Secretary Michael R. Pompeo on talks to Mark Levin of Life, Liberty & Levin discussing the accomplishments of the Trump Administration and other topics.
Life, Liberty & Levin – Sunday, September 27, 2020 (Full Show)
QUESTION: Hello, America. I’m Mark Levin, and this is Life, Liberty, and Levin. We have a tremendous guest, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. How are you, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m really good, Mark. Thanks for having me on today.
QUESTION: Well, thanks for inviting us to this magnificent place here. We needed a bigger room.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s beautiful.
QUESTION: It’s absolutely beautiful.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s an absolutely beautiful place. I have the incredible privilege to meet with foreign dignitaries who come here and show them real American glory in a special space. The American people have been most generous. Private citizens made this all look so glorious, and people walk away understanding that America’s pretty special.
QUESTION: Well, it’s fantastic. I want to start off this way: What is the Trump foreign policy, and how does it differ from the Obama-Biden foreign policy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s a central question for the administration. We have been working on this now for three and a half years. If I were to get to the core about President Trump thinks about the world, it comes back to how he campaigned. He campaigned about “America first”, ensuring that we had our grounding here in the United States, that there was prosperity, that there was security for the American people, and that we have basic human rights for the American people. When we do those things, when we do them well here in the United States, it redounds to the benefit of the entire world. And I think we’ll get a chance to talk about this someday, but I think you can see the impact of that.
It’s a foreign policy that is grounded in a deep sense of realism, principled realism that says we have to take the facts as they are and not as we wish them to be. If I were to contrast with the previous administration, they took the central tenets of foreign policy here in Washington for 30 or 40 years, and they began their analysis from there. We’ve looked at this afresh, anew, and said, where does American authority come from? It comes from being this most exceptional nation. It comes from our founding. It comes from these traditions. And if we are principled, we accept the facts as they are, that we can have a very restrained foreign policy, exercising power only when it was going to achieve a good end and not for the sake of that.
Those are very different ideas than you would have seen not only in the previous administration, but those before it as well. I think it has – we stare around the world after three and a half years, now. You can see, whether it’s in the Middle East or the efforts we have made to confront the Chinese Communist Party, I think you can see coalitions of likeminded, freedom-loving peoples all around the world coming together to join President Trump and America in the way we’re thinking about keeping the world safe.
QUESTION: Do you think the media understand this? In other words, you see the progress you’ve made in the Middle East – and we’ll get to that. You see how you’re confronting China, which is a serious, serious threat. Even in our own hemisphere, you’ve changed direction for the nation. The administration – the President has built up the United States military, as you point out, sort of this peace-through-strength notion that Reagan had as well. The President and you, through the State Department, use a lot of economic muscle rather than military muscle to try and advance the ball for the American cause. Do you think the media understand this?
Pompeo on how Trump’s foreign policy makes the world safer and Americans’ lives ‘more secure’.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I couldn’t tell if they understand it. If they do, it’s willful deceit to the American people on how they speak about this. I’ve watched the accomplishments we’ve achieved. I could tick off half a dozen here as we sit, right? The strike against Qasem Soleimani that changed the Middle East; the economic power that we have used to influence our allies and friends, to be partners with our friends and to deny resources to regimes like the one that sits in Iran; NATO today is stronger as a direct result of what President Trump and our team has done. They refuse to share that with the American people.
I’ve been giving a little bit of heck. I travel a little bit here in the United States, and I do that because I think it’s really important that the American people understand what it is the Trump administration is doing, why we’re doing it, how it makes their lives better. It’s easy for someone in Kansas, where I’m from – or I was in Wisconsin this week – it’s easy for them to lose sight of this. This matters in their lives, for us to get this right. And President Trump has grabbed the right end of the stick on these problem sets and made America more prosperous and benefitted the world by doing that.
We don’t hear that story very often in the traditional media outlets, whether it’s The Washington Post or The New York Times or wherever it may be. But I am confident the American people will come to see that the world is safer and their lives are more secure as a result of the way President Trump has done it. And I will tell you our military will be able to use its authority, its power, its might, only where it’s in America’s best interest. And we won’t spend so much energy having them engaged in places where the benefit is, at best, marginal.
