QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, appreciate a few minutes. Before we get to a lot of good things that are happening for you, I’ve got to ask about the chaos this week. The vote yesterday, obviously, condemning some tweets from the President. You’ve been in Congress; you’re now on the other side of the fence, so to speak, as the Secretary of State. Looking at this from a bird’s-eye view, what do you make of it? What are you seeing?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The truth is that that was a pretty busy day yesterday and I didn’t follow it nearly as closely as it sounds like you may have. My hope is that everyone, every member of Congress, focuses on the important things. There’s lots of work to do. I’m engaged in it each and every day, and I hope they too will turn to the truly substantive, important matters that I know every Kansan and every American truly cares about.
QUESTION: Well, Mr. Secretary, you were obviously involved as you mentioned with a very busy day yesterday. The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, you gave some opening remarks yesterday morning as well. For people that are not familiar with the event and everything that this entails, religious freedom’s important to a lot of people in this country, a lot of our listeners as well. What is this event about and what do you try to accomplish through it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Pete, a couple things. This had never been done before President Trump came to office. President Trump and I both believe that this is truly fundamental. I think sometimes Americans, Kansans take for granted the fact that we can worship in the way we want, or if we choose not to worship we don’t have to. Our right to exercise our conscience is truly a liberty that we have here in the United States, and sometimes we take it for granted.
So here at the State Department this week we’ll have over a thousand leaders from all across the world, of every faith, coming together to talk about this most basic right. Without the right to exercise your conscience and your religious beliefs, all the other rights – free speech, everything – is lost if you can’t do that. So we’ll bring these leaders in and we’ll talk about how to make that fuller and broader here inside of our country, but importantly, all around the world as well where Christians and people of other faiths are being persecuted or denied their capacity to exercise this most important freedom.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joining us here on 710 KCMO and 103.7 FM. Mr. Secretary, you have a trip planned for later this week. You’re going to be hitting some countries in Central America that obviously ties back to everything on the border as well, the immigration crisis that this country is facing right now. What are your goals on this trip and how do they tie in to hopefully stemming the tide of illegal immigration that we are seeing across the southern border?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the trip has a number of purposes, but your point is well taken. One of them is to talk to a number of countries. I’ll be in El Salvador and then I’ll be in Mexico to talk to a number of countries about America’s duty to ensure its own sovereignty and to keep our southern border secure. We want lawful, legal immigration. President Trump has talked about that a great deal. But we today have a crisis on our southern border with people coming across illegally and we need assistance – this is where the Secretary of State comes in – we need these countries to take actions inside of their own country so that our ICE and CBP agents on our southern border don’t have to do all that work.
We’ve made some progress. Mexico has made some progress. They’re doing better. But when I travel to the Northern Triangle and indeed when I’m in South America this week, I want to talk about the importance of each of these countries taking on their responsibility to ensure that the United States problem on its southern border is mitigated.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there’s been a lot of debate over whether or not we need to add more funding to these countries. Where does that factor into the equation for you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, Pete, it’s the case that for years and years and years we’ve provided hundreds of millions of dollars – taxpayer, U.S. taxpayer dollars – to these countries and it, as you can see, hasn’t delivered the outcome we’re looking for with respect to American security and security along our southern border. So President Trump’s made the decision that, with respect to the three countries in the Northern Triangle, we would turn off that assistance and frankly demand that they do the things that they’re capable of doing. They’ve now expressed some willingness. We need to work alongside them to deliver on this outcome. It is imperative that this crisis on our southern border be resolved in a way that ensures that folks who are going back and forth from Mexico with commercial goods can make it through efficiently, those who are moving through there lawfully can do so, but those whom the United States has – that are not permitted to come in legally can’t do so.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is joining us on 710 KCMO and 103.7 FM. You also said in regards to Iran on Tuesday, Mr. Secretary, that for the first time the Iranian officials are ready to negotiate on their missile program. How confident are you that those words and these negotiations can actually lead to something set in stone, so to speak?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In the end, this will be up to the leadership, the ayatollah inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. He’s got to make the decision that rather than continue to be ostracized, continue to be a rogue nation, rather than being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, rather than continuing to threaten the globe with their nuclear weapons, missiles, and nuclear arms, rather than engage in all that behavior, to just become a normal country and rejoin the community of nations.
We hope that’s the decision that they make, and if they make that decision, President Trump has said we’re prepared to sit down with them and talk about how to make that transition and get there. Ultimately, we’ve committed to meeting with them with no preconditions. We hope they’ll do the same and then, in the end, they’ll make the right decision to not behave in that way. If they do, everything will be great, and if not, we’ll head down a different path.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is our guest. Mr. Secretary, you’re not naive to the rumors that are still out there that there may be some interest in you – well, there is interest in you getting into the Kansas Senate race to replace Pat Roberts. You have said before, zero interest. How, if at all, has that changed over the past couple of months?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I do see this from time to time. There is a lot more people talking about this and spending time on it than Susan and I are spending time thinking about it. Look, we love Kansas but I am very focused on my mission serving America and President Trump as the Secretary of State. That’s my mission and as I think I’ve said a couple of times, I intend to do this so long as President Trump wants me to be engaged in this activity.
QUESTION: And when you look at the field right now, the big name in there is Chris Kobach getting in last week. How do the candidates – would you support somebody back here if you decide to stay in your role there? I mean, how would you look at this race from afar if you are going to hang around for the long term in the State Department?
SECRETARY POMPEO: As the Secretary of State, I’ll have no role in Kansas politics. Good people – I have good faith in the people of Kansas to make a good decision about who their next senator will be.
QUESTION: All right, all right. Nothing can sway you then either way, huh? Nothing at all?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I – the – I would have never dreamed that I’d be the Secretary of State even a year before I became the director of the CIA, a year before that. And so I always leave open the possibility that something will change and my path in life will change too, but my mission set —
SECRETARY POMPEO: — is really very clear.
QUESTION: And what do you have? I know the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom continues today, so what do you guys have going on today there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there’s a whole bunch of great, great things taking place, so I hope people will come to our website – it’s state.gov – and take a look. We post almost all of it online. You’ll see human beings that suffered horrific religious persecution and then persevered and made their countries better, stronger, more religiously free. You’ll see a group of people talking about how Christians who are being persecuted throughout the Middle East can work together to develop better outcomes so that Christianity can remain in some of these places where it was grounded and it has these historic roots. You’ll see talk about the risk in Asia from decisions the Chinese leadership have made about how they’re persecuting Muslims, Uighurs, in the western part of their country. These are powerful stories about making sure that each human lives in the conditions where they can practice their faith in the way that they choose to.
I hope people will engage. It’ll be a wonderful day here at the State Department, and I’m confident that in the year that follows this ministerial, we’ll continue to make progress on this issue that I know is important to so many Kansans.
QUESTION: Absolutely. Well, it’s a great event. I’m looking at the schedule right now. Jam-packed three days. You can see it on state.gov. Mr. Secretary, always great to have you back on here in Kansas City. Appreciate your time. And good luck with that trip this week.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Pete. Bless you. So long.