QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: Sir, you’re going to speak to the American Legion today. Their concerns are about North Korea and Russia and China, the things that you work on. What will you tell these fine veterans?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, a couple things. First, I want to thank them all for their service. As someone who had the opportunity to serve for a little while on active duty as a U.S. Army soldier, I want to thank them for what they’ve done for America.
Then I want to talk to them about President Trump and how we’re keeping America safe in every one of those theaters you talked about, whether it’s Iran or North Korea, all the things that we’re doing. We took over in a place where there were lots of risks, and I am very confident the American people are more safe, more secure today as a result of what President Trump and I have been trying to achieve.
QUESTION: How are you hoping to calm the issues, such as in Iran – we just saw some Israeli fighter jets the other day – and the issues with Syria? This is the state that after 9/11 sent the largest deployment of National Guardsmen to help those efforts. Hoosier families, as you can imagine, are very patriotic, just like in Kansas. Right, we’ve very patriotic.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely.
QUESTION: But they’re concerned about war. So what are you doing to make sure that we sort of scale down those heated areas?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re concerned about it, too. When we came in, the Middle East was in a mess. The world’s largest state sponsor of terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran, was on the march. It had money; it had resources, it had – frankly, someone in the United States had cut a deal with it that was going to permit them to get a nuclear weapon. And we’ve reversed all of that.
In the Middle East, President Trump has defeated the caliphate in Syria, took down that threat. We remember – people – Indiana Hoosiers will remember those pictures of men in cages, people having their heads cut off. That was the caliphate, and that caliphate no longer exists. The risk of terror remains. There’s still a lot of work to do. But we have put in place a set of policies that reduce risk and create real security for the America people.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Hoosier farmers are anxious because of the tariff war we’re having with China, and they want to be able to sell their corn and their soybean, but they’re concerned. What do you tell them, as they wonder what’s going to happen? Because they’re getting nervous. They are nervous.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So any time there’s difficulty, anybody – any time there’s a job loss or someone’s got a little bit harder time on their farm, President Trump regrets that. But we came in with a China that was on the rise. I come from Kansas. I watched for half a decade – when I served as a member of Congress, I watched China have closed markets, deny our access to our products, our good, quality, high-end wheat and corn and soybeans, all the things we make in the heartland here. President Trump is doing his best to reverse that. And I’m confident – I’m confident we’ll get to a place where China will once again recognize the great value that is delivered by American farmers and continue to purchase the goods from right here in places like Indiana.
QUESTION: You can’t rush diplomacy, but is there a timeline? Because as you know, farmers can’t wait till 2020 or 2021. So as you do your work behind the scenes – I know you can’t talk about that because it’s, right, what you do – but is there a timetable so that farmers can say, okay, by next March or next May, or maybe even this November, something will happen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump’s focused on making it happen as quickly as possible. I think there’s been real progress made, but I don’t want to set a timeline. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as Secretary of State, these things sometimes are complicated. There’s bumpy roads. But I’ve watched our team. We are focused on this. We have to get China to allow reciprocal trade so that not only the farmers’ products but the intellectual property that underlays them, all of the processes that create value from Indiana farmers – all those things need to be protected from Chinese aggression and Chinese theft.
And for too long – and this isn’t political – it’s been presidents of Republican and Democratic administrations alike, allowed China to treat our farmers, to treat our manufacturers in places like Indiana and places like Kansas, treat them inappropriate and unfairly, and we’re working to fix that.
QUESTION: There is a deal with the United States – with Mexico and Canada, a new trade deal, but that has not been ratified by Congress yet. Do you get to at least encourage your former members of Congress to move that along? Because, again, Hoosier farmers —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I do.
QUESTION: — are saying, “Hey, we need something here.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, it’s a great point. Look, I’m optimistic on this one. The team did a good job negotiating a great deal. It’ll be a great deal for American workers; it’ll be a good deal for Mexican and Canadian workers as well. Congress comes back into session right after Labor Day. I will be working diligently over the days and weeks that follow to convince every member of Congress – House members, senators alike – to support that. That’ll be good for American workers, good for American farmers, and, frankly, good for global trade as well.
QUESTION: We are heading into an election year. You know that, right? Election year’s coming up. Russian interference is a concern. How are you dealing with that? There’s talk that Russia and other bodies, China, will try to interfere with the electoral process. Is that a priority? Because for many Hoosier voters, they’re thinking what’s going to happen here; are we going to have interference yet again?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s a real priority. It was a real priority when the administration came in, right. So we’ve already had one even-year election, in 2018. We did work preventing that election from being impacted in 2018, and we intend to do the same thing in 2020. It’s true. There are multiple nations, frankly some non-state actors, terrorist groups, that want to mess around with American elections. Our FBI, our Department of Homeland Security, the work that we do at the State Department, is all aimed at ensuring that state and local election officials can run free and fair elections that are transparent. And we continue to have the robust debate and a set of elections that everyone understands were fair and not interfered with.
QUESTION: So do we need more funding on this? Do we need more speeches? What do you think will answer it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I actually think the resources are available. I don’t think we need more funding. Maybe at the margins there’s some things, but I’ve found every time we began to work on this problem set that Congress was fully capable of underwriting and supporting the efforts that we’ve made. It’s a bipartisan consensus to make sure that these elections are free and fair and not interfered with.
QUESTION: Will the President meet with Iran, you think? He talked about the G7 France wants to have. And I think – I know you can’t speak to things that happen behind the scenes, but are you hopeful that there’ll be a meeting with Iran to come to some sort of agreement?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In the end, the Islamic Republic of Iran has got to make a decision. President Trump has said he’ll meet with them. They’ve got to make a decision about whether they are intent on developing a nuclear weapons program and a missile program and continuing to conduct terror in places like the United States and Europe. There’s an assassination campaign underway in Europe. Iran’s got to make that decision. We hope that they will. When they do, we’re prepared to negotiate a deal. And then Iran and its people can become a normal nation once again.
QUESTION: Sir, I want to thank you for your time. I also want to thank you for your service, because I know you served in the Army. So welcome to Indianapolis and thank you for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. It’s great to be with you, sir. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you. Appreciate you as well. Thank you.