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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at a Press Availability
July 3, 2020

DOS-Seal07/01/2020 01:26 PM EDT

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Press Briefing Room

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Morning, everyone.  How are you all today?  Pretty good?

QUESTION:  How are you?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I am good.  And seeing as we’re now on the Fourth of July, or quickly approaching, I thought I’d lead off with some thoughts on America’s founding principles for us this morning.  The United States was the first nation established on the premise that government exists to protect our God-given, unalienable rights.  I’ll have more to say about that in just a couple weeks.

It was a revolutionary idea; we shouldn’t forget that as we talk about these complex foreign policy issues.  The idea of government for the people, by the people was and remains important, and was unique.  We’re always striving for a more perfect union.  We don’t get it right every day, but we try to improve and we use our unmatched power to protect rights at home and abroad.  Happy early Fourth of July to you all, and to your families.

Now, turning to the substance of my remarks today, and I want to talk about one of the world’s most unfree countries.

Yesterday the Chinese Communist Party implemented its draconian national security law on Hong Kong, in violation of commitments that it made to the Hong Kong people and to the United Kingdom, in a UN-registered treaty – and in contravention of Hong Kongers’ human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Free Hong Kong was one of the world’s most stable, prosperous, and dynamic cities.  Now it will be just another communist-run city, where its people will be subject to the party elite’s whims.  It’s sad.

Indeed, this is already happening.  Security forces are already rounding up Hong Kongers for daring to speak and think freely.  The rule of law has been eviscerated.  And as always, the Chinese Communist Party fears its own people more than anything else.

The United States is deeply concerned about the law’s sweeping provisions and the safety of everyone living in the territory, including Americans.

Article 38 of the new law also purports to apply to offenses committed outside of Hong Kong by non-residents of Hong Kong, and this likely includes Americans.  This is outrageous and an affront to all nations.

On Friday, we implemented visa restrictions on those responsible for the Hong Kong crackdown.  On Monday, we announced that we would end defense equipment and dual-use technology exports of U.S. origin going to the territory.

We will continue to implement President Trump’s directive to end Hong Kong’s special status.

Other federal agencies are involved as well.  I applaud FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for designating Huawei and ZTE as national security risks.

We’re also continuing to take action to build on President Trump’s signing of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.

Today, the United States Department of State, along with Treasury, Commerce, and DHS, are issuing a business advisory to companies with supply chain links to entities complicit in forced labor and other human rights abuses in Xinjiang and throughout China.

CEOs should read this notice closely and be aware of the reputational, economic, and legal risks of supporting such assaults on human dignity.

I want to call attention to recent, credible, and deeply disturbing new reports that the Chinese Communist Party is imposing forced sterilization and abortions on Uyghurs and other minorities in western China.

This shocking news is sadly consistent with the CCP’s decades-long callous disregard for the sanctity of human life.  I call on all nations, women’s advocates, religious groups, and human rights organizations to stand up for the Chinese people’s basic human dignity.

The Chinese Communist Party’s brutality affects the rest of the world, too.

We welcome India’s ban on certain mobile apps that can serve as appendages of the CCP’s surveillance state.  India’s Clean App approach will boost India’s sovereignty.  It will also boost India’s integrity and national security, as the Indian Government itself has stated.

Today, Canada’s national day celebrations are dimmed by the CCP’s recent decision to bring trumped-up espionage charges against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The CCP’s propagandists have implied that these two Canadian citizens are hostages, held in retaliation for Canada’s lawful arrest of Huawei’s executive.  She is charged by the Department of Justice with bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.

I commend the Canadian Government for standing firm and backing their independent legal system.  Hostage-taking for political gains puts China in league with the Irans and Venezuelas of the world.  The two Mikes need to come home now.

In the Middle East:

At the fourth Brussels conference on Syria yesterday, the United States announced almost $700 million in humanitarian assistance to support Syrians inside the country and displaced abroad, bringing our total funding to just over $11.3 billion since the conflict began more than nine years ago.

In Iraq, I want to commend the government there for bringing all armed groups under its control, including those firing rockets at Iraqi government facilities.  The presence of these lawless actors remains the single biggest obstacle to additional assistance or economic investment for the country.  For the world to help Iraq, Iraq must first help itself.  Baghdad’s actions are a step in the right direction and we applaud them.

