Jul 8, 2020
Mike Pompeo Press Conference Transcript July 8: Talks Possible TikTok Ban
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a news briefing on July 8, 2020. He saids the U.S. will take action to deny China access to Americans’ data, including possibly banning the Chinese social media platform TikTok. Read the full news conference speech transcript here.
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Mike Pompeo: (00:00)
Philadelphia talking about the work of the Unalienable Rights Commission, I’m looking forward to that. A belated happy birthday to his holiness, the Dalai Lama who celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday of this week. And a big welcome to Mexico’s President López Obrador who’s in Washington today to celebrate the landmark USMCA trade deal coming into force alongside President Trump. I spoke with foreign minister yesterday, I’m looking forward to seeing him here in just a little bit as well. I think we’ll have a great set of meetings over at the White House later on today. On Monday, Egypt released US citizen Mohamed Amashah who had been detained since March of 2019. Mohamed is just one of many Americans President Trump’s administration has worked tirelessly to get back home. And we thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation. But at the same time, we urged Egyptian officials to stop unwanted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there.
Mike Pompeo: (00:59)
I want to start today with the Chinese Communist Party. As with all unelected communist regimes, Beijing fears, its own peoples freethinking more than any foreign foe. We were deeply troubled to learn this week that the CCP detained Xu Zhangrun for criticizing General Secretary Xi Jinping’s oppressive regime and the CCPs mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He should be released. He was simply telling the truth. He should be released as soon as possible. I’ll repeat a theme I’ve been talking about for months, the CCP has an enormous credibility problem. They failed to tell the world the truth about this virus. And now hundreds of thousands of peoples all across the world are dead. We need the truth. We still need the truth. We need to open up. We need to engage in a serious way with scientists around the world. And they now say they’re going to allow the WHO to come in.
Mike Pompeo: (01:54)
That’s great, but the WHO needs to be free to do it’s real work. We need to make sure the right people are there to engage in this investigation. And we need real answers, not a perfunctory political solution. This is about science, not politics. And the Chinese Communist Party needs to come clean with the world about this virus. Beijing claimed for months, that it reported the outbreak of the virus to the WHO. Now we know that’s not true too. We know the WHO country office in China reported the outbreak only after it picked up a media statement from the Wu Han Municipal Health Commission. Again, Beijing described Xinjiang internment camps as vocational training camps, new reports of forced abortions and sterilizations add to a body of evidence that contradicts that. And Beijing said that for 50 years, they give the people of Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, and you all have seen what’s happened after only 23 years. Empty promises made to the people of Hong Kong and to the world.
Mike Pompeo: (02:54)
I want to give a kudos to Google, Facebook and Twitter for refusing to surrender user data to the Hong Kong government. Other companies should follow them and do the same. And a shout out to our Canadian friends as well. Canada has been strong in its response to Beijing’s crackdown. We think that’s the right course for the entire world to take. We’re heartened to see too, the United Kingdom have their vigorous debate now on the risk presented to the British people from Huawei technology being in their systems. As FBI Director Ray said yesterday, Huawei is “A serial intellectual property thief with a pattern and practice of disregarding both the rule of law and the rights of its victims.” I commend to you Director Ray’s entire speech yesterday, it is worth the time to watch.
Mike Pompeo: (03:44)
Attorney General Barr will deliver a set of remarks in the coming days. And then I’ll give what will be the fourth in a series of remarks. Want to direct everyone also to a letter that Under Secretary Keith Krach drafted to CEO, boards of directors, trade groups, commercial investment firms, alerting them to the CCPs use of slave labor in Xinjiang, and providing them with a set of governance recommendations for how they should ensure that they are not part and parcel of this terrible practice.
Mike Pompeo: (04:16)
Last China item, the CCP recently filed a boundary dispute with Butan at a meeting of the Global Environmental Facility. From the mountain ranges of the Himalayas to the waters of Vietnam’s Exclusive Zone to the Senkaku Islands and beyond, Beijing has a pattern of instigating territorial disputes. The world shouldn’t allow this bullying to take place nor should it permit it to continue.
Mike Pompeo: (04:41)
To the Middle East. On Monday, Iraq tragically lost a patriot prominent scholar and journalist when Husham Al Hashimi was brutally assassinated in front of his home in Baghdad. Dr. Hashimi had devoted his life to a free and sovereign Iraq and gave voice to the aspirations of the Iraqi people. In the days leading up to his death, he was repeatedly threatened by Iran backed armed groups, and the United States joins partner nations and strongly condemning his assassination and call for the government of Iraq to bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrible crime and bring them swiftly to justice.
