MR RUBENSTEIN:  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for coming.  I know you had nothing else to do today, so —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s been a busy Monday already.  Thanks for having me here.  I really appreciate it.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Did something happen this morning I don’t know about or —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No.  All is well.  I’m here.  It’s good.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  So you became our 70th United States Secretary of State in April of 2018.  You’re happy with the job?  Is it as much fun as you thought it was going to be?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Every day.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So what are the most significant foreign policy issues of concern to you?  What do you think are the biggest challenges we have in our country right now in the foreign policy area?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I get asked this question about sort of rank ordering the challenges.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  You mean that’s not an original question?  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I mean, so look, it’s an important  question.  It’s about priorities and resources and how do you allocate time, and how do you think about the problem set.  For me, the first task when I came in now, goodness, 16, 17 months ago to the State Department after having been the CIA director was to make sure the State Department was ready in the moment of crisis.  So I spent a lot of time making sure that my team was prepared for the day that every CEO tries to deal with too, right – what happens when something really bad happens that was unexpected, and is your team capable, do you have the resources and people that can respond in the moment for something that frankly you hadn’t given enough thought about?

In terms of priorities, every morning the first thing I do is read about China.  So I take time and talk about all the broad array of issues that present both real opportunity for the United States and risk to America from China.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Well, let’s talk about China for a moment.  The trade negotiations are going on.  You’re not the lead in the trade negotiation.  I think Bob Lighthizer is taking the lead in that.  But can you make any progress in non-trade issues until the trade is resolved?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  And we’ve made some.  We’ve had other places where we’ve gone backwards.  The Chinese have frankly been very helpful on North Korea.  So they have done more to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions on  North Korea than ever at any time in history.

They’re helpful with us today in Afghanistan and the project there too.  It’s something folks don’t spend a lot of time thinking about.

So far so good with respect to respecting our sanctions enforcement on the Islamic Republic of Iran, although we sanctioned a Chinese company last week, or perhaps it was the week before, for having violated those sanctions.  But so there are places we can work with China.

There are lots of diplomatic fronts where we have – we don’t share the same values, but we have overlapping interests and we work on those problems.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  What would be the U.S. response if the Chinese were to send military into Hong Kong to put down the protests there?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, so I never answer hypotheticals about what we will do or won’t do.  So well played.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Well, I thought I’d get – all right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:    Having said that, look, we’ve been pretty clear: protest is appropriate.  We see this in the United States.  I am confident there will be protestors when I drive through the building at the State Department today.  And we hope the Chinese will do the right thing with respect to respecting the agreements that are in place with respect to Hong Kong.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  So you have been to North Korea and you’ve met with the leader of North Korea on a few occasions, and you’ve been there when the President has met with him.  So what type of person is he?  Does he have great, interesting thoughts?  Does he have – does he speak English?  Do you communicate in English with him?  And can you just can summarize what your impression is of the leader of North Korea?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So I’ve spent more time with him than any American.  I passed Dennis Rodman on the last trip.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  Okay.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So he – look, he’s bright.  He has managed to rise to the level of leadership in a difficult environment where he was a very young man when his time came.  From my very first interaction with him, he’s been very candid with me about the things that are important to him, the priority set, and how the negotiations might proceed.  He’s now repeated that he’s prepared to denuclearize.  It’s now time to execute.  And I hope that we can achieve that.  I hope – I head to Asia to tomorrow midday.  I’ll be in Bangkok for a couple of days.  We hope that we can have working-level discussions starting again very soon so that we can unlock the Rubik’s cube.  It’s a real challenge that he is presented with as the leader of North Korea as well.  We hope that he can see his way clear so we can get that brighter future that President Trump has talked about.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Do you expect a third summit to be announced anytime soon, the date and time of it?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  There’s nothing in the works.  There’s nothing planned.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  And why did the last summit end before the lunch even occurred?  Why did it kind of abruptly end?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  There was a big bid-ask spread, to put it in economic terms.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We’d had a number – I can’t go into all this, but we had a number of conversations about a broad range of issues in the run-up to that.  My team had worked very, very hard, and it just turned out that the idea that the leaders could bridge that gap in that moment turned out to not work that day.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Do you think the – the U.S. position has been that we would not lift sanctions until there was a so called denuclearization, but would you be willing to consider having the North Koreans keep whatever they have in nuclear weapons now and then lift sanctions if they didn’t do more than they have now, or is that something that’s too hypothetical?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Too hypothetical.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  I didn’t want to give you the answer, but all right.  So —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  Look, I’ll say this.  I’ve talked about this publicly a couple times.  We hope that there are creative solutions to unlocking this.  It is a very difficult challenge for each of us.  We have to remember, too, these aren’t U.S. sanctions; these are UN Security Council resolutions.  These are global sanctions put on by every single country, and so we are mindful that we are the steward for enforcing those.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Let’s go to an easier part of the world, the Middle East.  Okay?  (Laughter.)  So the Straits of Hormuz – are we committed to keeping open the Straits of Hormuz at any cost militarily?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We’re going to keep them open.  We’re going to build out a maritime security plan.  Countries from all across the world who have a vested interest in keeping those waterways open will participate.  It will take more time than we wish it would take, but I’m very confident that the world understands its importance, that America is prepared to be a significant part of that, but we need countries from all across the world to assist us in protecting commercial transit.  We’ll be successful.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  But our position, I presume, is that if a U.S. ship were taken by the Iranians, we would presumably do something militarily – I guess, I don’t know.  But what about if a ship is taken that’s a British ship or some other nationality?  Are we not committed to recovering that ship or doing something to defend those ships?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we’ve seen it.  We have seen them take a British ship.


