Interview With Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday

Michael R. Pompeo 

Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 24, 2019

QUESTION: And joining us now before he heads off to Vietnam, the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, it’s great to be with you.

QUESTION: Before we get to the Kim summit, I want to ask you about the developing situation in Venezuela. Some small amount of aid did get through, and reportedly some 60 members of the Venezuelan National Guard defected to the opposition, but generally speaking, Maduro’s forces stood firm and stood by him. Is that a disappointment?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, the Venezuelan people are speaking loudly and clearly. They understand that Juan Guaido is the legitimate president of their country. We’re supporting that. The Lima Group, the OAS, European countries all around the world have seen the devastation that’s been wrought in Venezuela by this sick tyrant, Maduro, who’s denying food to starving Venezuelans and medicine to sick Venezuelans, burning trucks with – this is the worst of the worst of a tyrant. I think the Venezuelan people are seeing that. We saw yesterday the military begin to see it as well. Some of this violence was clearly of these colectivos, these gangs, while the military wasn’t as certain they wanted to lean into this violence. We’re very hopeful in the days and weeks and months ahead, the Maduro regime will understand that the Venezuelan people have made its days numbered.

QUESTION: In a statement at the end of yesterday, you said the United States will take action. What does that mean?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve already taken action, action to support the Venezuelan people, and we’ll continue to do that. They have a duly elected interim president, Mr. Guaido. We’re going to continue to support him. We’ll continue. The American people have been most generous, providing a couple hundred tons of food, medicine, hygiene kits for the Venezuelan people. And then we’ll continue to build out the global coalition to put force behind the voice of the Venezuelan people. What’s happened there is a tragedy. There were five or six or eight killed yesterday, but there have been hundreds and hundreds killed from starvation over the past weeks and months, millions of people having to flee their homes. Three million people have had to leave, 10 percent of the Venezuelan population. Those are the actions of the American people and the Trump administration to support democracy in Venezuela.

QUESTION: But no military force?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve said every option is on the table. We’re going to do the things that need to be done to make sure that the Venezuelan people’s voice – that democracy reigns and that there’s a brighter future of the people of Venezuela.

QUESTION: All right. Let’s turn to the main order of business for you this week, and that is the Kim-Trump summit in Vietnam starting on Wednesday. Before the Singapore summit last June, National Security Advisor John Bolton said, look, they have to give up their entire nuclear program before the U.S. does anything, and here you were just after the summit. Take a look: “The complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.” Is that still President Trump’s position going into this summit: complete denuclearization and no U.S. concessions before then?

SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s been no change in U.S. policy since the time I’ve been Secretary of State, and frankly, even before that when I was CIA director. Our objectives are clear, our mission is clear. President Trump has also said this is going to take time. There may have to be another summit. We may not get everything done this week. We hope we’ll make a substantial step along the way. I’ve spent a lot of time with Chairman Kim. My team is on the ground today continuing to flesh out paths forward to develop a roadmap for a path forward between the two countries. We’re determined to achieve that. It’s important for the world’s security.

The UN Security Council has demanded – not the United States, but the UN Security Council has demanded that Chairman Kim give up these weapons systems. It’s in the best interests of the people of his country, and I hope we can make a real substantive step forward this week. It may not happen, but I hope that it will.

QUESTION: Why a two-day summit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Might be one day, might be two days. I’m confident that if it requires even more time, we’ll commit to that. There have been lots of conversations going on over an extended period of time, continuing even through last night. We’re committed and President Trump is committing to put in the hard work that it takes to get the outcome that the American people deserve.

QUESTION: All right. Obviously, you’re not going to tell me what’s been accomplished or what you think you’re going to get at the end. So far, at least to the outside observer, there’s been some progress. Specifically, as Kristin mentioned in her piece, there have been no nuclear tests, no missile tests by North Korea since 2017. But in terms of denuclearization – handing over its nuclear weapons, handing over nuclear fuel, handing over nuclear missiles – there’s been very little. Take a look at this:

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “We still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region”.

MR COATS: “We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities.”

The question, I guess, is: As you head into the summit, has North Korea given any indication it’s willing now to put meat on the bones, that it’s either going to turn over an inventory of its arsenal or begin to turn over some of its nuclear arsenal?

SECRETARY POMPEO: In June of last year in Singapore, Chairman Kim unequivocally stated that he would denuclearize his country.

QUESTION: But he hasn’t. But he hasn’t.

SECRETARY POMPEO: There were other pillars – there were other pillars that we committed to as well. We have made progress along some, less so on others. This is a complicated process. The history is right. I was the CIA director at one point too, you’ll recall, Chris. The history is difficult. The previous administration’s policy, right, which was test, allow the North Koreans to test; pray, pray they’d stop; and then cower when they threatened us, right. Test, pray, and cower has been upended by President Trump. We’ve put real economic pressure on the North Koreans. We’ve built out a global coalition. One of the critiques is that we go it alone. We’ve built out the world’s coalition to communicate to Chairman Kim that now is the time, now is the moment, and I hope we’ll make real progress on that this week.