QUESTION: You travel a lot. You travel all over the world. You not only meet foreign representatives; you see the United States military in action. You land in a lot of U.S. bases. You speak to a lot of military personnel. There is an effort underway before this election to try and paint the President of the United States as anti-military. And it is shocking to me, absolutely shocking to me. I know him, you know him. He adores the military. As you go around the world and you see our military personnel, are they proud of this country? Are they proud of this President? Are they proud to see you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely. Every day, always. I’ll be traveling – yet ahead this week, I’ll head to Soudas Bay in Greece to see more of our armed forces. I am confident that they will welcome this administration and the way we’re thinking about this.
Now, Mark, let me give you another example where there has been this media narrative. I was the nominee to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency just before the inauguration. This would have been back in January of 2017. And the storyline was the President hates the Intelligence Community; he despises them; he doesn’t trust them. As the soon-to-be CIA director, I said to the President, you should go out to the CIA, you should see them, that should be the first thing you do. And so literally, the day after he was inaugurated, we went out to the CIA headquarters. Hundreds and hundreds on a Saturday morning after the inauguration – hundreds and hundreds of intelligence professionals came out and cheered this President.
They cheered this President because he knew he was going to select a CIA director that was going to give them the authority to do what it is they needed to do to perform their mission. That’s what these young patriots – and some of them have been at it a little bit longer – that’s what they want. They joined the Intelligence Community, they joined the military, to go out and be able to use their power in a way that delivered good outcomes for the American people. They weren’t restrained. If we were going to go do it, we were going to go do it well, and with all the American vigor and energy that they deserved, and they’d have the support that they needed to do that. I think that’s what they’ve seen. I think they saw it on that Saturday morning back on a cold day in January, and I think they’ve seen it every day since.
QUESTION: It has always amazed me that the Obama-Biden administration slashed the United States military, really didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about the military, or as you say “America first,” and somehow, the narrative has been turned on its head – that they were pro-military and this President is not – and I see quite the opposite.
What is the greatest threat we face? Is it the communist Chinese regime right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The greatest external threat that the United States faces over the medium and long term is the threat by the regime in China today, the Chinese Communist Party led by General Secretary Xi Jinping.
QUESTION: And from what I read – and you deal with it firsthand – they’re aggressive on all fronts: the cultural front, where they buy into our universities; they steal our proprietary information and our technology; they have spies running throughout this country and as well as technological efforts that are made; you can see them geopolitically even in our own hemisphere, in Africa, and now in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, the South China Sea; they’re massively building up their military. You see this. The President sees this. What have you done and what has the President done to confront this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: A lot. The first thing we spent time doing was getting our house in order. We were pushing back against essentially 50 years of U.S. policy with respect to China, since Nixon and Kissinger had gone to Beijing back in the early 1970s, where there was the theory of the case was if we just do more business with them, if we open up, they’ll become less hostile, less hegemonic in their desires and less authoritarian internally. That failed. And the President intuited that. He talked about is as early as 2015 during his campaign.
We began to build out inside the State Department, inside the Department of Defense, all the levers of economic power that the United States can bring to bear, a strategy that would begin to cease the appeasement, the “turn the other cheek.” There was – there has been an exception, Mark. Every country would have the same rules, and then there’d be a set of rules for China. And we’ve undone that; we’ve flipped the switch on that.
And so I could give you lots of tactical examples, but maybe the most important thing that we’ve done is we’ve shone a light on this risk. The first step in every 12-step program is to recognize that you have a problem, and I have traveled the world making sure that every nation understands that this is a problem that is not between the United States and China. This is a challenge to make sure that the next century is not the Chinese century; it is not the century governed by authoritarian repressive regimes, but rather by regimes that believe in the rule of law and ordered liberty and national sovereignty as their core foundations.
So we’ve made real progress. You can see it from Africa, to Southeast Asia, to South America. You can see those countries now recognizing the threat that is posed to their freedom, their liberty, to their sovereignty, that the Chinese Communist Party poses. And we have now begun to build out this global coalition to push back. It will take years. We sat on this for five decades. It will take years to accomplish this, but we have turned the corner. I believe that the tide has turned in terms of the recognition of the threat that this authoritarian regime in China presents.
QUESTION: You think the prior administration understood the threat of communist China?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No.
QUESTION: And so you basically had to reverse course?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Remember, Mark, they talked about their pivot to Asia. I will say, when I traveled through the region and I asked them, tell me what that that – what the practical impacts of that were, what you saw on the ground, privately they chuckle. There was nothing behind it. It was rhetorical. This administration has actually done it. You can see it in how the Pacific fleet in the Indo-Pacific operates. You can see it in how our diplomats in the region operate. You can see actual activity to support the objectives that the President has laid out.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when we come back, I want to ask you about Iran. Iran has been threat and a thorn in the side of this country for decades. What has this administration decided to do? What did the last administration decide to do? And how effective is it?
