Interview With Shannon Bream of Fox News Channel

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem
March 21, 2019

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Shannon, it’s great to be with you.

QUESTION: We're going to talk about your important work in the region there because there are so many things hanging in the balance. But I want to start with the news out of Venezuela overnight that there were raids involving Juan Guaido's chief of staff. There are claims that guns were planted at his residence, that he's been taken into custody. You tweeted on this earlier this morning saying: The U.S. condemns raids by Maduro's security services and detention of Robert Marerro, chief of staff to Interim President Guiado. We call for his immediate release. We will hold accountable those involved. In what way?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So Shannon, we think we understand how this went down and we think we understand those who were involved. We will make sure that the world knows who those people were. We will do all that we can to hold those specific individuals who engage in this conduct that is so deeply antithetical to what the Venezuelan people have demanded, the democracy that we demand in Venezuela. We will do all that we can to hold the individuals accountable, those who conducted this activity, and those who ordered it.

QUESTION: Are you worried at all about a tipping point or loss of momentum there in Venezuela as the people are in horrific conditions as we know, and the accounts, the pictures have gotten out to the rest of the world, but there are those who look and remember the Green Revolution in Iran and have worries about where this is going. What are your concerns?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the Trump administration has behaved precisely the opposite of the way that the Obama administration behaved during the green effort in Iran. Instead of shunning the people, we have supported them. Instead of denying the rights of the people of Iran, we’re supporting the rights of the people of Venezuela. We’re committed to this; we’re going to stay the course. There are multiple elements to this effort. There’s the political element, there’s the economic element. We are desperately trying to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Venezuela. We are committed to helping Venezuela, the region, deny Maduro the opportunity to engage in this thuggish behavior that has been so harmful to ordinary Venezuelans. We’re determined to achieve this outcome, and we’re optimistic that we can get there.

QUESTION: Well, speaking of the Obama administration, former Vice President Joe Biden obviously toying heavily with a 2020 run. He has also been meeting with world leaders and talking about that. Politico has this. They're headline is, "World leaders tell Biden: We need you," citing Biden's long foreign policy track record and long-time commitment to the transatlantic alliance. Some of the leaders echoing views from across the continent told Biden that his return to the White House would be a sure way to restore Western alliances that President Donald Trump has dramatically fractured. Your response.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, that’s ridiculous on its face. I suppose it’s just some campaign rhetoric that we’ll continue to hear about. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. Look at the coalitions that this administration’s built out. We have engaged in North Korea with the toughest sanctions, global sanctions that come from every member of the UN Security Council, while also having the most successful diplomatic effort in North Korea. We’ve done them both. We’ve built out a coalition against ISIS of over 80 countries that is now hours or days away from the destruction of the caliphate. We’ve built out a coalition of 60 countries that showed up in Warsaw to push back against the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, a threat that the previous administration simply ignored. Indeed, the vice president’s administration put Iran on a path which almost guaranteed them a clear path to a nuclear weapon system.

No, indeed, the work that I’m doing – in fact tomorrow, on my travels to Lebanon, pushing back against Hizballah – is cleaning up for what the previous administration failed to do.

QUESTION: Well, and I know that you've said there that you want to talk to leaders in the government and assure them that there are ways that you say that they can be extricated from the threats of Iran and Hizballah, but of course, Hizballah is a key, major player there. I mean, they are, obviously, heavily intertwined with all the inner workings of Lebanon. So how do you propose to change that equation?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Shannon, they most certainly are. Your statement of the facts is accurate. But this effort is important. It’s important to the place that I’m sitting today here in Jerusalem, in Israel; it’s important to the United States; it’s part of our effort against Iran. We’re going to talk to the Lebanese Government about how it is that they can extricate themselves from this problem and the risks, the risk of permitting Hizballah’s missiles in southern Lebanon, the risks of having Hizballah intertwined in the government, the risks that it presents to the Lebanese people.

Shannon, you know Beirut is a wonderful city and Lebanon is a once-rich nation. We’re hoping to restore that. The Lebanese people deserve that, and we want them to know that America is prepared to support that effort and help them disentangle and disengage from the terrorist organization Hizballah.

QUESTION: And it seems like the goal there, the key aim that you have throughout the region – Kuwait, Israel, Lebanon, all of your visits – is to talk about and push back the influence and the threats of Iran in that area, and part of that conversation we’re hearing is potentially designating some militias, the Iran Revolutionary Guard, and others as terrorist organizations. There’s been some pushback on that. The New York Times reporting this, saying: Under plans recommended by Mr. Pompeo and some White House officials, the State Department would designate Iran’s military, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a foreign terrorist organization. It would be a first instance of the U.S. designating a unit of another government’s military as a terrorist group. American officials said it could put U.S. troops and intelligence officers at risk of similar actions by foreign governments. The New York Times also says there are those within the Pentagon and the CIA, which you used to lead, who don’t think it’s a great idea. What do you say?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m not going to get ahead of a U.S. Government decision on any particular designation, and I also, Shannon, don’t intend to respond to every New York Times article. But know this: As we think about the effort to push back against Iran, you’ve seen us now designate militias inside of Iraq. You’ve seen us designate senior leaders inside the IRGC. You’ve seen us designate financial institutions, financial agents engaged in moving illicit money in support of the Houthis, in support of Hamas, in support of Hizballah. This administration has taken serious efforts across a broad range of threats, a broad range of efforts to Iran to extend its reach. We’ll continue to do that in evaluating whether or not to sanction a particular Iranian entity. It’s something that we work on each and every day.

QUESTION: And clearly, you’re there in Israel meeting with the prime minister, you visited the Western Wall together, you are spending a lot of time together talking about the Iranian threat among other things. There are questions about where the peace process goes in moving forward. Somebody who’s officially in in 2020 race is former congressman Beto O’Rourke. Here’s what he has had to say about these negotiations.

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So Mr. Secretary, you hear his assessment, his description of how he views Israel’s prime minister. And I want to note something from Saeb Erekat, who we met with there also, the Palestinian’s chief negotiator, who says that this administration is not helping. He says: For more than two years President Donald Trump’s Middle East team has not managed to propose a single initiative to get us closer to peace. Instead, it’s taken a number of steps that have significantly worsened the situation on the ground. Your response?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So both Erekat and Beto, who I don’t consider a Middle East scholar by any stretch of the imagination, they just have it backwards. This administration has created the conditions which ultimately may well get us to a place where we can achieve the very peace that everyone in the world wants, a better life for the Palestinian people, a better life and less conflict risk between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The President’s decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem was a fundamental part of that. It creates the conditions, realistic expectations for all of the parties involved so that one day, when we unveil our vision for what the Middle East plan might well look like, each of the parties has a fair shot with real facts and real data, and can consider whether this indeed is a step forward for them and for their people.

QUESTION: Secretary Mike Pompeo from Jerusalem. Thank you for your time and safe travels, sir.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Shannon, thank you very much, ma’am.