QUESTION: There is criticism that President Trump is unrealistic about his relationship and the threat coming from North Korea. I’m going to make a couple of points about this. After Singapore, the President tweeted this: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” And he talks repeatedly about the strength of his relationship with Kim. Take a look here: “We would go back and forth and then we fell in love, okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

Why does the President say that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Relationships matter, Chris. They affect everything in our lives, whether it’s grand strategy and denuclearization or simpler things. Relationships absolutely matter. It’s important that the two leaders are able to effectively communicate.

I have observed this over the past weeks and months. I’ve watched them exchange messages. I’ve watched our team understand the messages that the two leaders have provided, and now we’re going to get to have a second summit where the two leaders can sit and have a frank, candid discussion, explore options, and I hope achieve what the ultimate end state is: creating a brighter future for North Korea and reducing the threat to the United States from the nuclear weapons that are today in North Korea.

QUESTION: Is President – from President Trump’s point of view, is the idea of formally ending the Korean War, which we had an armistice back in the ’50s, or the idea of pulling some U.S. troops out of South Korea – are either of those on the table for this summit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I told you before we started today, Chris, I’m not going to talk about the context of the discussions or elements of the negotiation. I’m simply going to stay away from that. When we have an announcement, you’ll be among the first to know.

QUESTION: Along with everybody else in the world. I’m going to ask you a slightly odd question, but it’s something we’re going to discuss later on in the show. While you’re sitting down with Kim, the House Oversight Committee is going to be conducting a public hearing on television with Michael Cohen, the President’s former lawyer and fixer. Reportedly, he’s going to talk about all kinds of bad or questionable things done in the Trump Organization. Do you question the appropriateness of having that hearing, holding a public hearing that potentially could undercut the President, while the President is on foreign soil negotiating?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Congress has its own authority. They can move how they choose to proceed. I know what we’ll be focused on. I am very confident that the President and our team will be focused on the singular objective that we’re headed to Hanoi for.

QUESTION: This week, the President reversed course on Syria. In December, he said that he was going to pull all 2,500 U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria right away. Take a look: “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now.”

But now it turns out they aren’t coming back now. He announced on Friday that he’s going to keep 400 troops there, including 200 on the border with Turkey.

Two questions, really: Has he now accepted the prevailing view in the military that even if they lose all their territory that ISIS will remain a threat? And secondly, have you gotten any buy-in now that we’re staying there from Britain or France that they will keep troops there on the border to help protect our Kurdish allies?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, the predicate of your question, I think, is wrong, so let me just try and address the policy there. The President has made very clear that the achievement of destroying the caliphate both in Syria and in Iraq – we forget Mosul, people forget Raqqa – this is an enormous accomplishment of this administration and our partners in the region, and we’re very proud of that, millions of people liberated from the terror of ISIS.

The President has also been very clear that this is a – the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is real, it continues, and we’ve got to continue to fight it. The announcement this week that we’re still going to have a residual footprint inside of Syria makes sense in the context of our mission statement, and the tactics will change as time goes on. We’ll use different tactics in different parts of the world to fight back against radical Islamic terrorism. President Trump is committed to doing that.

QUESTION: Have Britain and France agreed to keep troops there now?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re hopeful that we will have a coalition there. I don’t have anything to announce this morning, but I believe that the Europeans will understand the risk and the threat and be partners alongside of us on this mission.

QUESTION: I got about a minute left. I want to ask you one final question. Hoda Muthana, the young woman who left the United States four years ago to join ISIS, says that she wants to return here to face justice. You have said she’s not an American citizen, she will not be allowed in. She was born in the United States. She did have a U.S. passport. And in the past, other ISIS fighters, men who we have captured, have been brought back here to face justice.

Look, nobody has any sympathy for Hoda Muthana, but I guess the question is: Why is her case different? Why not allow her to come back in, if she was born in the U.S. and has a passport, and face justice here?

SECRETARY POMPEO: She is a non-citizen terrorist. She has no legal basis for her claim of U.S. citizenship, and she is not coming back to the United States to create the risk that someday she’d return to the battlefield and continue to put at risk American people, American kids, American boys and girls that were sent to help defeat ISIS. She put them at risk. She’s not a U.S. citizen. She’s not coming back.

QUESTION: Even though she was born in the U.S.? Is the issue – I’m just trying to get – understand the issue. Is the issue that her father was a diplomat at the time? Because they say he had stopped being a diplomat before she was born.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So there’s litigation ongoing. Here’s what I can tell you. We have a strong legal basis for our claim that she’s not the citizen, and she’s not coming back.

QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you. Thanks for your time.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks, Chris. Thank you.

QUESTION: Safe travels and good luck in Vietnam.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much.