QUESTION: Let’s get right to it all with Secretary of State Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Jonathan, it’s great to be with you this morning.
QUESTION: So let’s start with North Korea. What have we learned about what exactly � what kind of projectiles the North Koreans were testing?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we know a couple things. One, there � at no point was there ever any international boundary crossed. That is, they landed in the water east of North Korea and didn’t present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan. And we know that they were relatively short range. And beyond that � we know they weren’t intercontinental ballistic missiles either. And beyond that, I’ll leave the Department of Defense to characterize this when further information arrives.
QUESTION: So you’re one of the precious few Americans that has actually spent time with Kim Jong-un. You arguably know him better than any other American. What’s your read on this? What kind of message was he sending with this � these tests?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Jonathan, we still believe that there is an opportunity to get a negotiated outcome where we get fully verified denuclearization. Chairman Kim has repeated that. He has repeated that quite recently, in fact. And so we hope that this act that he took over the weekend won’t get in the way. We want to get back at the table. We want to continue to have these conversations.
The sanctions, the global sanctions put in place by the UN Security Council, they’re still in place. And so the pressure on Chairman Kim to continue down this path to achieve the outcome that everyone wants � you have to remember these took place � this attempt took place � or the � excuse me, these launches took place just after he met with Vladimir Putin.
SECRETARY POMPEO: And so clearly, Chairman Kim has not yet been able to get precisely what he wanted, but we hope that we can get back to the table and find the path forward. We’re further along than we were a year ago, and we hope we can continue to make progress.
QUESTION: Kim’s clearly frustrated by the fact that he hasn’t gotten anything back yet from the United States. As you mentioned, the sanctions are still in place, and he’s now set this deadline of the end of the year to � basically for the U.S. to show flexibility. Do you take that deadline seriously?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, this is a serious situation for sure, and we’ve known that the path to fully verified denuclearization would be a bumpy and long one. As for the deadline, we want to get back and begin to have these conversations. I don’t know that there’s anything particularly significant about his statement at the end of the year. We’re watching closely the North Korean behavior, as are our allies Japan and South Korea and the region. We still believe there is a path forward.
QUESTION: It was reported after the Hanoi summit that the President had reached out to Kim, there had been communications to the North Koreans. Have we heard anything back? Has the President heard back anything from Chairman Kim?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t want to get to the exact nature of the communications that took place, but yes, we have communicated with the North Koreans post-Hanoi, and we hope that they can become � in the coming weeks, become even more robust communications where we can really have conversations about how the path will move forward.
QUESTION: So you have heard back, though?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, yes.
QUESTION: So the President had this response on Twitter to the tests. It was a little different in tone than yours. He said: I believe [that] Kim Jong-un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, and will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen.
Why is the President so optimistic about getting a deal with Kim Jong-un?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Jonathan, that doesn’t sound any different from when I would sit here this morning. I too believe that there is a path forward that we can achieve this outcome.
Look, there was a UN report that came out on Friday, 50 percent of the North Korean population at risk of significant malnutrition. That is, it’s a very difficult set of conditions there. We want a brighter future. That’s why the President continued talks about this. It’s important. They need to understand that if these nuclear weapons go away, it will be of an enormous benefit to their country, and keeping them just continues to pose risk.
QUESTION: You mentioned the famine. Is the U.S. considering any steps to maybe lift sanctions to get humanitarian support in, anything to deal with that famine, which is supposed to be the worst in a long, long time?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So you’ll recall, Jonathan, that there � it’s permissible for humanitarian assistance; that is, that sanctions permit the North Koreans to purchase food products. It’s why, when I see things like happened on Friday night, where the money could have gone to taking care of his own people, it’s so unfortunate.
QUESTION: There were reports out of the region that after the Hanoi summit, several of the people that you were negotiating with that were part of that negotiating team in Hanoi were executed. Do we believe those reports are accurate?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Jonathan, I don’t have anything to add to that for you this morning.
QUESTION: But there seems to have been some kind of a shakeup of his team over there.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else, but we don’t know that for sure. Just as President Trump gets to decide who his negotiators will be, Chairman Kim will get to make his own decisions about who we ask to have these conversations.
QUESTION: I want to play you something that Cindy Warmbier had to say. She is, obviously, the mother of Otto Warmbier, who died after being imprisoned in North Korea. She made an emotional appeal to keep up the pressure. Take a listen:
MS WARMBIER: North Korea to me is a cancer on the earth. There is a charade going on right now. It’s called diplomacy. How can you have diplomacy with someone that never tells the truth?