Mike Pompeo: (05:17)
In Syria, the actions of the Assad Regime, Russia and China to constrict the flow of life, saving supplies, medicine and food have exacerbated an already terrible humanitarian situation on the ground. Just yesterday, Russia and China once again, vetoed action at the UN Security Council that would have maintained humanitarian access to desperate Syrian communities. Over the last several months, Russia and the people’s Republic of China have repeatedly abused their veto powers and the council to support the Assad Regime strategy of starving its own people. Their calculus is clear. They believe there’s no price to pay for their actions to the Security Council. They believe in the partnership with Assad Regime will render political and economic benefits that outweigh any cost of conscience or moral obligation. It’s our job, the responsible nations of the world to increase those costs, document the human impact of these decisions and use this example to remind the world of what these two regimes stand for.
Mike Pompeo: (06:22)
I also want to address the deteriorating and immobile oil storage vessel the SAFER, that’s floating off in the Red Sea. Some of you will remember I’ve spoken about this before I think. The tanker contains four times the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez disaster. If it ruptures, it will devastate the Red Sea ecosystem and disrupt key shipping lanes and the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab. A disaster like that could prevent desperately needed food aid from reaching a Yemeni population already in terrible dire conditions. The Houthis these have blocked UN officials who need to board the vessel in order that they may do the work necessary to prevent massive environmental damage throughout the region. The Houthis must grant access before this ticking time bomb explodes.
Mike Pompeo: (07:08)
And speaking of the Houthis and bombs, last week, a United Nations report confirmed that the weapon shipments the United States interdicted back in November of 2019 and then again in February of this year or of Iranian origin. You’ll recall that when we said that the Iranians denied it, UN has now confirmed with this. Iran is not abiding by the UN Arms Embargo Restrictions that are due to expire in less than four months now. Now we’ve interdicted another shipment of weapons heading to the Houthis. On June 28th, US and partner forces interdicted a vessel off the coast of Yemen with illicit cargo, including 200 RPGs, more than 1700 AK rifles, 21 surface to air and land attack missiles, several anti-tank missiles and other advanced weapons and missiles.
Mike Pompeo: (07:59)
The security council must extend the arms embargo on Iran to prevent further conflict in the region. No serious person can possibly believe Iran would use any weapon it receives for peaceful ends. Contrastly, the Islamic Republic Iran’s illegal gun running with America’s work to help our allies and partners defend themselves. On Monday we notify Congress has seven and a half billion dollars worth of defense sales from new rotorcraft capabilities for countries like Lithuania and Indonesia to new ISR platforms for NATO, ally France, to increased infantry mobility and the Stryker platform for Argentina. The United States is meeting the high demand for our allies and partners for American gear to defend their nations. We’re strengthening our security partnerships, building capacity and supporting the American manufacturing base.
Mike Pompeo: (08:51)
And now turning to Africa, we’re making progress and helping Sudan’s transition to a more democratic and peaceful way of life. At the Sudan Partnership Conference back on June 25th, the United States had asked it will provide 356.2 million to support the Sudan democratic transition, including more than 85 million in development and COVID-19 assistance.
Mike Pompeo: (09:14)
And finally, I’ll close here. As one of our expanding security relationship with the Republic of Cyprus. For the first time, the department of state intends to provide international military education and training funding to that country contingent on congressional appropriations and our notification of Congress as part of our efforts to enhance relationships with key regional partners to promote stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. Happy to take some questions.
Speaker 2: (09:37)
Nadia, go ahead.
Good morning, Mr. Secretary, you opposed the release of Mr. Kassim Tajideen although you said that you abide by the court decision, does this hinder your effort to go after high target financier of Hezbollah like Mr. Tajideen and what does it say to the people who oppose Hezbollah and the people who are trying to support them financially? And in that regard for the first time we hear Hassan Nasrallah the leader of the group yesterday saying that he welcomes you as assistant to the Lebanese government. Do you see that although he said US as an enemy? But do you see this as a way of trying to open some dialogue with the US considering that they release this person, Mr. Tajideen?