SECRETARY POMPEO:  So this isn’t a hypothetical.  And we are working – I was working with – I guess I’m now working with my third British foreign minister since I’ve been a secretary of state.  But working with the British to find the solution to both (a) right that injustice, and second, prevent it from happening again.  So to establish deterrence.  That’s the mission set.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, recently you gave a visa for the foreign minister of Iran to come to the United States for a UN event.  You’re familiar with that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I did.  That’s true.  Yes.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So when he was in the United States, were there any indirect or direct talks with him and the State Department about anything that you can talk about?


MR RUBENSTEIN:  No talks.  And – okay.  And he —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Although he spoke.  The American media decided to give him a megaphone to talk about things that are untrue going on in the Islamic Republic of Iran and gave him a chance to lie vociferously to the American people.  I look forward to the chance to speak to the Iranian people in that same way, but truthfully.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  And tell them honestly about what’s going on inside of their own country.  So far, they have not taken me up on that offer.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, President Trump has imposed tough sanctions on Iran.  Do you think they are going to have the effect of bringing Iran to the negotiating table, or not?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You have to step back a little bit.  Remember the objective.  The objective is the National Security Strategy that was laid out now two and a half years ago with respect to the Middle East.  So it’s broader.  We tend to focus on the tactical; you have to step back and think about what we’re doing more broadly in the Middle East.

With respect to Iran, it’s the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.  It has the capacity to continue to work towards developing a nuclear weapon system, which would cause proliferation risks all throughout the Middle East.  And so we are very concerned about that as well.  Our chosen strategy was to take a 180-degree turn from what the previous administration has done.  They created opportunity for enormous wealth for the kleptocrats in Iran and for them to underwrite Hizballah, militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen that are even as we speak preparing to continue their attacks on Saudi Arabia.  We have decided to go the other way.  We are trying to reduce their resources to conduct terror campaigns all around the world, build out their missile systems and their nuclear program, and we’ve been incredibly effective at that.