QUESTION: So from everything that you have observed here, I mean, do you really think that Kim Jong-un is negotiating in good faith?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, first of all, I’ve come to know the Warmbier family, and Cindy in particular is an American warrior. She’s a noble, wonderful, gracious woman. And so the tone in her voice, the sound in her voice, I have enormous sympathy for.
Make no mistake, the United States continues to apply pressure. The UN sanctions continue to be enforced. We’re expending a lot of energy to do that. We think it’s simply important that we play out every diplomatic opportunity, every opportunity we have to have these nuclear weapons depart, and verify that without the use of force. We think every effort ought to be made in that, and we continue to work towards that.
QUESTION: But go back to the President’s tweet responding to these tests. The line that stuck out to me was he says, I’m with him. I’m with him. That’s what he’s saying about Kim Jong-un. You’ve just heard what Cindy Warmbier had to say about Kim Jong-un, who is one of the most brutal dictators in the world.
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is a president —
QUESTION: How does the President say, I’m with him?
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is a president who has put on the toughest sanctions in the history of the world against North Korea. The President understands the challenges. The President deeply understands this. And we are working towards finding a path forward with Chairman Kim to denuclearize this country diplomatically.
You’ll recall in the beginning of the administration where the President spoke about fire and fury. We understand all the challenges, we know who the North Koreans are, and we’re working to see if there is a possibility. Before we go another direction, we want to see if there’s any possibility we can achieve this outcome. It’s very straightforward.
QUESTION: Okay. Let’s turn to Venezuela. National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested earlier this week that Maduro was about to fall, openly called for members of Maduro’s inner circle to defect. But opposition leader Juan Guaido acknowledged yesterday that he miscalculated the level of support that he thought he had within the Venezuelan military. Was this an intelligence failure for the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, no, not at all. This is the Venezuelan people attempting to re-establish their democracy. The United States has joined with them. We have supported the National Assembly’s choice. Juan Guaido is the interim president of the country.
And as you know, these things sometimes have bumpy roads, to be sure, but Maduro can’t feel good. He’s ruling for the moment, but he can’t govern. There is enormous poverty, enormous starvation, sick children that can’t get medicine, Jonathan. This is not someone who can be part of Venezuela’s future, and whether that change takes place today or tomorrow or a week from now, one can’t predict. Our mission is to work with a large coalition, now 50 countries-plus, who are determined to restore democracy and then ultimately a productive economy to Venezuela.
QUESTION: You said today, tomorrow, or a week from now. So you’re saying this is imminent?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It could be two weeks, it could be four weeks.
QUESTION: It’s not going to be two months, not going to be a year?
SECRETARY POMPEO: What we can do is provide support, get support from the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, the entire region, that understands that restoring democracy for the Venezuelan people is an imperative, and get them all to work together so that we get the outcome we’re looking for.
QUESTION: Would Maduro still be in power if he didn’t have support from the Cubans and from the Russians?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Without the Cubans, there would be no possibility he was still in power. They are � they are the center of this. Indeed, it is the Cubans who are performing the security cordon for Maduro today. They are everywhere around him. He doesn’t trust his military. You said the military hadn’t come across. Well, the leader of their intelligence service —
SECRETARY POMPEO: left. So there’s a lot � Maduro cannot feel good about the security of his position today, and he shouldn’t because the Venezuelan people will demand ultimately that he leave.
QUESTION: You said the Cubans or the Russians?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Russians need to get out too. The President tweeted it very clearly. He said the Russians must go. We want every country � Iran is in there today. They need to leave as well. Every country that is interfering with the Venezuelan people’s right to restore their own democracy needs to leave.
QUESTION: I want to play you what the President said about Vladimir Putin and what Putin told him about Venezuela:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela, and I feel the same way.
QUESTION: But wait a minute. What does he mean, the Russians � that Putin does not want to get involved in Venezuela? Aren’t they already deeply involved in supporting Maduro?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has said that the Russians must get out. I’m going to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov in a couple of days. We’ll have more conversations about this. The objective is very clear: We want the Iranians out, we want the Russians out, we want the Cubans out. That’s ultimately what has to take place in order for Venezuelan democracy to be restored. It’s very clear. I don’t think anything the President said is inconsistent with that.