Mike Pompeo: (10:27)
Yeah. So we do everything we can to enforce the sanctions that were put in place against terrorist figures, including those who have been designated in the Hezbollah designations. We’ve urged other countries to designate Hezbollah terrorist organization as well. We continue to believe that they presented an enormous risk and their behavior indicates that they are in fact, a terrorist organization that is intent on causing harm to the West and most in particular to our partner and ally in the region, Israel. Second, I didn’t see the remarks that you described from Nasrallah. I did see him say that they should take Iranian oil, that I saw. That would be unacceptable for them to do that. It would be a sanctioned product for sure. And we’ll do everything we can to make sure that Iran cannot continue to sell crude oil anywhere, including to Hezbollah in the region. So that the resources that fund and underwrite the world’s largest state sponsor terror won’t be made available to them because they were able to sell some crude oil product or some petroleum product to Hezbollah.
Sorry, just a follow up quickly. But many people will see the release of Mr. Tajideen as a victory for Hezbollah. And they might be using it as that. And this is why he said we will come and US assistant, and we don’t mind it.
Mike Pompeo: (11:46)
Yeah. There can be no mistake with the United States has done and will continue to do to put pressure on Hezbollah and to try and assist the people of Lebanon at building out a successful government. The other component here, of course, is Lebanon’s incredible struggle to conduct the reforms that are necessary to make sure that the Lebanese people who have been protesting in the streets simply demanding a government that’s not corrupt that is engaged in behavior that benefits the Lebanese people. That’s our mission set. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and we are supportive of Lebanon as long as they get the reforms right and they are not a, a proxy state for Iran in Lebanon. Be a very bad thing for the people throughout Lebanon. And we hope that doesn’t happen in Beirut.
Speaker 2: (12:29)
Nick [inaudible 00:00:12:29].
Good morning Mr. Secretary.
Mike Pompeo: (12:34)
Thank you very much. Can we do WHO in Iran, if I could?
Mike Pompeo: (12:35)
Sure. Give it a shot.
US law mandates that the administration follow through on the financial pledges, to the WHO before the withdrawal next year, can you tell us how much the US has paid of that? And whether you intend to follow through on the commitments in Iran? What’s the message Iranian leaders should draw from the explosion of Natanz, do you believe it was accidental or deliberate?
Mike Pompeo: (12:58)
I’m not going to talk about the second question. With respect to the first one, we provided notice yesterday to Capitol Hill of our intent to withdraw from the World Health Organization, something we had talked about, and we had communicated to Congress, even in the informal process that this was our intention. We formerly did that from the State Department yesterday, consistent with the President’s guidance. We will work with Congress with respect to the appropriated funds. We’ll get it right, but President’s made very clear, we are not going to underwrite an organization that has historically been incompetent and not performed its fundamental function. There’s a real focus on the failures that took place around Wuhan and the World Health Organization’s fundamental, inability to perform its basic core mission of preventing a global pandemic spread. But don’t forget the history.
Mike Pompeo: (13:51)
This is an institution that got it wrong on SARS had got it wrong on Ebola. The United States had to create its own system, PEPFAR to do the work, to prevent and come up with solutions to the HIV/AIDS problem. We did that. The United States did that. The World Health Organization has a long history of corruption and politicization. And it’s not that it doesn’t get some pieces of their program right. That’s certainly true. But unbalanced, this is an organization that has not been able to deliver on its core mission for decades. We tried Nick, desperately. And we in fact, got some reforms through a back a handful of years ago. But the WHO leadership clearly has been able to execute and implement them in a way that can prevent the global pandemic that has destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and costs the global economy, trillions and trillions of dollars. That is not an organization that the administration has any intention of underwriting.
Speaker 2: (14:43)
Karina, go ahead.
[inaudible 00:14:47] Brazil Do you think President Jair Bolsonaro should change his approach to the virus now that he has tested positive? And also when we will US allow people who are traveling from Brazil to enter the country, is there a number of cases or deaths that Brazil needs to reach in order to do that?
