QUESTION: For more on China, Hong Kong, and America’s role in the world, joining me now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, thanks for having me on this evening. Great to be with you again.
QUESTION: We just heard you talk about the companies, American companies, warning them to keep forced labor out of their supply chains, pointing directly at China and these concentration camps, as described by the Defense Department. Will we see investigations and prosecutions of American businesses who don’t heed this warning?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, President Trump has been very clear the way the previous administrations have dealt with the Chinese Communist Party by turning the other cheek and letting them abuse America is not going to continue, so we have responded across a number of fronts. So you identify one, this forced labor. Nobody wants to buy products, cheap products, that were made with slave labor in western China. They want clarity about the tracing of the product that they have. And so we’ve asked every business to evaluate their supply chain and make sure that nothing like that ever gets in, and we’ve put them on notice for actions that we may take as we move forward.
QUESTION: Now, last month President Trump told Axios that he held off sanctions – sanctioning Chinese officials involved with the mass detention camps because it would have interfered with his trade deal with China. Should those have been separated?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Bret, I’ve been Secretary of State for two and a half years. No, there’s always complex tradeoffs that one has to make. President Trump has been very clear when he signed this bill, the Uyghur bill last week, that we were going to take this seriously, we were going to deal with it, we were going to put harsh restrictions in place. We’re working on that. No country has responded in the same way that we have. We hope the whole world will join.
What’s going on there, Bret, is historic. There is forced sterilization. They’re forcing women to have abortions. This is a place with some of the most fundamental violations of human rights that the world has seen in an awfully long time.
President Trump has been serious about making sure the world sees this, and we hope that countries all across the world, including Muslim countries in the world, will see their way clear to putting their shoulder to the grindstone to help resolve this problem as well.
QUESTION: I guess the question is: Should the President have done more? He had a lot of opportunities talking with President Xi.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There is no country that has done more and I’m confident will do more, Bret.
QUESTION: All right. In Hong Kong, we did the story there about the new security law in place. You’ve certified that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous. Again, should the administration have acted more forcefully to deter Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll tell you, Bret, I wish the previous administration had taken China seriously. It’s truly – this isn’t partisan. Forty years of failed American policy with respect to China. This administration is trying to clean it up, trying to get it right. The Chinese have taken advantage of us in multiple ways.
We’ve done really good work, important work trying to protect the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. General Secretary Xi has chosen to go a different direction, and we’re responding in a way that will put pressure on Beijing and try to maintain whatever we can of the remaining freedoms in Hong Kong. I will tell you the notion that there remains one country and two systems is fundamentally at odds with the facts on the ground today. I regret that.
QUESTION: You know that your critics, including now John Bolton, say that this was all about election politics and to get China to buy soybeans in places that affect re-election.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Nonsense.
QUESTION: Okay, that’s what we’ll get from that. What does success look like with China? The U.S. and China, what does it look like? Can China be a responsible partner with President Xi at the helm in the Chinese Communist Party?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, that’s up to the Chinese Communist Party. That’s their decision to make. What the United States can control is what we do. When there is unfair and nonreciprocal trade, we’re going to demand by – demand that it be right. And when they don’t do it, we’re going to do things like placing tariffs on their goods. When they engage in behavior that’s militarily threatening to the United States, we’re going to put $700 billion into our Department of Defense to keep Americans safe and secure. And when the Chinese engage in cyber espionage, we’re going to impose penalties on them such that they will be deterred from doing that. Those are the things we can do.
We are hopeful. We want the Chinese people to be successful. The Chinese Communist Party today has made a decision; it wants to be an imperialist power and wants to be authoritarian in nature, and it wants to compete across the world in ways that are inconsistent with the good things happening for the American people and, frankly, people of democracies all across the world. President Trump’s policies are aimed squarely at reversing that.
QUESTION: I want to spend some time on the Russia bounty story in Afghanistan. First, does the Russian Government have American blood on its hands in Afghanistan?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I don’t want to get into the intelligence. The Intelligence Community has put out two statements. I used to have that job. I’m going to honor what they’ve said.
Here’s what I can say with absolute certainly: The United States has responded appropriately to the threats that have been presented to it in Afghanistan consistently through my entire three and a half years, first as CIA director and now as Secretary of State. There are many folks using the Taliban or who have used the Taliban over years and years and years as proxy forces. There’s been money funneled in there from all across the world, unfortunately.
President Trump has taken this seriously. We are hopeful we’ll make progress on our peace and reconciliation plan, and we will respond to any threat, whether that’s Iranians using the Taliban or the Russians. We’ll make sure they know. The Russians have been providing weapons to the Taliban for an awful lot of years, and so this is an ongoing challenge we have. And our forces on the ground under General Miller and the Resolute Support mission are deeply aware of the threat from the Taliban, whether that’s supported by any third party or none.
QUESTION: You know – you just referenced you were CIA director – there’s not often consensus across the Intelligence Community on intel. I mean, if it dealt with bounties, killing American troops, shouldn’t the President have been told about it? We know that it was discussed in the National Security Council at the principals and the deputies level. You said today that key members of Congress had that intel as well, even though there wasn’t a consensus. Why wasn’t the President briefed on it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Bret, that’s actually not quite right. Most intelligence that’s read, there is, in fact, a consensus. Almost all of the analytical product that I read every day has a consensus across the entire Intelligence Community. It is often the case that it is not. That happens. When that happens, we need to make sure we get it right.
