Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Tony Katz of The Morning News

Washington, DC (STL.News) – The US Department of State released the following statement:

QUESTION: The conversation of coronavirus has led to conversations about our relationship with China.  Tony Katz, great to be with you. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us right now.  Sir, I appreciate you taking the time.  I know you’ve been asked a lot of these questions, specifically about the idea of should China pay for the damage that has been done.  I do want to get to that, but I would like to ask a question that’s maybe more direct, more focused.  Is there a belief from the United States Government that China was purposeful in the leak of this virus, or is there a belief that China knew there was a leak and did not tell anybody? Are either one of those things true? Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Hey, good morning.  How are you?

QUESTION: I’m very good, sir.  How are you?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I just could hear you just there.  I’m great, thank you.

QUESTION: So the question was to – about China and a conversation about whether China should pay for the damage done, a question you’ve been asked before.  But I wanted to get a little more specific.  Does the State Department believe that China absolutely purposefully engaged a virus, or is there a belief that there was a leak from a virology lab in Wuhan, and China did not let the world know about it until it was too late?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, there’s still lots of work to be done to find out precisely what happened here, precisely how this came to be. We know this much: We know this is a global pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China.  We know that there were wet markets there.  So we’re beginning to piece the facts together.  We also know that China was too late, too slow, in providing important information about human-to-human spread of the virus.  One of the most important facts is how quickly this has spread, how easily and readily this has spread, and unfortunately, that information didn’t get to the relevant people that could have made decisions earlier, and that caused the entire world to be on its back foot at a time when it needed to be leaning forward and moving out aggressively.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t disagree with you on those points, but there is a question of how the United States does respond.  And there are a couple of areas in which people are asking, I think, very strong and in many ways very, very smart questions.  When China goes about saying, “Well, the U.S. army could have done this,” when you see the levels of propaganda as you have seen on Twitter and other places, including conversations and complete omissions from the World Health Organization, how does the State Department respond to those things, to their Chinese counterparts, or to those within the World Health Organization?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, very clearly, we’ve responded vigorously directly to the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership as well as to the World Health Organization.  Those kinds of disinformation campaigns are not only wrong and unfounded, but they create risk, they cost lives.  When you don’t have data, when you don’t have transparency, when instead you kick journalists out of your country or, as the Chinese Government did yesterday, make decisions to say we’re not going to publish as much information about what really happened, we respond directly; we tell them this isn’t in the best interests, frankly, of their people either, certainly of America.

And President Trump – when we get to the point where it’s time, it’s time to evaluate exactly what happened here – and this isn’t years; this is in a much shorter time frame than that – there will be entities that are held responsible for what took place.  The President said that yesterday.  He said that we should make sure that we do things right today, which is to make sure we’re moving heaven and earth to protect the American people, keep them safe here inside the United States.  The State Department’s made sure we got people back from places all across the world so they could be safe as well, and then there’ll become a time to review precisely what happened, to investigate, get all the facts, and hold accountable those who were responsible for this enormous not only loss in human life but the economic damage that’s been done here in the United States as well.

QUESTION: Talking to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  It is Congressman Jim Banks of the Indiana 3rd District who has called upon you, called upon the Attorney General Bill Barr, to bring international – an international criminal case against China over the cover-up.  You talk about there’s going to be a time to look into these things.  I’m a believer that we are the society that can indeed walk and chew gum at the same time, and maybe we need to be doing both at the same time.  But on a personal level, as the man who leads the State Department, do you trust China?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I’ve seen the data over these past weeks, where the Chinese Government has simply not lived up to their obligations – their obligations to the international organizations, including the World Health Organization, and to the things that nations do, the way we’re supposed to treat our fellow human beings.  And so frankly, it certainly applies to the Chinese Communist Party, it applies to other countries as well.  It’s not about trust.  It’s about actions.  It’s not about what they say or what they tell us, but to observe what they do.

Look, we’re trying to find places – as the President said last week, we’re trying to find places where we can cooperate with China as we move through this time.  Our fundamental obligation in the days and weeks ahead is to do everything we can to fight back against this virus here in the United States and get our economy going back again.

QUESTION: So Senator Dianne Feinstein of California sent a letter to the President saying that he’s wrong; we should be sending $5 billion to Iran to help them in this fight on coronavirus.  Is that the job of the United States? Certainly, we’re always the people who want to help. Certainly, we’ve helped people who do indeed hate us.  But is there a place for $5 billion to be going to the Iranian regime with no knowledge of whether or not it’s actually going to help people engaged with dealing with coronavirus?

SECRETARY POMPEO: No, Senator Feinstein’s got that wrong, and the President has talked about a this too.  We offered humanitarian assistance, real humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people, but we’re not about to send cash to the ayatollahs.  In the first instance, it won’t get where we’d like it to go.  If our mission set is to save lives inside of Iran, to send a bunch of money to the Iranian regime won’t get that money to those people.  It’ll be funneled, siphoned off; it’ll be used for corrupt purposes.  And so that is the wrong approach to assistance inside of Iran.

Unfortunately, too, the Iranian regime has rejected our efforts; moreover, importantly, rejected their own ability.  They have money. The ayatollah has got billions of dollars socked away.  It is not the case that Iran doesn’t have the capacity, the financial resources, to take care of this problem itself.  The United States and the world – this was an IMF loan, I think, that she was referring to – ought not to be creating free cash for the Iranian regime which will be used to fund its proxy wars all across the world, including those in Iraq where American citizens’ lives, American soldiers’ lives, are at risk.

QUESTION: When we talk about this larger sense of what coronavirus has done, there is the trade conversation, then there’s, of course, the relationship with other nations. We often hear from the American press corps about how things are strained with other nations, and they don’t look upon America with respect – something I don’t personally believe, but you keep hearing them try and push that narrative. What have your conversations been like with other world leaders, your counterparts, in dealing with coronavirus and specifically trade in this world of coronavirus? And what does the future look like in your eyes?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I think you’re exactly right. You hear these stories about the absence of American leadership. In many cases, that’s disinformation itself.  It is the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese all trying to make a public case that says America is no longer the world’s most important economic power.  That’s fundamentally false.  And when I talk to my colleagues from democratic countries from around the world, we all know. I think this coronavirus has provided some clarity to them as well.  We’d been talking about China as a strategic competitor here in the United States since President Trump took office.  He’d been talking about the fact that these were unfair trade relationships, trying to get them to be more reciprocal.

And I think now many in the world, who perhaps didn’t take that as seriously as President Trump and this administration have, understand the risks associated with that today.  And I hope as we move forward through this, that these free countries, these democratic nations who value freedom and liberty and the things that Americans really care about, will join together.

QUESTION: How is your health? How is the health of your family? How is the health of those in the State Department?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you so much for asking.  So I am fine.  I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been.  I could probably do better on that, but my wife and my son are both feeling fine too.  So thank you for asking.

We’ve had – unfortunately, we’ve had three State Department officials that have passed away from the coronavirus.  We’ve had a couple of hundred cases.  But we’re working hard to keep all of our team safe.  They have been traveling the world to repatriate now 61,000 Americans who got stuck, were trapped, stranded all across the world.  They have done remarkable work to bring them back.  I am very proud of what the team has done to get Americans home and get them safe and back to their families.

QUESTION: I know you are up against it.  I appreciate taking the time.  We have more of these conversations in our future, sir. Secretary Mike Pompeo, thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.  Have a great day, sir.