Mike Pompeo: (15:07)
So President Bolsonaro’s perfectly capable making his own decision about how to proceed with the health situation in his own country. I spoke with the Foreign Minister Araujo yesterday about that, and many other things with respect to our relationship, they’re a great partner and friend of ours. As for when we can get travel back open between our two countries, the relationship with Brazil is no different than any other country. We are putting in place a set of metrics that will determine when it’s appropriate and safe for the American people to allow travel, to come from other countries, we’ll evaluate each country separately and make informed decisions based on science and reason, not politics. We’re going to get this right. We’re going to make sure that we do everything we can to get our economy back open just as quickly as we can. We have a big team here at State, a big team at Transportation, at DHS, Vice President’s task force all looking at this challenge. We want to get international travel back up and going just as quickly as we can. That includes with our great friends in South America, including Brazil,
Speaker 2: (16:10)
Okay. Mr. Secretary, a couple of questions. First on, COVID, curious if we could get some updates on the negotiations to end the travel restrictions with the European Union. And then secondly, you said yesterday, the administration is looking at banning TikTok. I’m curious how serious is ban consideration is? India banned almost overnight with very little thought and how soon can we expect that to go into effect?
Mike Pompeo: (16:38)
So with respect to the conversations with the EU, we’ve actually made some progress thinking about how to do that. So it’s unlikely to be the case that it will be on and off. That is we will attempt to put in some procedures and protocols that protect both citizens here in the United States, from the spread. And it’s a global challenge and we want to make sure that the European citizens aren’t impacted adversely by travel from the West as well. Lots of people not only come from America, but transit through America to Europe.
Mike Pompeo: (17:07)
So we’ve got to deal with all the complexity that comes with it. We’ve made some real progress, technical progress, and now we need to draw that to a conclusion. And then there’ll be a system. A system to monitor and measure to make sure that we get the timing right. And we get the toggle switches right. Both sides of the Atlantic want to get this back up and both sides understand that our economies depend on it. The deep, important transatlantic relationship matters. These are two Western democracies that have a lot of good work to do together and getting those travel nodes hooked back up and connected again is an important thing.
Mike Pompeo: (17:39)
With respect to TikTok, I want to put it in the broader context. We have been engaged in a constant evaluation about ensuring that we protect the privacy of American citizens and their information as a transit. So this doesn’t relate to any one particular business or company, but rather to American national security. And we are striving to get that light. That the comments that I made about a particular company early this week fall in the context of us evaluating the threat from the Chinese Communist Party. We’ve talked about in the context of ZTE, we’ve talked about it in the context of Huawei and we are now evaluating each instance where we believe that US citizens data that they have on their phones or in their system or in their healthcare records. We want to make sure that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t have a way to easily access that.
Mike Pompeo: (18:27)
And so what you’ll see the administration do is take actions that preserve and protect that information and deny the Chinese Communist Party access to the private information that belongs to Americans. Its a big project because we’ve got partners all around the world where infrastructure crosses Chinese technology and then comes to United States. So one should think about this as a project of real scale and real importance. We must get this right. The infrastructure of this next a hundred years must be a communications infrastructure that’s based on a Western ideal of private property and protection of private citizens information in a transparent way. That is not the model that Chinese Communist Party software and hardware companies are engaged in.
Speaker 2: (19:12)
Thank you Mr. Secretary.
Mike Pompeo: (19:14)
Mike Pompeo: (19:14)
You look like you’ve got a great question. Just all over your face. I can just see it.
I try to bring some Midwest optimism [crosstalk 00:00:19:22].
Mike Pompeo: (19:22)
Fantastic. That’s awesome. Me too.
Good. So disparate countries from Taiwan to Germany have managed to flatten the curve, but the US has the highest number of cases of COVID in the world. Do you still believe the US is a world leader on the pandemic? And just to put it directly, was the US involved in any way in the Natanz explosion?
Mike Pompeo: (19:48)
I’ll take your first question. Of course, the US remains the world leader in the pandemic. It almost goes without saying. And there are multiple dimensions and I’ve talked about each of them, certainly the Vice President taskforce talks about them as well. But whether that is the technical scientific solutions, both how to stop the spread, whether that’s therapeutics or vaccines, the world turns its eyes to the best scientists and researchers and practitioners of the sciences that will ultimately bring resolutions from it, it’s the United States that the world looks to. When it comes to countries, small countries, whether that’s in central Asia or in Africa, their eyes turned to the United States. It’s not remotely close who has provided the most assistance to these nations to try and solve what are vexing problems in their countries with very little medical infrastructure. And so, yes, there is no doubt that the United States has been and will remain the world’s leader when it comes to not only pandemic response, but global healthcare infrastructure systems and processes that take down the very risks that we described.
Mike Pompeo: (20:59)
It’s good. We have friends and partners in this too. The Western democracies, that model is the one that is most likely to prevail and prevent this thing from happening again. What we found in China is the Chinese Communist Party was simply incapable. And you see it with the arrests that I referred to in my remarks, they’re incapable of being transparent, of accepting criticism, of allowing reporters to ask them questions that they find uncomfortable that elicit the truth and the facts. We still have significant questions about who patient zero was.