I want to note three brutal honor killings that have taken place in Iran: 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi, 19-year-old Fatemeh Barhi, and 22-year-old Rayhaneh Ameri.  Two were beheaded and one was beaten to death with an iron bar at the hands of relatives.

For 40 years, corrupt Iranian leaders have condoned murder, dehumanized women, and ignored cries for justice.  When will they stop this unspeakable wicked assault on human dignity?

Staying on Iran:  As many of you saw yesterday, I spoke to the UN Security Council, urging them to retain the 13-year-old arms embargo on Iran.  These restrictions, as a result of the failed JCPOA, are set to expire in October.

If Iran is allowed to buy weapons from the likes of China and Russia, more civilians in the Middle East will die at the hands of the regime and its proxies.  It’s that straightforward.  Tehran will become an arms dealer for the Maduros and Assads of the world.  Sworn enemies of Israel like Hamas and Hizballah will be better armed.  European nations will be put at risk.

Our team has put together a short video that explains why this is so important.  I’d like to show it to you now.

(A video was played.)

So when you all hear about legal niceties and complexities and intra – international fighting about what the right course of action is, remind yourself about what happens to the world if this arms embargo is lifted.  In the end, that’s what matters.  In the end, that’s what the UN Security Council has the capacity to ensure does not take place.  I remind you to go back and look at remarks from the previous administration about the fact that the United States has the unambiguous right, without the consent of any other nation, to ensure that this arms embargo stays in place.  This administration is going to do everything we can to make sure that that happens to keep not only American people safe but to reduce instability in the Middle East.

A little north of Iran:

We applaud this week’s constitutional reform in the Republic of Georgia. We call on Georgia’s parliament to honor the will of the Georgian people and pledges of Georgian officials through the passage and implementation of internationally recommended election reforms.  Good on them.

And yesterday, for the third time in less than a year, I met with my counterparts from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in the C5+1 format.  We share many common goals, including peace in Afghanistan; strengthening regional trade, energy, and security ties; and building resilient economies for each of those countries.

As a sign of America’s focus on building genuine partnerships, our Development Finance Corporation CEO, Adam Boehler, is today accompanying Ambassador Khalilzad on a trip to the region to scout out investment opportunities where American businesses can be successful and help these countries be sovereign and independent as well.

Congratulations are in order for the Democratic Republic of Congo. In an unprecedented ruling, President Tshisekedi’s chief of staff was convicted for corruption.  No one, however high in office, should be above the law.

And last week, the people of Malawi elected Lazarus Chakwera as their next president. This is only the second time – the second time that a court – second time that in America – in Africa, rather – that a court has overturned a presidential election tainted by irregularities, and the only time that a re-election process has resulted in the election of an opposite party candidate.  Truly a historic opportunity for the people of that country.

This past week, the United States and Russia held the first round of nuclear arms control talks.  Our two sides met in Vienna.  They had positive, detailed discussions on a wide range of topics, including China’s secretive build-up.  Beijing regrettably boycotted the talks, continuing its record of secrecy and rejection of multilateralism.

And on Monday, the Bureau of Energy Resources led an interagency working group as part of the U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue, where we’re working together to diversify energy sources in Southeast Europe, develop resources together, and promote regional energy security.

And finally, to our hemisphere:

All 21 OAS member states voted last week to condemn the Maduro regime’s attempts to suppress independent political parties in Venezuela.  Our region has categorically rejected the attempts to create a phony, Maduro-friendly opposition.

The United States also congratulates the people of Suriname on their elections and a peaceful transition of power to a new National Assembly.  We look forward to working with that new government.

In contrast, it’s now been four months since Guyana’s election – long past due for a peaceful transition of power.  CARICOM and the OAS have certified the recount results.  They should get on with it.

I’ve instructed my department to ensure those who undermine Guyana’s democracy are held accountable.

Also, today the USMCA comes into effect.  It will open up new opportunities for U.S, Mexico, and Canadian business and consumers.  Good news.

Finally, I’ll bookend my remarks by marking another anniversary.  July 1st marks the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Thailand.  American educational programs and cultural programs–the world like this underscore America’s respect for freedom, democracy, decency, and respect for human rights.  And with that, I’m happy to take questions from you all this morning.

MS ORTAGUS:  Okay.  Adam.