We’ll be right back.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, Iran. The regime in Iran is a vicious, theocratic regime. As I understand it, the way that country operates basically is, even though they claim to be these fundamentalists – and I’m sure they are – it’s really a thug operation. The way they divide their industries, the way they divide the country geographically, it’s almost run like the mob. Is that your impression, too?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, you identified them correctly: 40 years now, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. It is a theocratic regime driven by the ayatollah. But on top of that, it’s a kleptocratic regime, where these senior leaders deny basic economic rights to their people. The economic conditions today in the Islamic Republic of Iran are truly tragic.
But the leaders – the parliamentarians, the business elites, the senior leaders of the IRGC, their external operating forces – they all live pretty nicely. They’ve stolen a lot of wealth. They’ve looted the federal fisc. They’ve put a bunch of money away because they know one day when the regime ultimately goes the way that all regimes like this do, they know they’ll need to fall back on something, and they’ve secured their own wealth and freedom and denied that very same set of economic rights to their own people. It’s truly tragic.
QUESTION: I’ve never understood how this Iran deal under Obama-Biden-Kerry was celebrated. You’re giving $150 billion to the enemy, even almost $2 billion in cash under cover of darkness with an unmarked plane without the approval of Congress. It is a regime that has killed Americans. This is a regime that killed Americans in the Iraq War. It is a regime that has kidnapped Americans. It is a regime that is at war with the world and is building a terrorist operation with Hizballah and others, wants ICBMs with nuclear warheads on it so they can reach Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and New York – not so much Tel Aviv. I mean, they’re looking at us.
And then this deal. It was like, “Don’t touch this deal. This deal is so fantastic.” For 10 years, you see, they won’t build up and have nuclear weapons. The President campaigned and said this is ridiculous. The President and you have now pretty much killed that deal. Would you like to explain?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Mark, I can’t explain that deal either. It stands every fundamental precept of how you keep the American people safe on its head. And so the President early on identified this as a threat to the region, to Israel, and to the United States of America, so the President withdrew from the deal back in May of 2018.
And we’ve spent our time not appeasing this theocracy, this anti-Semitic regime. We’ve spent our time denying it wealth and resources. So fewer resources to underwrite Hizballah to undermine the people of Lebanon; fewer resources to build out missile programs that threaten Israel, Europe, the United States if they get a long-range missile and they get it deployed to the right place; fewer resources to destabilize Iraq and Syria and fewer resources to terrorize their own people as well.
We’ve had tremendous success at that. I remember – Mark, I remember when we were going to go do the U.S. sanctions alone because the Europeans are still in the deal – the Germans, the French, and the United Kingdom – and so it was going to be U.S. sanctions alone. And I remember former Secretary Kerry, Ben Rhodes, Ambassador Rice – the same people who, if the Vice President is elected president, will be back in power in the diplomatic world; they’re advising the Vice President today – I remember them saying these sanctions won’t work, America can’t possibly use its own capacities to generate the effects that the President says he wants. But in fact, three and a half years on, we’ve demonstrated it worked. We’ve put enormous constraints on this regime. We have convinced the world that they should join us in this.
Last week, we announced that we were going to further replace a set of sanctions – what are called snapback – under a Security Council resolution at the United Nations that will further isolate the Iranian regime and further build out the coalition that wants to push back against Iran’s destabilizing forces.
The President’s policies were the right policies to keep America safe. They have delivered on this outcome. There is obviously still more work to do. But if you’re an American soldier who had an IED kill them, if you are an American intelligence officer, if you’re the family of one of the individuals who’s still held in Iran today – we’ve had some success of getting people back from there, but we still have Americans held – if you’re one of those family members, you appreciate that this President has taken this regime’s measure and has responded in a way that has put real pressure on them to ultimately change their behaviors.
