Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
QUESTION: And joining us right now on Mornings on the Mall: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, great to have you with us this morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you, too. Good morning.
QUESTION: So many things to talk about. I saw Jared Kushner, the senior advisor to the President, is in the Middle East. He made an historic flight from Israel to the UAE this weekend, which is just the latest step in the connection between those two countries. There is some conversation about another country coming on soon. Can you give us an indication of when that might happen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, goodness, the work has been done over a couple years under President Trump to create Middle East stability, to identify Iran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and to build out a security arrangement is now beginning to yield real tangible results. Mr. Kushner’s visit today to the Emirates followed my trip there just last week where I visited Oman, Bahrain, the Emirates, and Israel, all aimed – and Sudan – all singularly aimed at building out on the work that we have done.
I don’t know which country will choose to recognize Israel next, but I’m confident that every nation in the world will come to recognize Israel, the Jewish homeland, as the rightful place, and country that they’ll want to do business with for their own interest, their security interest, their economic interest, and frankly it’s just the right thing to do.
QUESTION: How important is all of that to dealing with Iran in the Middle East?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s central. These countries all are under threat. You saw the Iranian reaction to the announcement about the recognition of Israel by the United Arab Emirates. They threatened them, they bullied them, they said they would knock down all the glass towers in the Emirates. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran that poses the instability in the Middle East. President Trump took that on from the very beginning of his time, whether it was withdrawing from the ridiculous JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal; whether it was the strike we took against Qasem Soleimani – all of the things we have done to deter and to put pressure on the regime in Iran benefit those nations in the Middle East. And their capacity to cooperate – the Emiratis and Israelis can have the capacity to cooperate in securing the Middle East against this enormous threat.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, when you made the announcement, when your – the administration made the announcement of this historic deal between UAE and Israel, the UAE was recognizing Israel’s existence and legitimacy – and something interesting happened. You had Joe Biden come out and basically try and take credit for the deal. He suggested that this was only the latest iteration, building on the work of prior administrations. But it kind of sounds like, if I have my facts right, that the way that the Obama administration contributed to this was to actually empower Iran, make Iran more threatening, give Iran billions of dollars, and allow them to commit acts of proxy violence around the region. That maybe actually helped push UAE to the table, no?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It was crazy – (laughter) – when I heard the former Vice President make that statement. The previous administration took a fundamentally different approach. It transferred, as you said, billions of dollars in wealth to the Islamic Republic of Iran to that regime. It created a condition where the Palestinians had a veto over stability in the Middle East. This administration said we’ve tried for 40 years the previous model, and the previous eight years before President Trump for sure we’ve tried that; we’re going to go down a different path. We’re going to recognize the rightful capital of Israel as Jerusalem, we’re going to acknowledge what took place on the Golan Heights and that these settlements can be lawful. All of these things created the conditions, and then the United States preparedness to put pressure on Iran allowed the states in the Gulf, Arab states throughout the region to begin to say it’s the right thing to do, we can create stability.
We want good things for the Palestinian people, all of us do, but underneath the umbrella of the President’s vision for peace in the region, it’s the right thing to do to recognize, and we hope more countries will take us up on that and take the Israelis up on that offer, just to coexist and to work along each other for – alongside each other for peace in the coming weeks and months.
QUESTION: So Bloomberg just ran a report that the U.S. is pushing China and Iran closer together, and that under the pressure the two are said to be contemplating a 25-year strategic partnership. How does this change the landscape in the world?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, China has important interests, and it is – it probably should come as no surprise to anyone that two of the world’s greatest violators of basic human rights might find common cause. So we, when watching this unfold as well – one of the things we’ve been working on is that the – this nuclear deal allows the Iranians to buy and sell weapons in a month and a half, in six weeks. It was crazy. It’s unsafe; it’s destabilizing. One of the people who – one of the countries that would like to sell weapons to Iran would be China. They’ll make a lot of money off of it.
I’m sure the Chinese will buy some systems from Iran as well. We’ve got to prevent this from happening, and the world should know that should China choose to violate the sanctions that we have imposed against Iran, that we’ll hold everyone accountable. We are neutral as to holding every actor that violates the U.S. sanctions against Iran accountable, and following October – and following the snapback, which we expect will take place in just a couple of weeks, all of the UN sanctions will be imposed again against Iran and we will reduce the opportunity that China might have to form common cause with Iran.
QUESTION: Speaking of China, the President announced a couple weeks ago that he’s very concerned about one of the most popular apps in the United States – social media apps. It’s called TikTok, and it’s owned by a Chinese company ByteDance. There is some consideration, the President said, of allowing a U.S. company to acquire TikTok, and then everything would be fine. He will not ban the social media network at that point, but we hear – we see news over the weekend, Secretary Pompeo, that the Chinese have maneuvered that now the Communist Party of China will have to grant permission for such a sale were it to take place. In your estimation, will TikTok be banned from the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Goodness, I couldn’t answer that question. What we know is this: We will ban the Chinese Communist Party from stealing the information – your information, my information, your kids’ information, whoever is using TikTok. We will prevent that information from being placed in the hands of the Chinese national security apparatus and the Chinese Communist Party. The President’s purpose in this is not to harm any one company or to harm anyone who wants to have access to social media, but to protect and preserve American national security.