QUESTION:  I have two for you on Iran if I may.  One, on the arms embargo.  I was curious if the U.S. is willing to accept a temporary extension to potentially get Russia and China to go along with it.  I was hoping you could get into the specifics of what terms are acceptable.  And on the larger nuclear violations that the U.S. and now the IAEA have identified, are we looking at a menu of options for repercussions for this, and specifically, might snapback be one of those options on the menu?  I was hoping you could touch on that specifically, because it seems some are making the argument that snapback accounts for the arms embargo and of course all other restrictions.  So I was hoping you could talk about that a bit.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So, first of all, our objective is not to extend the arms embargo for another short period of time.  That’s how we got into this mess, right.  The arms embargo should be lifted when the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to behave in a way that is consistent with the ability to move arms around the world, to purchase – to act in a way that’s consistent with the way normal nations act.

So it’s not a time-limited matter, it’s a conditions-based matter, and our objective is to make sure that the lifting of that arms embargo is conditions-based.  And when the time is right, happy to let it happen tomorrow, but extending it for six months or a year or two years fundamentally falls into the same trap that the previous administration fell into.  I know this is a bit of a strawman argument:  What if you got 20 years, what if you got 50 years, what if you got 100 years?  I don’t want to talk about anything specific.  But our objective is very clearly to say that the lifting of that arms embargo is not appropriate until such time as the world can be assured that these folks won’t use those weapon systems or the money that flows from the sale of those weapon systems are for malign purposes.

As for the other provisions, what’s happening at the IAEA, make sure everybody’s up to speed.  The IAEA filed a report that made very clear that the Iranians have failed to allow access to two sites that are suspected of potentially having engaged in nuclear activity related to their previous programs, programs that predate the JCPOA.  The Iranians continue to deny access to the IAEA.  This is not about the JCPOA, this is about the NPT framework, the safeguards provisions that every nuclear power signs up for and that the Iranians have agreed to.  This is outside and separate from the JCPOA.  It’s never been the case before that a regime has denied access to the IAEA.  And so, yes, in terms of how we’re thinking about responding, we hope the world will see that this is a serious risk to the entire nonproliferation regime, and the United States is prepared to lead to come up with responses to this which would be appropriate and consistent with protecting and preserving that regime against Iranian intransigence that is entirely inappropriate.

I hope the Iranians will change their mind to allow full IAEA unfettered, repeated, consistent access.  To date, they’ve chosen not to do so.

MS ORTAGUS:  Nirmal.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, Nirmal Ghosh from Straits Times.  In remarks about a week ago at the Brussels Forum, you mentioned a review of American resources abroad, force postures and so forth, reordering.  Could you tell us a little bit more about that, and specifically does the Indo-Pacific and Asia in particular figure in that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’ll leave specifics about force posture to Secretary Esper, but there’s important foreign policy ramifications, how we think about resource allocation, how we secure American freedom.  And so this is something that’s been going on frankly since the National Security Strategy was laid down at the – roughly the beginning outset of the administration.  And so we have consistently been looking for not only how we deploy our forces, Department of Defense forces, but all of the assets that we have.  How do we think about our cyber capability?  How do we think about where our embassies ought to be?

So we have the – the State Department’s undergone a parallel process of thinking about:  How do we engage diplomatically?  Where do we need to be?  Where do we need to devote our resources as well?  So this has been a broad, national security strategic review that’s thinking about how do we focus on the threats that challenge us today and not those that challenge us 10 or 20 or 30 years ago.

And then as your question suggested, we have certainly raised our game with respect to thinking about the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses to the United States of America, and you will see that resources and strategy will be the result of the objective that President Trump laid out.

MS ORTAGUS:  Okay, (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, yesterday following your speech at the Security Council, the German representative said the U.S. has no standing in this meeting to invoke UN sanctions, and by doing so you would be violating the international law.  How do you comment on that?  And to what extent would the snapback be efficient if it is not supported by your allies, by your European allies?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So two things.  I don’t want to get into the legal analysis that you’re suggesting.  We have the full authority to go exercise that right.  As a participant in UN Security Council Resolution 2231, we are highly confident that we have the right to exercise that.  It is not our first objective.  We hope that the UN Security Council, the Chinese, the Russians, every partner there, will see that it is in their best interest to deny Iran this benefit that comes when they have not changed their behavior one lick.  And so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to do this without having to go through a complex, difficult process at the UN.  So that’s our – certainly our objective.  And we think – we think we’ll prevail.