QUESTION: But here’s what’s shocking to me. One of the things Joe Biden says is if he becomes president of the United States, he’s going to reinstitute the Iran deal and unravel all the success this administration has had in dealing with Iran. So I assume money is going to flood into Iran; Iran will be able to more aggressively build its nuclear power; Iran will be able to more aggressively expand terrorism. Isn’t that a failed doctrine, a failed policy? And yet he’s campaigning on it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s crazy. The President’s first rule for all of us in the national security team with respect to Iran is no nuclear weapon. What are the elements of power that the regime needs to build out a nuclear weapons program? The first thing is money. Money creates a scientific capacity to do research, the ability to test missiles, the capabilities to build out air defense systems so that if one day they get close, then no one can challenge that by taking out those facilities, right? All the things that enable a nation to build out a nuclear weapons program are facilitated by wealth and money.
And to stand that on its head, to say nope, we’re going to open the economic gates, that’s what rejoining the JCPOA would do. It was nutty because it created a clear pathway for Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Your point about 10 years – yeah, it may have delayed their promise not to engage in certain activities. Query whether they’ve actually done that during the JCPOA. But even assuming for a moment that they had complied with all the terms of the JCPOA, there was a time when this was over, there was a time when they’d have a pathway to a nuclear weapon. That’s simply unacceptable. So to return to that creates risk for the world, and President Trump is determined to make sure that that never happens.
QUESTION: As a result of the Trump policies, as a result of your department implementing those policies, something has happened in the Middle East. Peace is breaking out. In other words, rather than this terrorist regime getting more and more powerful and its neighbors buckling under its weight, the opposite is happening.
When we come back, I want to talk about that because the President has been nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes. You actually have Arab Muslim countries and the Jewish state, Israel, opening diplomatic ties with each other – something that nobody believed would happen certainly in my lifetime. So I want to talk to you about how that occurred when we return.
QUESTION: Welcome back, Secretary Pompeo. So you have the Jewish state and Arab and Muslim states, peace breaking out in the Middle East. You have Kosovo and Serbia. How did all this happen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, it’s connected to what we were speaking about before with respect to Iran. The President’s decision to not appease Iran, to not make Iran the focal point of the U.S. partnerships in the region, enabled these leaders – these Arab Muslim nations – to come to understand that America was going to engage, was going to do so in a way that was smart, and it was going to do so in a way that protected the American interests in the region.
Whether that is energy flowing, whether it’s our partner with the democrat – the one democratic state, the Jewish homeland in Israel, the United States was going to take an approach that permitted and created the conditions for these nations to make different decisions that they have historically made. And so you have seen that, right? The strike against Qasem Soleimani, the defeat of the caliphate and ISIS – these are all demonstrations of American commitment to protecting and creating prosperity here in the homeland.
And so we’ve been working. Everybody – I heard the – some people in The New York Times say oh, this was an overnight lucky success. This has been three years of determined work, very focused on the outcomes that we saw with the Abraham Accords now a couple of weeks back: the United Arab Emirates, the Bahrainis acknowledging the fact that Israel has a right to exist and to begin to conduct normal relationships between these important countries. It’s truly – I’m so proud of what the President did and what we’ve accomplished. It’s historic. You will see business ties, you will security ties between these countries, you’ll see all the things that normal nations are able to do with each other.
It’s a direct result of walking away from the central premise of American Middle East policy for the last several decades, which was you can’t have progress towards Middle East peace until such time as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is resolved in its entirety. President Trump says no, we can do things that create conditions for Middle East peace. We can, for example, recognize that Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Israel and acknowledge that and move our embassy there.
The facts on the ground – I talked in the opening about a realistic foreign policy. The facts on the ground are that the Golan Heights are an important strategic asset to Israel and are part of that state, so we just simply acknowledged that fact. Those were the kinds of things that I think the Arab states saw that America was serious, that we care deeply about stability in the region, and that while we are happy to work to try and resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – we’d welcome their engagement, we hope that they will begin to be serious about coming to the negotiating table – that we’re not going to allow them to create a precondition for prosperity, security, and peace throughout the Middle East.
We hope there will be other nations will do what the Emiratis and the Bahrainis did a couple weeks back. But importantly, you can begin to see – whether it’s Chad or Sudan or Morocco or Kuwait or Oman – that you can see them all coming to understand that Israel has a right to exist, that Israel is indeed a force for good in the region, and that partnering and working alongside the Israelis is the right model to ultimately get the Palestinians to accept that there is an arrangement that will make life better for the Palestinian people as well.
QUESTION: And as I listen to you, Mr. Secretary, we have this election coming up. And you have – and you look at Trump and you look at Biden. To me – this is me speaking – Biden is stuck. He’s stuck in a half a century of Washington mindset. He would never, ever try to do the things that the President and you have done as Secretary of State. We’d be exactly where they were before.
