SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome.
First, a few notes on travel: I had a very productive trip to Southeast Asia a week or so ago. And then I’ll be heading out again on Friday of this week, this time to France, to Turkey, to Georgia, Israel, Qatar, the UAE, and to Saudi Arabia.
The conversations will differ obviously in each country – many different things to cover. But I’m sure many will focus on this administration’s historic efforts to forge peace and cooperation throughout the Middle East.
That leads me to my “big theme” today:
The Trump administration has had enormous success in marshalling coalitions of like-minded nations for the good of America and for the entire world.
As one example: Just three weeks ago, we continued our unprecedented defense of the unborn by signing the Geneva Consensus Declaration alongside 32 other nations.
I’m especially proud that we’ve made religious freedom a top priority in the United States foreign policy for the first time in America’s history. Our efforts are gaining momentum; we’re building.
They’re getting a momentum that is all their own. On November 16th and 17th, Poland will host the third Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom or Belief.
This virtual event on the heels of the 2018, 2019 ministerials, which were hosted here in Washington at the State Department, are the largest human rights events ever held here at the State Department.
Albania, Morocco, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, and Colombia have all held follow-on events as well.
And the International Freedom or Belief Alliance that I launched in February of this year now has blossomed into 31 member states and growing. Next week, I’ll have a very special opportunity to participate in a virtual alliance ministers meeting to solidify our plans for future action in the religious freedom space.
We’re building out coalitions too that share our values in the economic sphere.
In recent weeks, Under Secretary Keith Krach has traveled to more than a dozen countries to bring freedom-loving countries and companies together in the Clean Network – a group that pledges to use only trusted vendors in their 5G networks.
I’m happy to announce we now have almost 50 Clean Countries today, representing nearly 23 – nearly two thirds of the world’s GDP, 170 telephone companies, telcos, have agreed to be clean, and many of the world’s leading companies are onboard.
It includes 27 of 30 NATO allies, 31 of 37 OECD members, 26 of 27 EU members, and 11 of 12 of the Three Seas nations.
Under Secretary Keith Krach is now down in South America. He’s discussing the Clean Network with government officials and private sector leaders in Brazil. And in fact, I got the news within the last hour that the Government of Brazil supports the Clean Network principles, and I’m confident we’ll sign an MOU in the very near future. Want to thank Brazil and its leadership for doing that.
We’re also standing alongside our Brazilian partners to protect the environment with the U.S.-Brazil Environmental Framework Dialogue that was held earlier today. The United States and Brazil are about real results when it comes to protecting the environment and growing our economies, not empty rhetoric.
Under Secretary Krach also led the first ever Japan-U.S.-Brazil Trilateral Exchange, which will advance democracies’ ability to prosper together as sovereign and independent states.
Talk about Asia for just a minute: I’m pleased to announce that on the 20th of this month, Under Secretary Krach will lead our Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue with Taiwan under the auspices of the American Institute of Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office here in the United States.
The dialogue signifies that our economic relationship with Taiwan – a vibrant democracy and a reliable partner – is strong and growing. It will help increase cooperation on everything from safe and secure supply chains, to the Clean and 5G security, to health security, and to more.
Turning to another State Department bureau, building out coalitions of the like-minded:
Last week, the Bureau of Energy Resources, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Fannon, convened a virtual meeting of the Energy Resource Governance Initiative. Twenty countries attended, working for secure, resilient, diverse, and well-governed critical energy mineral and supply chains.
And we’re proud to participate in the 35th annual Joint Economic Development Group meeting with Israel later this week.
The Trump administration has exerted American leadership in unprecedented ways in multilateral institutions, too.
Just as we helped protect the intellectual property rights by ensuring that the World Intellectual Property Organization is run by an individual who respects property rights, last week the United States helped ensure that the United Nations stewards its finances responsibly.
I’m happy to report that an American with 40 years of administrative and budget experience will be placed in the UN system, having won a seat on the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big deal.
This advisory body shapes the UN’s regular budget and its peacekeeping budget. It’s nearly $10 billion a year, with more than 2 billion coming from the United States alone.
Our diplomats made the case to our allies and partners on why having an American voice on this committee for the first time in an awfully long time is crucial to ensuring the money is spent responsibly.
I want to congratulate Donna-Marie.
American leadership also continues on the counterterrorism front.