I remember, David – I’m sure no one in this room, but many here in Washington said that American sanctions alone won’t work.  Well, they’ve worked.  We have taken over 95 percent of the crude oil that was being shipped by Iran all around the world, and we have taken it off the market.  And we’ve done so with – I checked when I came in, Brent Crude is at 63.34; 17, 18 percent lower than when we withdrew from the JCPOA.  So we have managed both to protect the economic growth that world needs while doing our best to deny resources to the Islamic Republic of Iran regime.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  The prospect of another Iranian agreement, one that’s more favorable to your point of view and the President’s point of view, is that likely to happen this year, next year, or you just can’t predict?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t do time.  Timelines are a fool’s errand in my business.  They were a fool’s errand in my business when I ran a small company in Kansas, too.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  But the Iranians are now enriching uranium at a greater level than they were before.  Do you worry that somebody – Israel – might attack the Iranian facilities, or are you not worried about that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes, they’re enriching more than they were under the agreement.  Their temporary reduction in enriched uranium has now ended; they are moving back in the wrong direction.  We’re urging them to think about it.  But for us, it’s not about these levels set in the JCPOA.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s about the capacity to build out a nuclear weapons system in a timeframe that matters to you and your kids and your grandkids.  The previous agreement didn’t remotely touch that.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  In the Middle East, do you see any prospect for peace between Israel and the Palestinians?  There’s been talk of a plan, and do you see any progress being made?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So there’s a reason it hasn’t been solved for 40 years or more.  In the end, this will be the decision of the prime minister of Israel and the leadership in the West Bank and Gaza.  I’ve been deeply involved in Mr. Kushner’s efforts there.


SECRETARY POMPEO:  He’ll be traveling, my team will be traveling with him in the coming days, to flesh out for our partners in the region our path forward.  In the end, we can present our vision, our plan, what we hope they will engage on.  We hope we get the Gulf States to join us in that effort, and frankly, the European countries too, to say this is the path forward.  But in the end, the decision about whether to make this fundamental rapprochement is up to those two countries, those two leaders.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.  But is our position, the United States Government position, that we prefer a one-state solution or a two-state solution?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You’ll see our plan shortly.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  Will you give us a hint, or —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No.  (Laughter.)


SECRETARY POMPEO:  We prefer what the Palestinians and the Israelis agree to, and what the nature of that relationship will look like.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  Any progress, you think, between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in resolving their dispute?  Are we in the middle of that, in terms of resolving it?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, they’re in the middle of it.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Right.  So we’re not in the middle of trying to resolve that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We’ve made clear we hope that they will join together.  We think Gulf state unity on the issues that matter to America and American citizens matters.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  What about Yemen?  Any progress in reducing the conflicts there?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, real progress.  It is uneven – in the end, the player who will get to play the ultimate final card there would be the Iranians.  The Houthis have to make a decision.  They’ve got to decide if they want to continue down the path of being disruptive and accepting Iranian missiles and launching them into Saudi Arabia.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, negotiations are underway with the Taliban in the Middle East.  The U.S. is involved in that.  Do you see any progress in reducing our need to be in Afghanistan?  Anything in the near future?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, real progress.  I try not to do timelines, but I’m optimistic.  We’re not just negotiating with the Taliban.  That’s the story.  The truth of the matter is we’re talking to all Afghans.  So we’ve spoken with the – President Ghani, I spoke to him on Friday night or Friday morning.  I’m speaking with the opposition, those folks that are not inside the government.  We’re speaking with Taliban officials.  We have – Ambassador Khalilzad has worked all across Afghanistan with – I’m – when I was there last time, I met with NGOs, I met with women’s groups – a broad swath of Afghanistan.  We want them to take their country back, and we want to reduce what is, for us, tens of billions of dollars a year in expenditures and enormous risk to your kids and your grandkids who are fighting for America.  We think there’s a path to reduce violence, achieve reconciliation, and still make sure that the American counterterrorism effort in Afghanistan has a value and the potential to reduce risk here in the States.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Before the next presidential election in the United States, would you expect we reduce our troops in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  That’s my directive from the President of the United States.  He’s been unambiguous:  End the endless wars, draw down, reduce.  It won’t just be us.  Those of you who have served know that it – Resolute Support has countries from all across Europe and around the world.  We hope that overall the need for combat forces in the region is reduced.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.  I’m —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So yes, it’s not only my expectation, it’s – it would be job-enhancing.


MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.  On Russia, you’ve met with Mr. Putin many times, I assume.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  A few times, yes, sir.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And any impressions of him that you might convey?  Is he very smart, very tough?  Does he understand English?  Do you convey your thoughts to him in English or does he have an interpreter or —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I think he speaks English plenty well.  Look, he’s very clear about the things that are in Russia’s interest, the things they’re working on.  We had a strategic dialogue with them that we hope will build into something that handles a broad set of proliferation issues, not just nuclear proliferation issues but a broad array of proliferation issues.  We hope China will join that set of conversations.  We think today, in today’s world, these agreements need to have China be part of them.  And I hope that President Putin will support us, and I think he will.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  For the time being, would you say that there is any progress in Ukraine or anything related to Ukraine?  Is that something that’s just off the table right now in terms of the discussions?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So, we’re engaging with the new government in Ukraine.  They just finished up their parliamentary elections last week.  New president – I hope that that will engender a more creative set of ideas about how to resolve this problem.  The conflict in Ukraine is real.  They’re still fighting, not every day, but a lot.  It’s very real.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Crimea, do you think that’s not – never going to be returned to Ukraine, sadly?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The U.S. position is that is unacceptable.  Crimea must come back.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now – there are protests now in Russia about local elections.  And the leader of the protests is in jail, and there’s been reports that he’s been poisoned.  We don’t know if that’s accurate or not.  Do you have any comment on what’s going on there?  Is the United States protesting to the Russian Government about what’s occurring?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’ve read the reports.  I don’t have anything to add this morning.  I think everyone understands the U.S. position, right?  This goes for – you asked about Hong Kong earlier, Russia, all these places.  We always support freedom of expression, freedom to practice one’s religion, to live out one’s conscience.  We hope that for every citizen of the world.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  You were the head of the CIA at the beginning of this administration.  Do you have any doubt that the Russians interfered with our last presidential election?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Oh, none, none.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay, so have you conveyed —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  And the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one in 2018.  People forget, we’ve had an election since 2016.  I hear people say, “Oh, we have to protect 2020.”  Well the good people who ran in 2018 cared a lot about us protecting that one.  We did so very effectively, and we’ll do so again in 2020.  And it’s not – just a last thing – I just – I know this town, I know exactly what will get reported.  Just so you know, it ain’t just Russia.  That’s bad English; I’ll try and correct it.  There are more nations than just Russia who are attempting to undermine Western democracy.  That has been true since the founders created this great nation, and so we have to be ever-vigilant.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  There is legislation that’s passed the House, now in the Senate, to give more resources to keep the Russians from being able to do this again.  Is the administration supportive of the legislation which seems to be blocked right now in the Senate?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, I don’t know the details of the legislation.  I am convinced the State Department has all the resources it needs to perform its part of that function.  We have what we need.  We have the authorities we need; we have the money we need.  The burden is on me to execute that.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And have you communicated to Mr. Putin that we do not like what he’s done before, and he shouldn’t do it again?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  On a number of occasions.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And what’s his response?




SECRETARY POMPEO:  That’s a diplomatic term for “I hear you, brother.”