Now, what do I mean by that? Biden is talking about a two-state solution for the Palestinians still. It’s the tail wagging the dog. He doesn’t even acknowledge the accomplishments that have been made. He wants to go back to the Iran deal. So he would undermine the peace that’s actually breaking out in the Middle East between these various countries and so forth. So he really is – in my opinion, he really is a creature of the mindset of half a century in Washington, D.C.
Then I look at the President of the United States, and he says wait a minute, this is crazy. (Inaudible) why are we giving $150 billion to a terrorist regime that is threatening to build ICBMs that can hit America with nuclear weapons? What’s that all about? And he says we’re not going to do that anymore. Just sort of common sense.
My question to you is this: While you were negotiating and so forth, I was reading these stories about John Kerry going around your back on Iran and so forth. Are you comfortable telling us what took place there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to say too much other than when leaders’ time is over, they need to get offstage. I think that’s the – one of the core principles of the American founding, which says you have your time in service, the American people elected the president of the United States, and the team that serves him is chosen by him, and when you’re gone, you should be gone.
We’ve seen the previous administration and their senior foreign policy leaders not act in that way. You can watch their Twitter accounts, you can see their comments, both public and the comments that are clearly off the record but could only have come from them, working in ways that have told leaders around the world these last few years just wait, just wait, President Trump and Mike Pompeo, they’ll vanish from the scene, and when they do, things will return to the way they were.
What my observation has been is those leaders don’t want that. My observation is most of the leaders around the world appreciate the fact that we’re candid, we are blunt, we are prepared to question the established principles, and if they no longer work to move on from them and develop a foreign policy that’s better not only for the American people but for the world.
It’s a little far afield, but NATO has deep connections inside of the Middle East as well. I take NATO as an example. Here’s a place where I was with the President of the United States both when I was the CIA director and now as Secretary of State, and I watched him have candid conversations with Secretary General Stoltenberg and with European leaders, saying this is a serious challenge we face, we have to confront this. To do so, we need you to be fully engaged. You need to provide the resources financially and the leadership political to go take on all the challenges we face in the world, whether it’s from Russia or from the Chinese Communist Party. And you can see their – it’s refreshing for these leaders. For decades they’ve heard Americans with the same mantra, the same tired story, and they frankly got away with behaving in ways that advantaged them to the harm for the people of the United States of America.
We’ve stood that on its head. It’s fresh. It’s grounded in realism. He said hey, it’s just crazy to put $150 billion in the hands of the ayatollah. But this is just common sense and logic. And to be able to break out of the mold of these historic understandings has been important and will leave a lasting impression on the global security order for decades to come.
QUESTION: We’ll be right back.
QUESTION: Welcome back. Secretary Pompeo, the Middle East. I notice China is now working its way into the Middle East, as it is most parts of the globe. What do you make of that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So they have deep interest in the Middle East. They, unlike the United States which now has become energy producer, an energy exporter, a powerful diplomatic tool that President Trump has unleashed – as I travel the world, it’s so important to be able to show up and say we can help you with your energy needs. China doesn’t have that. It depends on the Middle East for the vast majority of its energy resources.
And so they have begun to try and exert influence, to try and exert power, to set up military facilities in the region across the Indian Ocean, across the Bab el-Mandeb in Djibouti, places that pose real risks for Middle Eastern countries and European countries.
We’ve responded by building out this coalition, right, the work that we were just speaking to in terms of what’s going on with peace breaking out in the Middle East. It’s that presence that the President has built out which will push back against the capacity for the Chinese Communist Party to exert its influence on these very same countries. They will come to see that the right place to partner is with a democracy, a freedom-loving nation, a nation that will use its influence and power in ways that benefit them rather than sidle up to the Chinese Communist Party.
QUESTION: China claims the South China Sea. It claims a lot. It claims islands off of Japan. It claims rocks off the Philippines. It claims water rights off of Vietnam. It claims Taiwan.
And my question about Taiwan is this: They are saber-rattling – the Communist Chinese – about Taiwan. And then I read the Defense Department’s gone through a number of scenarios that don’t look that great for the United States. Do you think the American people understand the seriousness of this? Do you think the media has communicated the seriousness of this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think political leadership has failed the American people in this regard for many, many years, misunderstanding what it was that the Chinese Communist Party has as its intention. In America, sometimes we discount these things. Just listen to what General Secretary Xi Jinping says, and you can predict and watch what the Chinese actions are likely to be.