We think as we get closer, the world will see – if you are a citizen living in Brussels or you’re someone in Athens, do you really want the Iranian regime to have Chinese fighter planes?  I don’t think so.  I think – I think the Government of Greece will conclude the same thing.  If you’re – if you’re sitting in Finland and you’re trying to sort your way through about whether it’s a good idea for the Russians to be able to have another partner who they sell weapons to, I think these – I think each nation will conclude this is a bad idea, they will regret that the JCPOA allowed this to expire, and they’ll join us in this.

It is certainly a full-fledged diplomatic effort that we’re engaged in to convince the world that this is the right outcome not just for the United States, but go talk to our partners in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates and Kuwait.  They know, too, that if Iran is allowed to become an arms merchant again, instability in the Middle East will flow.

MS ORTAGUS:  John, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Mr. Secretary —


QUESTION:  — on this bounty issue, you had some conversations with senior Russian officials after your aides were told about evidence of the Russian bounties.  Did you use those opportunities to tell Moscow not to endanger U.S. troops in that manner?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So let’s back up.  Let’s back up.  A lot of what you said suggests knowledge that I don’t think you actually have.  I don’t want to comment on the intelligence.  The CIA’s put out a statement; the DNI has put out a statement.  But I can tell you the Intelligence Community handled this incredibly well.  We see threats in intelligence reporting to our soldiers stationed all over the world every single day – every single day.  And so I can assure you that whatever reporting it is that you’re referring to, that we responded in precisely the correct way with respect to making sure that our forces were postured appropriately, that they were aware of the level of the threat, the credibility of the threat, and that we were there.

Second, the fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new, by the way.  Some members of Congress who are out there today suggesting that they are shocked and appalled by this, they saw the same intelligence that we saw.  So it would be interesting to ask them what they did when they saw whatever intelligence it is that they are referring to.  They would have had access to this information as well – not just the intelligence committees, by the way – even more broadly than that.

We took this seriously; we handle it appropriately.  The Russians have been selling small arms that have put Americans at risk there for 10 years.  We have objected to it.  To your point, when I meet with my Russian counterparts, I talk with them about this each time:  “Stop this.”  We think we have a not perfect but somewhat overlapping objective in Afghanistan.  It’s on their doorstep.  We know they were routed in Afghanistan, right.  So they have an objective there, too, to reduce the risk of terrorism there.  So yes, maybe not every time, but with great frequency, when I speak to my Russian counterparts we talk about Afghanistan.  We talk about the fact that we don’t want them engaged in this.

But it’s – just so everybody can be level set, money flowing to Afghanistan to support the Taliban has been going on since we went to Afghanistan now almost two decades ago.  It’s not just the Russians.  Indeed, probably not majority are the Russians.  Money has flowed from lots of places – from Iran.  Even today the Iranians continue to undermine what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.  And it’s incredibly important that you take in context how it is this reporting has developed and how it is the United States has responded to this.  We do everything we can, and this President has been vicious in securing American freedom and protecting American soldiers.

Last point:  There’s some who have suggested somehow that there wasn’t an appropriate response taken because this was Russia.  If you have 20 minutes, I will read to you what this administration has done with respect to Russia, but instead I’ll just provide it to you for the record.  But it starts with a $700 billion allocation of resources to the Department of Defense.  It continues with the withdrawal from the INF, something the Russians remain unhappy about, what we’ve done in Syria to push back against them, including against the Wagner Group.

This administration has taken seriously the threat from Russia.  I only wish we had not had so much to clean up from the previous administration’s work to allow Russia to get on the ground in Syria, make enormous gains, interfere in elections in the United States of America under the previous administration’s watch.  We’ve had a lot to clean up, and President Trump has been serious about responding to this in a way that protects America, keeps Americans safe, and every day working diligently to make sure that we keep our soldiers safe wherever any threat, whether that’s from Russia or otherwise, presents itself.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, the U.S. has viewed Russia as a bad actor —

MS ORTAGUS:  (Inaudible) go ahead.

QUESTION:  — but wouldn’t the bounties be an escalation?

MS ORTAGUS:  Can we let (inaudible) go next and then we’ll get to – try to get to more people, okay?

QUESTION:  Wouldn’t the bounties be an escalation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  (Inaudible) go ahead.