MR RUBENSTEIN:  So – okay.  He doesn’t admit anything, I assume, but okay.  So with respect to England, there’s a new prime minister.  You have met Boris Johnson before?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I have.  I met him when I was CIA director, and I believe he was foreign secretary at the time, when I met him.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Does the current Trump administration support a Brexit or would you prefer that there be a “remain?”  Or do you not take a position on that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I have confidence in the British people.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  Now, the British ambassador had to resign because his cables were leaked by somebody.  Do you tell your own ambassadors they should be a little bit more careful about what they say to you because somebody could leak what they’re writing?  Is that a worry?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Not at all, and if I did, they’d ignore me.  (Laughter.)


SECRETARY POMPEO:  I mean, right – they have a duty, they have responsibility.  Our task is for them to tell us what they’re seeing.  The power of the State Department is that we have these officers on the ground.  Many countries can do policy and think tanks, but we have people everyplace that when we want them to give us the granularity that you can only get with those interactions, then we expect that they’ll report them accurately, truthfully, candidly, and then our mission is to make sure they don’t end up in The Washington Post.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now in respect to Mexico, we have been concerned about people coming over the border.  Are you confident that the Mexican Government is now doing what it can to keep more people from not coming over the border?


MR RUBENSTEIN:  So they’re doing enough, you think, or you’re —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, it’s not enough.


SECRETARY POMPEO:  They still have a high side of 2,000 every day.  It’s unacceptable, and so they need to do more, we need to do more, Congress needs to change the rules.  We have to create a deterrence, right.  And it has to be the case that those who want to come here legally can and those who want to come by some other mechanism choose not to because they understand that they’re not going to find a way.  I remember this as a member of Congress.  People would call my office and say hey, we live in pick-a-country-around-the-world, and they’d say they want to come here and get citizenship, and – anyway, I won’t tell you the joke we told —


SECRETARY POMPEO:  — but the simplest way to do it would be go to Mexico and come on.  But what you want to encourage them to do is to file their paperwork, go through the lawful process —


SECRETARY POMPEO:  — become citizens.  We’re the most welcoming nation in the world.  We will always be.  But it’s not the case that we can be lawless or have our sovereignty broken through having this mass immigration in an unlawful mechanism.  It’s truly – there’s a national security risk very, very broadly speaking.

And so when I speak with my Mexican counterparts – I was in El Salvador last week speaking with my El Salvadorian counterpart who understands whose challenge it is.  It’s theirs, not ours.  We got to get this right.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  In Mexico and Canada, we have redone NAFTA and now USMCA, but Congress hasn’t passed it.  Are you worried that Congress might not pass that legislation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I hope they will.  I hope they will.  The President’s doing everything he can to create growth here in the United States of America, and USMCA would contribute to that substantially.  And so I hope they’ll pass it.  I’m out of the – I don’t do vote-counting anymore.  I did that for six years, and so I’m out.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Speaking of south of the border, Venezuela:  Would the U.S. ever send troops in if that was necessary to keep further violence from occurring there?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  See, you started trying to get me at the beginning, now you’re trying at the end.  The President has said pretty clearly we’re going to do all that it takes to make sure the Venezuelan people get democracy back, and that’s the mission set.  We’re closer today than we were several months ago, but in the end, we’ll do our part and the nations of the region – we’ve built out a great coalition from members of the OAS to what we call the Lima Group to 56 or 58 other countries who are joining us and who understand Maduro is not the duly elected president.  Progress every day.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, President Trump has sometimes tweeted things that are not favorable about some people working for him.  He’s never tweeted anything unfavorable about you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s early.  It’s early.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So what is the secret of your success in your relationship with the President?  You didn’t know him before he was elected, did you?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I did not.  I met him the day I interviewed to be CIA director, just after he was elected.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And who recommended you to be CIA director?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t know for sure.  I don’t know.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  You mean the CIA doesn’t have the ability to figure out who recommended you?  (Laughter.)  We should figure that out.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  David, you’d never believe that the CIA only does foreign espionage.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay, I got it.  Okay.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You – I’ve never been able to convince you of that.  But it’s true.  They only —