QUESTION: But wait a minute. You said that Maduro was on the plane ready to leave and to flee for Cuba, and it was the Russians that told him to stay. And the President is saying that Putin told him that he’s not looking to get involved in Venezuela. Does the President not realize what you have said publicly and what is obvious, that Putin is deeply involved in Venezuela? I mean, what does he mean when he’s saying he’s not looking to get involved?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I didn’t see the full context of the quote there. I don’t know what context that was said in. I do know this: The President has made clear we want everyone out, and that includes the Russians.
QUESTION: So you were at the Pentagon going over military options on Friday with the President’s national security team. I know the line that you’ve said, the President’s said, everybody has said: All options are on the table. But is a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela really an option?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, make no mistake, we have a full range of options that we’re preparing for. That’s part of what we were doing on Friday was making sure that when this progresses and a different situation arises that the President has a full-scale set of options: diplomatic options, political options, options with our allies, and then ultimately a set of options that would involve use of U.S. military. We’re preparing those for him so that when the situation arises, we’re not flat-footed.
QUESTION: Does the President believe that he can intervene militarily without getting congressional authorization as well?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t want to speak to that. The President has his full range of Article 2 authorities, and I am very confident that any action we took in Venezuela would be lawful.
QUESTION: I want to get to another thing that the President mentioned about his call, hour-long call with Vladimir Putin. He said that he believes that Russia will not interfere in the 2020 elections. We heard a different message from Bill Barr in his Senate testimony. We’ve heard concerns, obviously, from the Intelligence Community on this. Why does the President remain confident that Russia will not try to do it again?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve been part of this administration for two years now. We have worked diligently to protect American � America’s election system, something I wish the previous administration had done more effectively. We had pretty good success in 2018 � the Department of Homeland Security has talked about that � and we continue to be very focused on that.
Not only Russian interference; we don’t want the North Koreans interfering in our elections, we don’t want the Iranians. We want to protect and preserve our election system so that we can continue to have high confidence in the election outcomes that we get. We’re determined � the President has done more on election interference than any previous president. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished there, Jonathan.
QUESTION: The President seems to be suggesting that he’s ready for a new kind of phase of his relationship with Putin now that the Mueller report is done. Are we going to see � there’s been talk of a summit. Is there going to be a Trump-Putin summit on the horizon, and are we entering basically a new phase?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope we are. I’m going to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I’ll then be traveling the week after that to continue the conversations. We truly do hope � we hope we can find places where we can have overlap in our interests. When I was the CIA director, we were able to do that. We worked with the Russians on counterterrorism to keep Americans who were traveling in the world a little bit safer, and frankly, help Russian citizens who were traveling the world to be a little bit safer too. I think it makes perfect sense that any place we can find where we have overlapping interests, we work along with the Russians.
QUESTION: Is there a summit?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t know. We’ll see.
QUESTION: One more question before you go. I wanted to ask you about climate change. You said recently that climate change is not in the top five national security challenges facing the United States. We’ve heard the national � director of national intelligence talk about climate change fueling competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent. We’ve heard the Pentagon warn about climate change. Where do you put it? If it’s not in the top five national security threats, where do you put it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Jon, I can’t rank it.
QUESTION: But what —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can’t � I mean, I can’t tell you exactly which number. We want to make sure that all the outcomes that are possible � and that includes climatic change � that we are sure that our national security � as the Secretary of State, my job is to make sure our national security is never � or excuse me, never wavers, and that’s what we’ll do.
QUESTION: Because The Washington Post reported the State Department tried to strip any reference to climate change from the statement for the Arctic policy ahead of the summit you’re going to be attending this week. What are you doing specifically to address this threat, or do you —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Jon —
QUESTION: take it particularly seriously?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Jonathan, this administration takes keeping Americans safe, keeping our drinking water pure, keeping our air clean, very, very seriously. What the debate is about in this document you’re referring to is about the Paris climate agreement. We don’t think that that has any hope of being successful. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen America reduce its carbon footprint while the signatories, including China, haven’t done theirs. To sign a piece of paper, Jonathan, is interesting and fun, and you get to cut a piece of ribbon and have a big photo op, but at the end of the day, the world’s no safer.
This administration is focused on doing the things that will allow our economy to grow. And you know this: Countries with high per capita GDP always have cleaner air, safer drinking water. It’s a virtual certainty that health is improved for citizens around the world as economies grow. We’re determined to do that. We hope other countries will follow our lead, and they too could have historic 50-year lows in their unemployment as well. These are the things that will keep Americans safe. It’s what President Trump is focused on.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you for joining us on This Week.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Jonathan. It’s great to be with you, sir.
QUESTION: Appreciate it.
Source: U.S. State Department