QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to the show. Merry Christmas.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Merry Christmas to you too, Guy. Hope you’re doing well.
QUESTION: Doing well. Hanging in there as best we can. I think a lot of people feel like they’re in the same boat here. It’s been a very tough year, and I think people are optimistic about a vaccine, but it’s a difficult time right now. So let’s talk about foreign policy and the statement that you put out. I was just about to read from part of it on religious freedom, not here at home but violators of religious liberty abroad. Talk about what this action is and which nations are targeted.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the United States under President Trump has made it an expectation that every country will honor the fundamental right that every human being has by nature of their dignity as a human being to practice their faith, or if they choose not to practice one so be it, but that won’t be imposed upon by anyone’s government. And so we do our best through multiple tools to ensure that there is maximal religious freedom for every individual around the world. And in this case, there are certain countries that have behavior that is of such a nature that it is so egregious that we simply find it unacceptable, and for that reason we impose costs upon them.
There’s lots of examples. Today, the Chinese Communist Party is behaving in ways that are deeply inconsistent with this basic idea. It’s a country that has destroyed churches. It has denied Christians and Catholics and Muslims their right to practice their faith. But there are a number of countries around the world that fall into this category, and in each case the United States does its best to improve the opportunity for individuals to observe their own faith.
QUESTION: We’re going to return to China in a moment, but one of the countries on this list that stands out to me as a bit of a tricky situation – certainly some delicate dynamics at play – Saudi Arabia, because they definitely have enormous human rights problems in that country, including on this front, as evidenced by their mention in this statement and some of these actions.
At the same time, there has been a relationship for quite a long time between the United States and Saudi Arabia and perhaps a warming of relations between the U.S. and Israel and the Arab world, discussions about maybe the Saudis coming on board, for example, with the Abraham Accords at some point.
When you have conversations with your Saudi counterparts, how can you deliver a tough and important message on an issue as important and fundamental as this while also hoping to maintain some of the progress that’s undeniable in that region where Saudi is a really important player?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Guy, as I said, the United States has many interests with many countries. And with respect to Saudi Arabia, we have a number of important interests, economic interests, security interests with them, that matter a lot to the American people and to our own security. It’s also the case that we want to push these countries in the direction to increase their capacity to accept people of every faith. It’s not simply Saudi Arabia.
And so it’s pretty straightforward. It’s actually not particularly difficult conversation where you’re straight up about the things you are working on together, the things that are going well. They certainly share with us the things we’re doing that they wish we would do differently. And with respect to religious freedom, we make clear our expectations and we urge them to move in the direction of increasing freedom for their people to practice faith all across the world.
QUESTION: My guest is the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And I saw the news breaking earlier that you will be giving a significant address on the issue of China and the Chinese Communist Party in particular at Georgia Tech in Atlanta later this week on Wednesday. And it seems like a lot of the political press is very caught up in the fact that you’re doing it in Georgia because there are some elections coming up there.
I – for this conversation and the purposes of our discussion, I’m interested in what you’re actually going to say about China, which seems like an issue that surpasses any importance of a fleeting political cycle. And I know that there has been a whole flurry of really significant actions from the Trump administration against the Chinese in the last few weeks. If you could, as much as you’re willing to, maybe give us a preview of what you want to talk about on Wednesday?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Guy, I’ll do that. I’m just chuckling. I promise you, when Secretary Kerry traveled to Massachusetts or Secretary Clinton traveled to New York, those were coastal elite states. Those were all fine for secretaries to travel to. When Mike Pompeo wanted to travel to Georgia, somehow that’s incomprehensible that foreign policy could matter to an enormously capable research institution like Georgia Tech, where I’m going to go speak about that very set of issues, the fact that in America’s research educational institutions today, the Chinese Communist Party is aiming to lobby, to influence, and to steal.
And I want to talk about that. I want to talk about their infiltration at those universities, the things those schools ought to do and indeed must do to protect not only their students but their data. And I want to talk about how China is going about this, why it impacts American national security, and how the Trump administration is pushing back against that.
QUESTION: If you can give us maybe one or two examples of what you guys have done, maybe not on that front in terms of colleges and universities – I know that’s a big one – but there have been sanctions and other actions taken just in the last few days and weeks. Maybe highlight one for this audience that people may not have heard about? Because it seems like this type of substantive stuff is flying under the radar coverage-wise.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll give you two. The first was a decision we made to impose costs, sanctions on individuals who were decision makers with respect to Hong Kong and the failure of the Chinese Communist Party to live up to its commitment to the people of Hong Kong and the freedoms that they had promised those people. And so President Trump made clear that this was unacceptable, and so we have begun to impose costs on the folks who are imposing those draconian authoritarian measures on the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong.
And then second, we made a decision about some propaganda outfits here in the United States. These aren’t media. This isn’t what you know, Guy, the place that you work where you can say the things you want to say and talk about the things you want to talk. These are Chinese propaganda outlets, and we simply said that if you’re going to work on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party you need to register as a foreign agent, and have so required.
QUESTION: Let me ask you finally about Iran. It’s interesting as I am reading some of the analysis and some of the advice being given to the incoming Biden administration and their State Department and foreign policy, it seems like there are a lot of people center-left who want to treat U.S. foreign policy like the world just paused the moment Donald Trump was elected and hugely important dynamics in that region and all around the globe really didn’t happen. And so it’s kind of the same world that says rejoin this and rejoin the JCPOA, and maybe we’ll get the Iranians to agree to a few new things but not until we rejoin the deal.
From your perspective, what is indelibly different about the world today that any successful U.S. foreign policy in the future will have to recognize and adapt to?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll give you two specific items and a more general one. The two specific items are, first, I think President Trump laid bare the risk presented by the Chinese Communist Party, and we’ve talked about that for 50 years. We tried engagement. We tried appeasement. That presented risk. President Trump flipped the script and said we’re not going to do that.
The second one has to do with Iran and the Middle East more broadly. We acknowledged that the challenges between Israel and the Palestinians were real, but we weren’t going to let that lock up any capacity for improved lives for people in the Middle East. And so the Abraham Accords were a direct result of the efforts our team has made and President Trump has made to deliver peace and prosperity to the Middle East. You can see Sudan and Bahrain and the Emirates all acknowledging that a friendly, warm relationship with Israel is the right direction for their own people.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You can’t put those back in the box.
SECRETARY POMPEO: And then the third one is more general. The idea that America ought to rightfully lead from the front and not behind is something the world has come to expect, and I can’t imagine that changing.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo my guest here on the Guy Benson Show. Sir, we always appreciate your time. I look forward to seeing what you have to say down at Georgia Tech later this week. And in the meantime, Merry Christmas and we look forward to catching up soon.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Guy. Merry Christmas to you and all your listeners as well. So long.