Today the United States and Nigeria are co-hosting a virtual meeting with members of the Global Coalition focused on countering the threat of ISIS and its worldwide branches, including West Africa, and to supporting ongoing international efforts throughout the region.
And in the Middle East, just last week, the United States sanctioned former Lebanese Government minister Gebran Bassil under Global Magnitsky authorities for his role in corruption.
The Lebanese people clearly want their corrupt political class – so much of it beholden to Hizballah – to stop ruining their country.
Our action shows that American people stand with the Lebanese people as they call for their political leaders to chart a new direction marked by reforms, transparency, and honest governance.
And on Iran, our efforts to protect the American people from the regime in Tehran will not cease. Today, the Treasury Department sanctioned an international network of companies and individuals that procured electronic components for a sanctioned Iranian military firm. I think it’s clear by now that those who do business with Iran’s military and proliferation-sensitive industries are risking the exact same punishment.
In Europe, the United States welcomes the EU’s adoption of guidelines for third-state participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation projects. Opening the door to U.S. participation in EU defense initiatives will strengthen NATO-EU cooperation as well, and very importantly, interoperability.
We look forward to completing an Administrative Arrangement with the European Defense Agency to ensure broad U.S. participation inside of PESCO.
Closer to home, our prayers are with the people of the region as they recover and rebuild from Hurricane Eta’s horrible devastation. The United States Government is proud to have provided assistance already to our friends in Central America.
And proud to support the Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru as these governments work together to address illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.
We are very concerned that the Chinese IUU activity, this unregulated fishing, took place off the coast of Ecuador, as it has elsewhere in the world. I was with the Ecuadorian foreign minister. He and I both agree that this must stop.
On Bolivia, President Trump was pleased to send a delegation headed by Treasury Under Secretary Brett McIntosh for the inauguration of President Luis Arce on November 8th. I also spoke to the president-elect last week to congratulate him on his historic victory.
We also congratulate the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on their successful election last week.
And we continue to seek similar free and fair elections in Venezuela and in Nicaragua.
There’s also plenty of news, before I close, on the human rights front.
Yesterday, the State Department sanctioned four senior Chinese Communist Party officials and Hong Kong police who have undermined Hong Kong’s promised autonomy and crushed the freedoms of its people.
We will continue to challenge actions by the CCP and its Hong Kong proxies who stifle democracy and basic freedoms.
On Monday, in Syria, we unleashed the fifth tranche of Caesar Act designations on Bashar al-Assad and his regime. And the United States commends the EU for taking similar actions to sanction individuals responsible for prolonging the horrific conflict inside of Syria.
We will continue to coordinate with our EU and likeminded partners to promote accountability for the regime there and the atrocities it has committed against the Syrian people.
In Geneva yesterday, the United States presented our national report on the U.S. commitment to domestic human rights at the UN Universal Periodic Review. I’m very proud of the work we did. Our remarkable, vibrant democracy provides for the greatest freedoms and protection of human rights anywhere in the world.
The brutal regimes shouting the loudest about our record have the most to hide about their abysmal treatment of their own people.
And with that, I’m happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.
QUESTION: Is the State Department currently preparing to engage with the Biden transition team? And if not, at what point does a delay hamper a smooth transition or pose a risk to national security?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration. Right. We’re ready. The world is watching what’s taking place here. We’re going to count all the votes. When the process is complete, there’ll be electors selected. There’s a process. The Constitution lays it out pretty clearly. The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with the president who’s in office on January 20th, a minute after noon, will also be successful. I went through a transition on the front end. I’ve been on the other side of this. I’m very confident that we will do all the things that are necessary to make sure that the government, the United States Government, will continue to perform its national security function as we go forward.
QUESTION: So you believe there’s widespread voter fraud, that the reports that we’re getting from Pennsylvania, from Michigan showing vote totals in massive leads or significant leads with 99 percent reporting are going to be overturned, and that the United States failed to conduct a fraudulent-free election?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Rich, I’m the Secretary of State. I’m getting calls from all across the world. These people are watching our election. They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time. Right? It took us 37-plus days in an election back in 2000. We conducted a successful transition then. I’m very confident that we will count – and we must count – every legal vote. We must make sure that any vote that wasn’t lawful ought not be counted. That dilutes your vote if it’s done improperly. We got to get that right. And when we get it right, we’ll get it right. We’re in good shape.
QUESTION: Should foreign leaders not be calling President-elect Biden?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re in good shape.