Mike Pompeo: (21:29)
We’re now six months on, at least from when this began the Chinese Communist Party, that authoritarian model simply can’t prevent the inquiry or has to prevent that inquiry because they’re afraid. They’re afraid that the truth will be something that will not shine a happy light on what took place. And so instead they chose to hide an obfuscate and deny basic truth, basic scientific truth about what took place. This is a fundamental and fatal flaw for authoritarian regimes, and it’s why the Chinese Communist Party has to be held accountable. And your second question was about the explosion of Natanz. I don’t have anything to add.
Do you think the Israelis were involved?
Mike Pompeo: (22:09)
I just don’t have any comment. Thanks.
Speaker 2: (22:11)
Victor, go ahead.
Thank you. Okay. Now [inaudible 00:22:15] the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican delegation has been clear that [inaudible 00:22:22] coronavirus. I’d like to know if you put on the table issues like human rights or [inaudible 00:22:30] concerns, freedom of the press for example. [inaudible 00:22:36] and the need to upgrade or review [inaudible 00:00:22:40].
Mike Pompeo: (22:42)
Yeah. So it’s the Presidents meeting, he’ll put on the table precisely what he chooses to, and I’m sure President Obrador will do that as well, but I’m confident the meeting we’ll talk about the full range of issues that we work on with the Mexican government. Certainly the economic issues we want to talk about our border, how we make sure that we keep that border, that commercial traffic up and successful, very important to American supply chains, Canadian supply chains that you can see coming to full force under the USMCA. And we’ve got to make sure we get that right. And so I know they’ll talk about that.
Mike Pompeo: (23:16)
I’m confident that the full range of issues. I’m sure we’ll talk about issues that expand beyond bilateral as well. Things in the hemisphere. What’s taking place in Venezuela today, challenges that we find to narcotics trafficking in both the Pacific and the Atlantic places where Mexico can help. So I’m confident that the full range of issues you asked, you mentioned several others. I’m very confident that the discussion will be complete and comprehensive. I expect we’ll have a good set of meetings with him today, in the afternoon and then again this evening at the working dinner as well. I’ve got time for one more.
Speaker 2: (23:50)
[inaudible 00:23:50] Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (23:51)
Thank you Mr. Secretary. Following up on your remarks about Beijing’s patterns of instigating boundary dispute, what has happened with India, China’s admission behavior against India in Linhan Ladakh. What is the assessment of the situation between India and China right now?
Mike Pompeo: (24:10)
So I’ve spoken with Foreign Minister Jaishankar a number of times about this. The Chinese took incredibly aggressive action, the Indians have done their best to respond to that. I put this in the context of the General Secretary Xi Jinping and his behavior throughout the region and indeed throughout the world. I don’t think it’s possible to look at that particular instance of Chinese Communist Party aggression in isolation. I think you need to put it in the larger context. When I was up at once before we talked about the number of both maritime and boundaries disputes of the Chinese Communist Party has engaged. And I think it’s unequaled any place else in the world. There aren’t many neighbors that can satisfactorily saying that they know where their sovereignty ends and that the Chinese Communist Party will respect that sovereignty. That’s certainly true now for the people who Butan as well.
Mike Pompeo: (25:02)
This is what the world must come together to respond to. This increasing revisionist effort that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in. Something that President Trump has taken incredibly seriously. The United States hadn’t done that in previous administrations. We respond to this in a way that we think is appropriate. And we have attempted to communicate to the Chinese leadership that we are serious about this. When I say we, it’s not just the United States, we will start very shortly a dialogue with our EU friends on how we collectively can respond to this challenge from the Chinese communist party. And I am confident. I’m confident that this…
Mike Pompeo: (25:41)
I think what’s happened with the spread of this virus from Wuhan China. I think the world has seen the true colors of the Chinese Communist Party. And I am convinced more than ever that the free peoples of the world will come to understand the threat that’s presented not only internally inside of China, but importantly, that the impact that General Secretary Xi has on the world is not good for a free peoples and democracy loving peoples, and the world will come together to respond to that in a way that is powerful and important and will preserve sovereign nations operating under the rule of law in the way that we have all come accustomed to and benefits people all across the world. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m going to have to take off. Thanks everybody. Have a good day.