You missed a couple places where there’s challenges. That was a long list. You forgot the conflict that’s taking place in the Himalayas today between India and China. You’ve watched the failed promises they made to the people of Hong Kong. They had promised that there would be five decades, 50 years, of a separate system for the people of Hong Kong, and they are destroying the freedom for the people of Hong Kong.
These are real challenges and the – President Trump has done the right thing by sharing with the American people the risk. Look, we all saw it. We’re seeing it. We’re feeling it still today with the virus that came from Wuhan, China. We watched what authoritarian regimes do: When they’re threatened, when there is a mistake, they are going to protect themselves and their own political power. So you do that by covering up, by disappearing doctors, by making journalists who want to tell the story about where this virus came from – you make them go away.
And the result of that is this virus spread around the world in ways that it would not have done had you had a regime that had been transparent and open and said we’ve got a problem, we’ve got to get on this. Instead, they chose to suppress the information, and you can see the devastation both in the human cost and now the economic cost that has been foisted upon the world as a result of a regime that simply did what authoritarian regimes always do in times of trouble: They make sure they maintain their political power, Katie bar the door, no expense too great for the rest of the world.
QUESTION: And the President, you can tell, is furious about this, right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, and rightly so.
QUESTION: Yeah. And the mayhem that the communist regime has created all over the globe with this virus and their lack of assistance, their lack of support. As a matter of fact, did I understand they stepped in and bought up as much PPE as they could while the world had no idea what was taking place?
When you testify on Capitol Hill – and I have no doubt you receive dozens of letters from members of Congress every single day that demand responses and so forth – does Capitol Hill understand the role that communist China played in really spreading this virus?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there was a good report that came out from the House side, the Chairman McCaul – or Ranking Member McCaul’s committee. Sadly, it wasn’t joined by the Democrats on that committee.
Having said that, there is good bipartisan support for most of the actions that we have taken against China and for the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong. I have appreciated that support from across a broad political perspective. So this is a place that I think that are places where we can work which are bipartisan. I hope if there’s a new administration, whether that’s four years from now or four months from now, this threat will be taken in the same level of seriousness and they are prepared for what may well be short-term costs for the American people and some risk to confront what is a long-term challenge to our fundamental way of life here in the United States.
QUESTION: We’ll be right back.
QUESTION: Welcome back, Mr. Secretary. The Founding Fathers, do they play a role in your thinking when you make decisions or think about how to approach foreign policy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely, Mark. Indeed, I’ve undertaken a project here at the State Department that denotes that because I think, frankly, we had walked away from this. The central underpinnings – there’s two pieces to this. One is the central underpinnings of our nation, the principles that our founders laid down, should drive the principles of our foreign policy, right? They knew excess use of power can weaken our nation, that without a fundamentally strong American culture and economy that our ability to influence security issues around the world would be diminished. They were very mindful of that.
Second, they laid down a set of rights for the world and for human beings by the very nature of every individual being created in the image of God. They said these are rights that governments don’t provide, and these governments can’t take them away. And they enumerated them. They talked about them. They described how they should be shaped.
And what I saw was when it came to the State Department, that this human rights set of issues had been lost in the world. We had a Human Rights Council at the UN that had Iran and Venezuela. You had the Chinese Communist Party talk about human rights in the context of one of the most egregious acts of human rights violations to the non-Han Chinese minority in western China in all of recorded history.
And so I set about trying to reground how our foreign policy principles – so I created a commission led by a woman named Mary Ann Glendon. They finished their work a couple months back. And they spoke to, very clearly, how the State Department, for all time, should think about human rights around the world and America’s place in that. We’re special. The reason people want to meet Mike Pompeo when he travels around the world isn’t because of Mike. It’s because we stand for this very special set of principles. And if we walk away from them, if we muddy them up, if we create rights for everything, then those core ideas of religious freedom, human dignity, property rights – right? – the basic respect for property rights – if we walk away from those core understandings, then America will just be another nation wandering around. It won’t be that beacon that we’ve been for so long.
So I think about how our founders thought about foreign policy an awful lot, and I’ve tried to create that culture here in the institution that I am tasked with leading as well.
