Interview With Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Joining me now live from the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, Chris. Great to be with you today.
QUESTION: You’re reimposing, as we said, all U.S. sanctions on Iran, but you’re giving exemptions to eight countries to allow them to keep buying oil from Tehran. Question: Why?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, the sanctions that will be reimposed tomorrow are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran. They’re aimed at a singular purpose: denying the world’s largest state sponsor of terror the capacity to do things like they did this past couple weeks, attempt an assassination campaign in the heart of Europe. These sanctions have already had an enormous impact. We’ve already reduced Iranian crude oil exports by over a million barrels per day. That number will fall farther. There’s a handful of places where countries have – that have already made significant reductions in their crude oil exports need a little bit more time to get to zero, and we’re going to provide that to them.
QUESTION: Is it true that you’re giving exemptions to two of Iran’s biggest customers, namely India and China? And do you have a firm commitment that within six months they will stop all oil purchases? Because there are a lot of experts who believe that India and China are never going to stop buying oil from Iran.
QUESTION: There are a lot of experts, Chris, that said President Trump’s policy wouldn’t have any impact because it was just the United States and other countries weren’t participating. And in fact, we have built an enormous coalition to keep this world safe and to deny Iran money. I am very confident that the sanctions that will be reimposed this Monday – not only the crude oil sanctions but the financial sanctions that are being put in place by the Treasury Department and over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran – will have the intended effect to alter the Iranian regime’s behavior. That’s our expectation. It’s the reason for President Trump’s policy.
QUESTION: But specifically, sir, do you have a firm commitment from India and China that they will stop all oil purchases from Iran in six months?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, watch what we do. Watch as we’ve already taken more crude oil off the market than any time in previous history. Watch the efforts that President Trump’s policies have achieved. And we’ve done all of this too, Chris, while making sure that American consumers don’t suffer. We’ve got Brent crude at about the same price it was back in May when the President announced the withdrawal from the JCPOA. That’s important for American consumers, and the march to zero continues.
QUESTION: You’re talking about how effective these reimposition of sanctions are. But as you well know, there are some people who are criticizing the sanctions you’re reimposing and saying they’re not tough enough. And let me put this up on the screen. Republican senators – Republican Senators Cruz, Cotton, and Rubio – plan to introduce legislation to cut off Iranian banks from the global financial network known as SWIFT. And a group called United Against Nuclear Iran tweeted this about your sanctions: “Whatever happened to maximum pressure? They caved. Big time.”
Mr. Secretary, your response?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, the President’s policy of maximum pressure will be fully in place come tomorrow. Watch the Iranians. That’s who really understands the importance and the impact of the efforts that we’re undertaking. The rial has fallen to 140,000 rial to the dollar, has had an enormous impact already, and we are working diligently to make sure we support the Iranian people and that we direct our activity towards ensuring that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign behavior is changed. That’s the goal, that’s the mission, and that’s what we will achieve on behalf of the President.
QUESTION: But how do you respond, for instance, to the senators who are saying look, we should have cut them off from SWIFT, which is this big --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris --
QUESTION: -- financial --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, Chris --
QUESTION: -- clearinghouse?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, the Iranian banks that engage in sanctionable behavior will be sanctioned by the Department of Treasury, period, full stop.
QUESTION: And I understand what you’re saying. On the other hand --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good. That’s great, Chris.
QUESTION: If I may, sir, you’ve got Senators Cotton, Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio – they’re pretty knowledgeable on the subject. They’re not persuaded.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, I worked with Senator Cotton. We were the two individuals that discovered the side deals now almost three years ago to the JCPOA, these secret side deals. I’ve been at this a long time. No one’s going to argue that Secretary Pompeo isn’t tough on Iran, and no one is going to argue that President Trump isn’t doing the same.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, let’s turn to another one of your hotspots you’re dealing with. North Korea is now threatening to resume its nuclear buildup because they say that the U.S. has not matched them in offering concessions, in this case lifting economic sanctions. They say that they’ve made concession and the Trump administration has not followed suit.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, I’ll be meeting this week in New York City with my counterpart Kim Yong-chol. We’ll have a good opportunity to continue the denuclearization discussions that were set out just a few months back. It seems like a long time ago in news world, but it was just this past June when President Trump and Chairman Kim met and set us on the path that we’re on today. We haven’t had any missile tests. There have been no nuclear tests. We’ve had the returns of American remains. These are all good steps. We’re continuing to negotiate with the North Koreans to achieve what President Trump set out: the full denuclearization verified by the United States of the Korean Peninsula, and then a brighter future for the North Korean people.
QUESTION: But to follow up specifically, what’s your reaction to the foreign ministry of North Korea saying – threatening that they are going to resume nuclear activity? What’s, one, your reaction to that? And two, is there any possibility that to get them to stop that that the U.S. will change its policy and start offering concessions on a kind of tit-for-tat basis, a phased effort by both countries?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, I’m not worried about rhetoric. We’ve seen this as we go through negotiations. Stray voltage happens to be all around us, and we’re very focused. We know with whom we’re negotiating. We know what their positions are. And President Trump has made his position very clear: no economic relief until we have achieved our ultimate objective.
QUESTION: Let’s turn to Saudi Arabia. You met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about three weeks ago about the death of Jamal Khashoggi, and here’s what you said after your meeting with the crown prince: “They told me they were going to conduct a thorough, complete, transparent investigation. They made a commitment, too, to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that, whether they are a senior officer or official.”
QUESTION: But since then, I don’t have to tell you, the Saudi story has kept changing. Do you now think that the Saudi crown prince lied both to you and to President Trump with what he told you back then? Based on all the evidence that you have gotten since, including the tapes that CIA Director Gina Haspel has heard, do you now believe that this was a premeditated hit by the Saudi royal family against Khashoggi?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, the Saudis have acknowledged that this was a premeditated attack. The facts that we’re finding still are unfolding. We’re still working diligently on that. We talk with folks from Turkey, from Saudi Arabia nearly every day to continue those efforts.
We’ve begun to hold some officials accountable. We’ve revoked visas from 16 individuals that we have been able to identify so far that were, in fact, connected to that. We’ll continue to do that.
And as I said that day when I returned, we will hold all of those responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi accountable. And we will do that, Chris, at the same time while ensuring that the strategic relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – one that has a great impact on the issue we just spoke about, the capacity to deny the world’s largest state sponsor of terror the ability to threaten America and Israel – we will continue to work to maintain that important strategic relationship while holding accountable those responsible for this atrocious death.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, you and Defense Secretary Mattis this week called for negotiations and a ceasefire within 30 days between the U.S.-backed Saudi forces and the rebels that are fighting in a war inside Yemen. There are reports that up to 16,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed in this conflict and that around 14 million Yemenis are now on the brink if not already in famine conditions.
Two questions. First of all, are you comfortable with the role that the U.S. has played in backing Saudi Arabia in this effort in Yemen? And secondly, if the humanitarian crisis is so urgent, why allow this to continue for another month, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, we did make a statement this week, Secretary Mattis and I. Frankly, it’s nothing new. We have been urging all the parties to come to the table and recognize that there’s no military victory that can be achieved in Yemen. We’ve asked the Iranians to do that too, Chris. Much of the harm that is taking place there comes from the fact the Iranians continue to supply weapons and missiles to the Houthi rebels that are fighting there in Saudi Arabia. They are responsible for the starvation in Yemen as well.
We want all the parties, under Martin Griffiths of the UN, to come to the table, negotiate a solution that ends the very difficult, tragic situation that’s taking place in Yemen today.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Chris.
QUESTION: Thanks for your time. It’s always good to talk with you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir. Have a good day.