Look, Bret, you know this. Every morning I wake up and I read the intelligence materials. And when I read them, there are people all across the world who are threatened, including my officers at embassies all across the world. We don’t always make sure that gets to the President. We do the right thing. We make sure the ambassador on the ground knows, that the commander on the ground knows, that our allies who may be threatened as well know. It is the tactical and operational response to keep our soldiers safe and secure that is most important.
When the Intelligence Community feels like something rises to the level that needs to get to the President, I am very confident they will consistently present it to them. I know that when I was the CIA director, I did that.
QUESTION: Did you know about this particular intel piece?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to talk about the intel in particular on this, Bret.
QUESTION: All right. Let me just —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I mean, there’s just – I just – I’m not trying to be clever. There’s just so much that has been reported that is not accurate and that is incomplete, that by refuting any particular element of it I am putting at risk our capacity to actually resolve and figure out what’s going on here.
QUESTION: And I want to ask you about that and the leak itself. But here is what the Democratic nominee is saying about it: “He either reads and/or gets briefed on important issues and forgets it, or he doesn’t think it’s necessary that he need to know it. He should at a minimum have picked up the phone and said, ‘Vladimir, old buddy, if any of this is true, and it does – then it seems to me that you’ve got a big problem.’”
All right. So it’s not just the Democrats, obviously. You have Senator Chuck Grassley on the Senate floor saying it demands a serious response. You have two key Republicans in the House, Mike McCaul and Adam Kinzinger, saying, “There are already those who are politicizing this issue, however we cannot use – let politics overshadow the truth that Republicans and Democrats alike can agree on: the Putin regime cannot be trusted. If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly encourage the administration to take swift and serious action to hold the Putin regime accountable.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, there’s been no administration to hold the Russians accountable in the way this one has. I only wish former Vice President Biden had held the Russians accountable. We’d have been cleaning up a lot less of a mess. I wish he’d provided arms to the Ukrainians. I wish he had gotten out of the INF Treaty. I wish he hadn’t allowed and invited the Syrians – the Russians into Syria.
I could go on, but you’ve got a short show. The failures of the previous administration allowed the Russians a lot of space to move. We’ve pushed back. We’ve sanctioned more Russians than any other administration in history. I’ll take a back seat to no one with respect to what our administration and President Trump has done to hold Vladimir Putin accountable when he is engaged in malign activity. And should we find out that there is evidence that he’s putting our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines at risk anywhere in the world, including in Afghanistan, I am very confident that President Trump will direct me and he himself will respond appropriately.
QUESTION: How damaging was this leak? You were CIA director. The White House press secretary the other day said that there were rogue officers in the Intelligence Community who want to undercut the President. Do you believe that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I don’t know where this leak came from. But when periodicals report this information, it breaks my heart, because it puts our intelligence officers and our military men and women at risk. It is dangerous. It is unlawful. And I hope that we can figure out who did it, and they’ll be brought to justice.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you did speak out when it was alleged that Iran was paying the Taliban a thousand dollars for each American killed in Afghanistan as a member of Congress, and you spoke out about the Obama administration’s response at the time, which obviously you criticized in the overall Iran deal.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, that’s absolutely true. I’ve spoken about the Iranians providing assistance to the Taliban in my current role as Secretary of State as well. I’ve criticized other governments. We’ve worked to make sure Pakistan wasn’t providing safe haven for the Taliban in Afghanistan, too. No, we’re equal opportunity when it comes to making sure we protect Americans wherever they are serving.
QUESTION: All right, let’s talk about a couple of other substantive things. One is you mentioned the Taliban peace deal. You said that the Taliban would publicly renounce al-Qaida. You talked about that. I asked you about it back in March. Take a listen:
QUESTION: “It says it will not allow any of its members or other individuals or groups, including al-Qaida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies. But that’s not really a break; that’s not renouncing —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: A renouncing of al-Qaida?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely. Absolutely. When you say you’re not going to let them operate there, you know it, Bret. They’ve done it for 20 years. They’re not going to let them operate anymore. That’s – that is a central provision.”
You went further, saying that they would eventually take up arms and fight al-Qaida working alongside us to destroy al-Qaida. Have you seen any indication that the Taliban is doing any of that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I can’t talk about the things that I have seen. But know this: I spoke with the Taliban again just this week in an effort to further the peace negotiations to try and get them to the table with the Afghan Government. I think we’re closer than we were even just a couple weeks back.
The Taliban continue to have impressed upon them the importance of this break from al-Qaida, and I think we will be able to see when we get to that point. When we have these negotiations commence, I think the world will be able to see that the Taliban are no longer going to tolerate what they have permitted to happen and that the Pakistanis too will do the things that need to be done to reduce the footprint from al-Qaida.
Remember, Bret, we’re down to a couple of hundred active al-Qaida fighters inside of Afghanistan. The reason we went there in 2001 was to crush al-Qaida. That has largely been achieved.
QUESTION: Can you confidently state that America will have U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Election Day?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President will ultimately make that decision, Bret.
QUESTION: Okay, one more thing, the EU blocking travelers from the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic. Your reaction to that, and is there any pushback from the U.S.?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, remember, we’re not allowing Europeans to come here today either, Bret. We’re in close conversation with countries all around the world, including European countries, to make sure that when we reopen our country to travel from their nations that we do so in a way that keeps American people safe and reduces risk from COVID here in the United States. They have a responsibility to do that for their nations as well.
And I have every confidence that we’ll get this right with countries all across the world. It’s not just the Europeans. We need to get this right. We need to get the economy back open and get people traveling all across the United States and international travel as well.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
QUESTION: Happy Independence Day early.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Happy Fourth of July to you too, Bret.
QUESTION: All right, all the best.