Some people are looking at the situation and saying that ISIS, which we just saw a horrific tragedy at a wedding, 63 people were killed at a wedding in Kabul – and the thinking on the part of some who are looking at this camp are saying that they’re basically entrenching there and they’re starting to try to build another caliphate by treating these people horribly, even reports of executions inside this camp. What do you say about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the attack over the weekend was indeed tragic. It was innocent civilians that were killed. But I’m not sure what there is more to add about that other than to say this: President Trump has been determined. Every place we’ve encountered radical Islamic terrorism, whether it was ISIS in Syria or al-Qaida in other places, we’ve done everything we can to continue to decimate them and keep the American people safe, to reduce risk to the United States of America. We’ll continue to do that all across the world, but we’re going to do so in a way that is smart and doesn’t require excess sacrifice on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: So you’ve been obviously very supportive and very in step with the President on I think 99 percent of the work that you’ve done. His other advisor and person that he trusts, Lindsey Graham, very strong on this. He does not want to see us pull out of Afghanistan. Where do you stand on that spectrum?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You have to begin with the mission set. The mission set the President gave us was to do two things: to see if we can’t reduce our costs – we spend tens and tens of billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan, and we lose the lives of American young men and women every year – to reduce that risk; but at the same time, ensure that we maintain a posture that can reduce the risk that there’s an attack again from Afghanistan to our homeland.
Those twin goals are what the President set out for my team and for the Department of Defense. We’re working towards them. I am confident that we can achieve them. Any reduction that we make will be based on conditions on the ground and will be consistent with achieving those two goals on behalf of the President and on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: Before I let you go, two very quick political questions outside of your work at the State Department. Anthony Scaramucci, who was with the administration for a short 11 days, is getting a lot of attention everywhere today, saying that he is rallying a group of former Trump cabinet members to seek a candidate to run against the President in 2020. Any reaction to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hadn’t seen that story, but from your description of it, it sounds ludicrous on its face.
QUESTION: All right, ludicrous on its face. We’ll put you down for that.
One last question for you. The Senate run question in Kansas, is that something that is still – you said it was not on the table? Is it completely off the table, or have you closed the book on that decision? Reports over the weekend that all the GOP fundraisers sort of standing on the sidelines in Kansas, waiting to hear what you’re going to do.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Lots of people talking about me potentially running for the Senate in Kansas, everyone maybe except me. I’m very focused on what I’m doing. My position on this hasn’t changed. It’s an incredible privilege to be President Trump’s Secretary of State. I intend to continue to do this.
QUESTION: So is that 100 percent no for Kansas?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s what I’m going to keep doing as long as President Trump gives me this opportunity.
QUESTION: All right. Good to see you, Secretary Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Martha.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for being here tonight.