MS ORTAGUS:  (Inaudible) please go ahead.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Thank you, Morgan.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  My question is:  You just mentioned about the report written by Dr. Adrian Zenz regarding the forced sterilization and abortion of the Uyghur population there by China, assimilating the Uyghur people.  In the report, actually, Dr. Zenz – he presented compelling evidence that the Chinese Government’s severe human rights violation of the Uyghur people meet the criteria of genocide as defined by the UN Convention on Genocide.  And also, former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten called China’s policy toward the Uyghurs as also genocide.  In addition to that, the European Parliament Chair Reinhard Butikofer and his first Vice-Chair Evelyne Gebhardt, in their joint statement yesterday, also said their report further corroborate the assessment that we may be witnessing the implementation of genocide.  I know you also issued a statement regarding this report.  So do you believe China is committing genocide towards the Uyghur people?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The United States has taken the strongest action of any nation in the world to protect the human rights of all Chinese people, including the Uyghur people.  We’ll continue to do that.  I hope our European allies, allies in the region will take this seriously.  We hope other Muslim nations will take this seriously as well and respond in a way that has the opportunity to protect those people’s human rights.

We’ll evaluate how we think about the Chinese actions and what it is we ought to call them.  We’ve worked closely with Congress to pass legislation – legislation that, if I recall correctly, passed nearly unanimously on Capitol Hill.  President signed that legislation.  The United States takes seriously our obligation to preserve human rights, the human rights of the people in China.  We’ll continue to do that and we’re constantly evaluating those actions against the legal norms and standards for the world.

MS ORTAGUS:  Abbie, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Oh, yes, ma’am.  Hi.

QUESTION:  Given all that you just laid out about the threat from Russia, is now the time to be bringing Russia back into the G7?

And if I may on Hong Kong, obviously, China has passed the national security law, and the punitive measures that have been taken so far don’t appear to have prevented them from taking these actions.  So how far is the U.S. willing to go, and are you willing to take the mandatory actions laid out – or mandatory sanctions laid out in the Hong Kong Autonomy Act?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, if they’re mandatory, we’ll do it.  We always comply with the law here at the State Department, right?  It’s what we do.  And so we will absolutely implement those laws both consistent with the letter and the spirit of what those statutes require.  So we will certainly do that.  And there is more work to do for sure, but in the end, in the end, General Secretary Xi gets to make the decision about whether he wants to move his nation closer to something that is disconnected from the world in the most fundamental ways.

They talk about – when I was in Honolulu, they talk about wanting to be good stewards, international players that comply with multilateral obligations.  But when you’re violating citizens’ most fundamental freedoms, we should look to your actions, not to your words.  And so that’s what we will continue to do.  We’ll continue to do all the things that we can.  And importantly, we will continue to build out a global coalition that understands the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party threat places on freedom-loving peoples all across the world.  This isn’t a U.S-China challenge.  This is a challenge that is between freedom and authoritarianism.  And so long as we keep that foremost in our minds, I’m confident that the freedom-loving peoples of the world will prevail.

With respect to Russia and the G7, when they were in this, they were causing problems.  They’re out of it and they still continue to present risk to us.  We need to talk to the Russians.  And so the President gets to decide if he wants them to come to summits or not.  That’s his decision.  I’ll certainly leave that to him.  But I do believe it is absolutely important that we have more frequent engagement with the Russians.  You saw we had two days in Vienna last week to talk about really critical strategic dialogue about nuclear weapon systems proliferating around the world.  I think it is wholly important and appropriate for the United States to continue to have dialogue with the Russians to convince them to change some of the activities that are inconsistent with what it is the United States needs to do to preserve security and freedom for its own people.


QUESTION:  Hi, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Kylie, good morning.

QUESTION:  I understand you don’t want to get into the specifics of this intelligence, but now that it has been —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, no, it’s not that I don’t want to.  I won’t because I’m not going to further jeopardize intelligence capabilities.  I’m not going to put at risk the young men and women of Afghanistan in the same way that some news organizations have done.  I just simply won’t engage in that, Kylie.  It’s inappropriate, it is dangerous, and you ought not be part of that.

QUESTION:  As a former CIA director and soldier, however, do you feel that the President should have been told about the Russian bounty being offered to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops even if that was not fully verified intelligence?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You have six things in your question there that are just – I’m not going to go there.  You’ve got assumptions about things that just don’t reflect what it is that we’ve actually seen and done.  With respect to this idea, this administration has been good – and when I was CIA director, I was directly involved in this and making sure that the President had the relevant information he needed to make important strategic decisions.