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  But somebody recommended you, you had an interview with them.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  I think the Vice President was likely the person who I had known and served with as a member of Congress.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  And did you say, “I like the CIA job but I’d like to be secretary of state,” or this came as a surprise to you?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Came as a complete surprise to me, I was – and I was honored to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  So some people say that you should run for the Senate from Kansas.  In fact, Mitch McConnell I think has twisted your arm a few times to do that.  Can you say definitively that you will not run?  The filing date is June of 2020.  You probably know.  So any —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I didn’t, but thank you for reminding me, yes.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay, okay.  So would you consider that or are you putting that off the table for a while or —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s off the table.  As a practical matter, I’m going to serve as Secretary of State every day that I get the chance to do so.  Look, we all serve at the pleasure of the President, as you talked about, that – Director Coats, who I have enormous respect for, will be leaving the administration soon.  He served nobly.  There’s a time for everyone, and I hope I get to do this for a while longer.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  My experience is that sometimes when people get close to a president, they see the job up close, they say, “Well, I can do that job too.”  Has that occurred to you that maybe you could do the job – (laughter) – and would you have any interest in running for president at some point in your life?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I try to answer this consistently:  I have never been able to predict what my next gig will be, and I suspect that’s the case with respect to this.  I will say this:  The service that I’ve had the chance to do – I’m almost 20 years now in federal service.  Eighteen years of federal service in my time in the Army and then in Congress and now in the Executive Branch.  It has been a blessing.  I hope I’ve left things a little bit better and I do feel an obligation.  America’s given me an awful lot, and if I thought I could do a good turn, there’s nothing I wouldn’t consider doing for America.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Right.  Okay.  Let’s suppose the President is re-elected.  Would you be willing to serve as Secretary of State for one, two, three, four years of a second term, or have you thought about that yet?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I haven’t thought about it yet.  Hard to know, hard to answer those questions.  The real question is:  Would the President still want Mike Pompeo as his secretary of state?

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  So when you have decisions with the President, meetings with him, is he best with oral communications, written communications?  What’s the process by which decisions are made?  Is it through the NSC or informal?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So there’s a very robust NSC process.  When I brief him myself, I always prefer to have a document.  It’s the way I prefer to receive information, so I almost always bring something – a one-page summary at the very least that says here’s the outline of what it is that I think are the priorities and how we should think about, how we should frame this particular problem.  And then the President does like to engage in oral exchanges, and I’ve found them to be elucidating for myself; I often learn things as well.  He’s very focused on where the money is and how we use economic leverage to achieve our diplomatic ends.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, except when Henry Kissinger was both secretary of state and national security advisor at the same, generally there’s been some tension between secretaries of state and national security advisors.  How is your relationship with John Bolton?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  I mean, look, there’s always tension among leaders of different organizations.  We come at these things from a different viewpoint.  Ambassador Bolton has his responsibility to try and make sure all the ideas are vetted and get to the President.  The Secretary of Treasury, the Secretary of Energy, the Intelligence Community each have their mission sets.  There’s – we have robust, lively debates.  I agree with each of them often and disagree with most of them sometimes.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So we have a few dozen ambassadors here.  What would you give them as insight as the best way to influence the President of the United States on foreign policy matters?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, deliver value.  It’s what I talk about every day.  It’s what you all do every day in your business.  It’s not about does he like Mike or does he like Al or Alice, it’s about did you show up with an informed, fact-based theory that can deliver the outcomes that are in the President’s commander’s intent.  If we do that, if we show up with the best answer, we’ll drive policy.  If we don’t, we’ll just be banging our gums.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, there are reports today that the new head of the central intelligence, or of the DNI, will be John Ratcliffe from Congress, who you served with in Congress.  Some people say he is too political for that position.  You’ve served in CIA; do you believe he is too political for that position?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, I know John some.  He was – his first term I think was my final term in Congress, so I know him reasonably well.  He’s very smart.  I’m very confident he’ll do a good job.  I remember people saying I’d be too political to be the CIA director too.  I hope that history will inform us all that that wasn’t the case, that I did my job, that I delivered on behalf of the American people in an appropriate way and didn’t allow politics to interfere with delivering important, timely, fact-based intelligence to the President of the United States.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So in your career, you were first in your class at West Point.  So how do you become first in your class at West Point?  That’s pretty tough.  I mean, what happened to all the other people who were second, third, and fourth?  Did they become – (laughter) – anything?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So one of them is the Secretary of Defense.  (Laughter.)  Right?  So he’s a classmate of mine as well.  I give him a hard time about our relative order of finish.  (Laughter.)  Yes.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  Now, you went to Harvard Law School.  Why did you abandon the practice of the law?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I had a great opportunity.  I was practicing law at Williams & Connolly here.  I had great partners I worked for.  I – unlike many, I actually enjoyed my time there.  I was older, that I had gone to law school a little bit later.  But I had a chance to start a business in Kansas with three of my best friends in the whole world.  And so we started a company that was a machine shop in Wichita, Kansas, and spent the next 15 years of my life.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And you once told me you were negotiating with somebody on the opposite side on that deal, and that person wound up to be your wife.  Is that —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s true.  It’s true.  She took my money twice.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  So what is the best part about being Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I love Susan, by the way.  We’re still married, and everything’s good.  Yeah.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  You had to say that, otherwise you would —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I did.  I have friends in the room who are texting her right now as well.  Yes.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  All right.  So the best part of being Secretary of State is what?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You get a chance to help ordinary Americans understand what we’re doing and try and deliver them an environment where fewer and fewer of their kids have to be in armed conflict.  That’s our mission set every day, to get American outcomes through diplomacy.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And what’s the worst part about being Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Haven’t figured that out yet.


SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’m enjoying every minute of what I’m doing.  I truly feel that I have been given this remarkable privilege to serve, and I’m trying to do my best to deliver on that every day.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  The State Department itself – are you involved with a lot of the Foreign Service officers?  Are you trying to encourage them to be more involved in the State Department, or how do you try to deal with the Foreign Service officers?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  Look, one of the things that I love doing is leading teams, leading organizations.  It’s what I loved when I was a platoon leader, when I ran Thayer Aerospace in Wichita, Kansas, and so when I came in the very beginning, we had deep plans for how to make the Foreign Service officers, our civil servants, our locally employed staff, better.  So we’ve got real training programs in the works.  We’ve developed what we call the ethos for the 21st century diplomat, each of which is aimed at making – these folks will be there long after I’m gone, many of them, right.  They came here before me, and they will be here after I’m gone.  I want to make sure that they have the opportunity to grow and learn and deliver on behalf of America in their space.  And so we have an obligation to take good care of them and to make sure they get the training and education they need as well.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  So let me just conclude – we’re out of time – I noticed you have very colorful socks on.  Is that part of your diplomatic —


MR RUBENSTEIN:  Are they symbolic of anything?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes, I bring a little bit of DOD with me every moment.  Yes, these are Army soldiers, toy soldiers.  It’s a bit of an inside joke and I have now like 40 pairs of these.  So, yes.  (Laughter.)

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Forty pairs?



SECRETARY POMPEO:  I have friends from all across the world who sent them after the first photo with – it was a picture of when I was with my North Korean counterpart with these, and everybody thought it was funny.  So —

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Now, you’re leaving when, the United States?  You’re leaving tomorrow?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I leave tomorrow midday for Bangkok.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  And how do you deal with jet lag when you’re Secretary of State?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Just keep going.  (Laughter.)  You all travel.  Everybody travels a lot.  I just – I’m pretty fortunate I can sleep just about anywhere, get a couple hours’ sleep, and be ready to get on.  I – it doesn’t bother me.

MR RUBENSTEIN:  Okay.  So thank you very much for your service, and thank you very much for coming here today.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future