QUESTION: You embrace the founders and you embrace the Declaration, the Constitution, as do I, as do most Americans. And then you see the rioting in the streets. You see Antifa. You see other organizations who reject 1776, replace it with 1619. You see The New York Times pushing this agenda, the media generally; many in the opposition party, the same thing. But again, you see this going on in the streets. You saw monuments being torn down until the President put an end to that.
How does that affect foreign policy? When you go to another country and they see these things going on in the streets – and quite frankly, I’m speaking not you – you see the Democrat Party either silent or giving a sort of a passive complaint about it and so forth. How does that affect our foreign policy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It has a real effect; they watch it closely. Americans pay a little bit less attention to what happens in other places around the world. The entire world pays close attention to what’s happening here inside the United States. When they see this rioting – and just as much, when they see the lawlessness and the walking away from these American traditions – right? – the central underpinnings, the greatness of the United States, what our founders bequeathed to us – when they see us walking away from that, they know there’s opportunity if they’re an adversary and they know there is risk if they’re a friend. If they’re an adversary, they’ll work to undermine it, they’ll work to foster and flame those divisions. They know that our strength lies in this history.
This is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian nation. We were founded upon a set of understandings that have allowed America to be the greatest civilization in the history of the world. When we walk away from those understandings and we say no, our founding was besmirched, we should be embarrassed by our founding, other nations around the world see that, and they will use it to make life more secure for their people and to denigrate our country. And if they’re our friends, if they’re our partners, they’ll say I wonder if I can rely on them, I wonder if 10 or 20 years from now that culture, that set of understandings, will still be there and if that foundation upon which America was built and its foreign policy was executed will remain.
QUESTION: We’ll be right back.
QUESTION: Welcome back, Secretary Pompeo. You’ve seen the Bolton book and the Woodward book and Mattis and all the rest of it. You’ve worked with this President as director of the CIA very closely, as Secretary of State very closely on very complicated and difficult issues where people have a lot of opinions. What has your experience been in working with the President?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, full disclosure: I have not read any of those books.
QUESTION: Me neither, by the way.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Only the press-reported pieces of them.
My experience has been that the President takes this set of issues incredibly seriously. He is thoughtful in his approach. He listens. He takes on board the facts that I have presented, whether I was doing it from an intelligence perspective or now from a broader foreign policy perspective. He does not always agree with the analysis that I provide to him. I say, “Here’s my recommendation.” I am very mindful he got all the electoral votes. I got zero. But I mean that in all seriousness.
Sometimes I’ll hear, “The Secretary of State overturned what the State Department was doing.” No, the State Department does what President Trump directs, right? This is – the people elected Donald Trump to direct America’s foreign policy. And so whatever the Department of Defense or the State Department may think in its infinite wisdom it should do, in the end, we deliver a set of options and recommendations to the President, and then he says, “Here’s how I think about this.” He gives us a chance to appeal if we think he still didn’t quite hear it right, and then we go out and with all our energy and all our heart execute what it is the President has laid down.
I hope that I’ve done that. I hope I’ve made my team successful in doing that. And when we do, I am always proud of the outcomes that we get. I look back at these three and a half years and have watched President Trump learn and grow and come to appreciate with a greater level of understanding all of the capacities that we have, and I think now we’re in full stride hitting this in a way that is serving the American people and our security and our prosperity well.
QUESTION: I find most of the complaints – like you, I didn’t read these books, but you read what people say about them – are individuals who didn’t get their way, who couldn’t advance the policy they wanted to advance. The President said no, I want my troops out of Syria; no, I’m not going to go to war with North Korea; no, I’m not going to do these things. And so in many respects, they’re fired or they resign and then they’re disgruntled and they make statements and put out books. I worked in the Reagan administration. I don’t remember people writing books and putting out statements. Personally, I find that to be quite a betrayal. What do you think?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I agree. I agree. The President is owed the best wisdom, the best thoughts, my best analysis that my team generates. My mission is then to go execute. And when we are done, when that day comes when we’re offstage, there is a period of repose that should be honored. He should be able to hear me. I should be able to make my case without taking it to the public because I simply didn’t get the answer that I thought was right.
QUESTION: Well, I want to thank you for giving us the time to come here at the beautiful Department of State. I almost never come to Washington, D.C. Now that’s two shows in a row, the White House and the Department of State. I want to thank you and keep up the good work.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for the opportunity to be with you today.
QUESTION: See you next time on Life, Liberty & Levin.
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
BEN FRANKLIN ROOM
SEPTEMBER 27, 2020