So I don’t know how this will unfold. We saw the decision that the Chinese made across this weekend. What we know is that our obligation is to make sure that our people’s data doesn’t end up in the wrong place – addresses, names, health information, facial recognition data sets – all of those things that the Chinese Communist Party would love to have on hundreds of millions of Americans, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent them from having it. And the executive order the President issues with respect to technology, which would include TikTok, is a central part of that.
QUESTION: You talk about information getting into the Chinese hands. Yet another university professor or researcher at University of Virginia was arrested trying to get on a plane to China, and he is allegedly – was trying to board that plane with stolen research. He’s been charged with federal crimes. There seems to be one of these stories a week with researchers or professors tied to our universities that are Chinese nationals or students that are taking our technology and sending it to China. How do we stop this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mary, we’re working hard at it. I regret only that for decades we’ve allowed this to go on. No administration has taken this seriously until these last couple years when President Trump began to demand that we get this right. So it’s a real challenge. You have the Thousand Talents program; you have all these efforts that the Chinese Government has made to infiltrate American university systems. And you’re seeing – you saw the decision that the State Department made to demand that the Chinese consulate, their diplomatic facility in Houston, Texas which was a den of spies, be closed. We sent them home. You’ve seen the Justice Department and the FBI working hand-in-hand with each other and with the State Department to make sure that we protect this exact data.
We know this: We know that the Chinese Communist Party has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars of intellectual property, and with that tens and hundreds of thousands of American jobs. That’s a – the real hardship of this is that all of these jobs that have gone to China because they’ve stolen this information, either by taking it through cyber means or, as you’ve described, by their people actively working inside of our places of research. President Trump is determined to stop this, and for the first time – for the first time in decades, you have an administration that is taking this threat from the Chinese Communist Party seriously.
QUESTION: Well, what’s even more disgusting about this is – if it could get more disgusting, Mr. Secretary – is that what we have is, like, U.S. taxpayers are paying for research grants for these institutions. The professors then use those grants to conduct the research and then they send their findings to the Chinese Government, who is sending them money.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s crazy. And then they turn around and take that data, use it to develop products, and then subsidize those products and sell them back here – things like that AI machine learning software, companies like a TikTok, right, where there’s these data and the things that they learned through stealing intellectual property from the United States. So we’ve got a full-on campaign, a counterintelligence campaign, an FBI effort, a Justice Department effort, and then the work that we will do diplomatically and economically, as you have seen the President demand, for the first time, a reasonable, reciprocal trade arrangement with China. There certainly remains much work to do, but President Trump is very focused on this. I regret only – and this is not partisan. There were Republican presidents and Democrat presidents that preceded President Trump. None of them took this threat seriously.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be easier and quicker to just sanction them by not allowing any more Chinese students to come into this country for a period of X number of years, no more Chinese researchers for an X number of years, and solve the problem, cut them off right away?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to get in front of decisions that the President is evaluating. Look, not every Chinese student who is here is working on behalf of or at the behest of the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, but it’s something President Trump has taken a serious, serious look at. I think —
QUESTION: But those students —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think you’ll see more to follow in the coming weeks and months.
QUESTION: Looking forward to those announcements, but just – but Secretary Pompeo, one of the interesting things about all this is those students by and large are not here because they’re being sent as spies, but do live under the threat of their families being impacted by the Communist Party back home, no?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s correct. And it is also the case that nearly every student who is here is being watched, right. The Chinese Communist Party is watching them, making sure that they’re engaged in behavior that’s consistent with what the Chinese Communist Party wants them to do. That is absolutely the case. They’re not – you wouldn’t consider them spies in the most formal sense, but many of these students are under enormous pressure as a result of the activity that the Chinese Communist Party is taking back home.
QUESTION: China and Iran being on our radar, very obvious. We haven’t heard much about Russia. Are things quiet with Russia now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Actually, lots going on with Russia, some of it good, some of it much less so. We’re working closely with them to try and figure out a way to take down the risk of nuclear weapons ever being used. We’re in detailed discussions with them on a arms control agreement. We made real progress in the last couple weeks. I hope we could get that done before the end of the year, would be a good thing for the world, take down risk from nuclear weapons. We work with them on counterterrorism, but we’ve also seen them engage in malign activity all across the world and we’ve made clear to them too our expectation that they won’t get involved in our election as well.
QUESTION: And then we saw – we did see a report from this past week that we have intercepted a Russian aircraft off the coast of Alaska, as well as a submarine just last Thursday off the coast of Alaska. Are these incidents picking up?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll leave to the Department of Defense to talk about the details of that, but it’s the case that we have watched increasing Russian activity, both there in the region in and around Alaska and in other parts of the world. We saw the incident last week where a Russian vehicle intentionally rammed an American vehicle. These are the kinds of things that we work closely with the Russians to say this is unacceptable behavior, that America will respond.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you so much for your time. Just on a lighter note, one quick thing: I graduated high school with your Under Secretary David Hale. Could you please tell him to return my phone call? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll tell David to give you a holler. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very —
QUESTION: I have to go to the top to get a return phone call. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s right. (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll make it happen. Thank you all.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You all have a great day.
QUESTION: Have a great day. Mike Pompeo. This was Mornings on the Mall. Hold tight.