MR BROWN: (Inaudible) next.
QUESTION: Hiba Nasr, Asharq News. I want to ask you —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can barely hear you, ma’am. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah, Hiba Nasr, Asharq News. I want to ask about the sanctions against Gebran Bassil in Lebanon. We know that – we heard that this was on the making for some time, but I want to ask about the timing. Are you – were you doing this to make a new stage for the new administration?
And also I want to ask about the arms sale to UAE. When we expect that to be delivered?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So your second question was about the arm sales to the United Arab Emirates. So we’ll have significant announcements with respect to that here very, very soon. We continue to review arms sales all across the world, including to our important friend and partner in the United Arab Emirates, and we’re confident we will be able to provide them weapon systems that will ensure their security and do the work that we all need to do collectively to counter the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And did you ask about Iranian sanctions earlier and the impact of those?
QUESTION: No, the sanctions against Gebran Bassil in Lebanon.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you setting a new stage for the new administration? I want to ask about the timing. That’s it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I’ll answer that question more broadly. No, the sanctions we put in place are because they’re right and proper and will deliver good outcomes for the people in the country in which we sanctioned their leaders who are corrupt. That certainly holds true for Gebran Bassil, right – this was someone who was deeply connected to a foreign terrorist organization, Hizballah. We have now sanctioned him. The Lebanese people don’t want to have anything to do with that. They want an independent nation. They want a sovereign country. They don’t want the political elites that have been corrupted through the system that was put in place and permitted them to loot and rob their country. They want freedom, they want prosperity, they want jobs. Those are the things we want and the sanctions that we put in place against the former minister are appropriate and useful towards getting us closer to that one day where the Lebanese people can have what it is they so richly deserve.
QUESTION: Are we expecting a new sanctions?
MR BROWN: Next Kristina.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi, Kristina.
QUESTION: Hi. How are you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good.
QUESTION: Good, good. Is there any evidence that the CCP has interfered in the recent election or is trying to sow chaos in the aftermath of the legal challenges?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Was the question about Russia?
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry, CCP or any foreign —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Ah, yeah, any foreign interference.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m going to leave that question to the Department of Homeland Security and to the Justice Department, the folks who deal with that. But as I think we all said prior to the election, we did an enormous amount of work to reduce the risk that they would have the capacity to have a significant capability to interfere in the elections themselves, and I’ll leave the details of what they have determined so far about that to – for them to announce.
MR BROWN: Sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Go ahead. I’ll take one more.
MR BROWN: Humeyra.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary – hello.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.
QUESTION: Hello, Secretary. You said when the process is completed, so when are you —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, this is the third question – just, ma’am, if you would, I came out here today and talked about important foreign policy issues. This is now the third question —
QUESTION: Sir, this is the most important thing that’s happening in this country right now. I am wondering what kind of —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, go ahead and ask your question, then I’ll give my answer.
QUESTION: What kind of guidance are you giving to American diplomats on how to characterize the results of the presidential election? And also, this department frequently sends out statements encouraging free and fair elections abroad —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: — and for the losers of those elections to accept the results. Doesn’t President Trump’s refusal to concede discredit those efforts?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s ridiculous and you know it’s ridiculous, and you asked it because it’s ridiculous. Look, the truth —
SECRETARY POMPEO: You asked the question. Yes, ma’am, you asked the question. If you will, permit me to answer it. You asked a question that is ridiculous. This department cares deeply to make sure that elections around the world are safe and secure and free and fair, and my officers risk their lives to ensure that that happens. They work diligently on that.
We often encounter situations where it’s not clear about a particular election. We work to uncover facts, we work to do discovery, to learn whether in fact the outcome – the decision that was made – reflected the will of the people. That’s our responsibility. It’s what we try to do along with partners all across the world, along with OSCE inspectors to make sure that those elections were free and fair.
We want every one of those votes to be counted in the same way that we have every expectation that every vote here in the United States will be counted too. It is totally appropriate. The United States has an election system that is laid out deeply in our Constitution and we’re going to make sure that we get that right.
And we have – all of you have and should be committed to making sure that that happens. I think every one of you wants that same outcome. You want every vote to be counted. You want to run the process. We want the law to be imposed in a way that reflects the reality of what took place, and that’s what I think we’re engaged in here in the United States and it’s what we work on every place all across the world.
Thank you all.