You should know that threats – I’ll give you an example of threats to our embassy.  Every morning, I get a briefing – it’s one of the first or second thing I do every day – about challenges that we have, threats to our embassy.  I don’t share that with the President every day.  These are Americans.  These are State Department diplomats whose – are at risk.  What we do is we do the hard work.  We put our team on the ground.  We make sure we have the security posture right.  If necessary, I call my counterpart at the Department of Defense and make sure that his forces are properly positioned if the threat is verifiable enough and of a sufficient threat.  We do this every day.  We make those judgments.  That’s my responsibility to do that, to do it well.  When the threat is sufficiently serious, the scale of the threat is of such importance that there’s an action that I think that the President needs to be aware of and the information that I’ve seen is sufficiently credible, then we make sure that the President is aware of that.

The President has been consistently aware of the challenges that Russia presents to us and he is aware of the risk in Afghanistan.  It’s why we have spent so much time over this past year at the President’s direction to reduce risk to our forces in Afghanistan in a way no previous administration has done.  We’ve set about a peace and reconciliation plan inside of – and by the way, as part of that, we’ve talked to the Russians about how we can reduce the risk of violence from the Taliban to Americans on the ground in Afghanistan.  No, we’ve taken the threat and the President’s taken the threat to our forces in Afghanistan incredibly serious throughout the entire duration of this administration.

QUESTION:  So it’s your opinion that the President didn’t —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Somebody else have a question?

QUESTION:  — didn’t need to know about this intelligence?

MS ORTAGUS:  (Inaudible) get to everybody.  Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION:  My question is on Lebanon.  The Lebanese judge who issued the ruling banning local and foreign journalists from interviewing the U.S. ambassador to Beirut submitted his resignation yesterday after he was referred to judicial inspection over the ruling.  Is the U.S. satisfied with that?  And are you concerned of any military escalation between Israel and Hizballah in the near future?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we’re always concerned about the space between Hizballah and Israel, but related to this incident with our ambassador and her ability to speak freely there, I’m – that doesn’t raise my concerns greatly.  I don’t think that greatly increases the risk of conflict between the two.  As for this judge no longer being the judge, one fewer Hizballah judge is always a good thing.

MS ORTAGUS:  Tracy, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you just mentioned – you talked about having talked to the Russians about reducing threats to American service people in – from the Taliban, and yet these —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Not just from the Taliban, not just from the Taliban.

QUESTION:  Okay, from —


QUESTION:  — various – but if indeed they were offering – the Russians were offering bounties, still —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  If indeed, yes, okay.

QUESTION:  Okay.  We —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’m just – I’m just – you all are going places that I’m not going to go because we have work that is important to keep our soldiers safe and I’m not going to allow you to lay down questions with facts that are asserted and say oh, he didn’t refute what I said in my question, therefore it must be true.  I’m not going to go down that path with you.

QUESTION:  Okay, but this would seem a major escalation, and you’ve talked about Iran.  Any time Iran would attack American troops through their proxies, there would be consequences to pay.  And so I’m just wondering if that same kind of warning should not be given to the Russians.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I can assure you – I can absolutely assure you that when we see serious, credible threats from the Russians, whether these are Russians engaged in threatening activity in Ukraine, Russians engaged in threatening activity in Syria, Russian threatening activity there now in Libya, their actions in Venezuela – the list is long.  When we see credible information that suggests that the Russians are putting American lives at risk, we’re responding in a way that is serious.  And you said do we warn them, do we talk to them, I think was your – the answer is of course we do.

MS ORTAGUS:  Okay.  Rich.

QUESTION:  Hey, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION:  On Hong Kong, in your opening remarks you called it now, after the security law was imposed, just another city subjected to the CCP’s whims.  Is Hong Kong lost?  And how far is this administration willing to go to try to prevent that or to try to bring the situation back to where it once was?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, whether it’s lost or not is entirely dependent upon the decisions that General Secretary Xi makes.  And when you say “lost,” you mean has it lost its freedoms, is it no longer an autonomous place.  I signed a certification a couple weeks back now that suggested that it was not.  I suppose these things are always reversible.  The actions of the last 48 hours suggest that the Chinese Government – at least at this point, the Chinese Communist Party has no intention of reversing that trend.  And as for how far we’ll go, I’ll just repeat what the President said.  He wants to ensure, with a handful of exceptions, that Hong Kong is treated just like mainland China because that’s the way that General Secretary Xi has chosen to treat that place as well.

With that, thank you all.  I’ve got to head on today.  Thank you all.  Have a great day.