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Secretary Pompeo Interview with Hugh Hewitt of the Hugh Hewitt Show
April 18, 2020

We’ve now brought home over 65,000 people from 110 countries, 550-some flights.  It’s been quite the exercise, but it’s been great to get these people home back to their families.  We still have folks who are raising their hand saying they want to – their assistance getting home, and we’re going to work to get each one of them back to their families, back here safely so that they can get to the place they need to be and get to safety here in the United States.

QUESTION:  Now, this morning in The Washington Post, Josh Rogin has written about the WHO in China, that it doesn’t have just a China problem, that the WHO has a dictator problem.  Claudia Rosett wrote in her wonderful column, quote, “Either the WHO was clueless, or complicit – neither scenario” – works well – “reflects well on the WHO’s deceptive drumbeat, for weeks, that this novel coronavirus was no threat to the rest of the planet.”  How much of this blame is the PRC’s CCP, the Communist Chinese Party, and how much of it is the WHO, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we’ll parcel accountability when the time is right, but it is very clear – hey, and President Trump talked about these multilateral institutions, things like the World Health Organization, from the time he was running his campaign.  We’re happy to participate in it, but only if they deliver on their stated mission.

Clearly, the World Health Organization didn’t do that here.  You’ve seen the statements where they – look, they’ve refused to declare it a pandemic, they talked about the Chinese Communist Party being transparent, when in fact the WHO knew that it was not being transparent.  Those are the kind of things that run directly counter to their mission set.  It’s why the President has asked us to stop funding the WHO, to pause, to review, to figure out how we can take the roughly $500 million a year that we contribute today to that organization and use it in a way that’s actually effective of keeping pandemics from springing up all across the world and keeping the American people safe.  We’ll do that review and we’ll make an evaluation about how to achieve the outcomes that, frankly, the WHO failed to deliver not only for the world, but for the Chinese people too, Hugh.

QUESTION:  I believe that the American public will support spending the same amount of money on world health, just not through the WHO, but that you will review.

Let me turn to the CCP.  On a personal level, Mr. Secretary, not as Secretary of State, do you believe that the Communist Chinese Party has told us the truth on any significant issue in the last three months?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, I’m sure there have been things they’ve accurately described to us, but it’s pretty clear at this point that the Chinese Communist Party’s – one of its central challenges in any institution that is authoritarian is the absence of the ability for information to flow freely.  You saw this, Hugh, in the weeks before this.  They decided to kick out U.S. journalists, journalists from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post.  You saw what happened when doctors raised their hand and said hey, I think we have a problem, I think we potentially have a human-to-human virus and it’s spread, and they suppressed that by coercion and worse.

Those are the kind of things that authoritarian regimes do.  It’s the nature of those regimes.  And as a result of that, the information didn’t get to the right places, and so for days and weeks, the world didn’t know what was confronting it, and in a virus like this, those first hours and days and weeks are the most critical in stopping the spread.  And the Chinese Communist Party failed to do that properly.

I’ll say this too, Hugh:  We still need transparency today.  We need openness today.  We are still in the middle of this.  We still don’t know the precise source and origin spot of the virus.  That will turn out to be important for epidemiologists and experts to help us get to the back side of this.  We still need that kind of openness, and we urge every country that has information about the virus and data sets and is working on a vaccine or therapeutics to share that information broadly in the scientific community so the world can stop this pandemic from continuing to spread.  We’re getting on top of this here in the United States, but the world is still at enormous risk and we need to have every piece of information, including from the Chinese Communist Party, available for scientists and researchers.

QUESTION:  Yesterday, there was a long press conference in Beijing.  The foreign ministry spokesperson, their senior spokesperson, rejected American journalism’s stories that Wuhan –virus originated in a Wuhan lab – and they rejected the story that a underground nuclear test, in violation of the nuclear test ban, had occurred.  Do you reject the Chinese spokesperson’s rejection of both charges?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t want to comment on the second one, but with respect to the first one, we don’t know the answer to the question about the precise origination point.  But we do know this:  We know that the first sightings of this occurred within miles of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  We know that this – the history of the facility, the first BSL-4 lab where there’s high-end virus research being conducted, took place at that site.  We know that the Chinese Communist Party, when it began to evaluate what to do inside of Wuhan, considered whether the WIV was, in fact, the place where this came from.

And most importantly, we know they’ve not permitted the world’s scientists to go into that laboratory to evaluate what took place there, what’s happening there, what’s happening there even as we speak, Hugh.  Even as we’re on the show this morning, we still have not had Western access to that facility so that we can properly evaluate what really has taken off all across the world and how that began.

Those are facts, those are important facts, and the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization have a responsibility to the world to take those facts and take them to their logical conclusion and find out these answers, these important answers.  These aren’t political.  This is about science and health, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I don’t know what they teach at Harvard law, but at Michigan law they taught me that if a witness or a party lies about big things, you don’t believe them on anything.  And on that theory, they’ve lied about some big things.  I don’t know that I would trust them to put on the Olympic Games if they told us it was safe to do it.  Do you think the Olympic Games scheduled for Beijing in 2022 ought to be moved?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We’ll have to take a look at that, but we’re really focused on today.  But Hugh, you do have to go back to other things that the Chinese Communist Party has committed to.  They promised there would be one country, two systems in Hong Kong, and yet they have expanded their repression there.  They promised that what was going on in the west in Xinjiang wasn’t harming the Muslim population, the Uighurs there in the west.  We know what’s taking place.  It’s a humanitarian catastrophe.  Xi himself, in the Rose Garden, promised that they wouldn’t arm islands all across the South Pacific.  They’ve done that; they’ve put significant weaponry there.

This is a country that the whole world needs to ensure that we watch what they do and not what they say.  They want to be a great power.  They want to join the community of civilized nations.  To do that, you have to be open.  You have to be transparent; you have to tell the truth.  That’s our expectation of the Chinese Communist Party, and it has fallen short of that too often.

QUESTION:  Doesn’t the world, though, need to respond in a coherent way?  And taking back the Olympics is, to me, the most obvious display of condemnation of their lack of transparency, Mr. Secretary.  Are there things like that on the drawing board?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’ve been in lots of conversations over the past, oh, three weeks or four weeks with colleagues all around the world – the President too.  He was on the call with all of the G7 nations yesterday.  There is enormous frustration, and not just with this incidence, but with the growing challenges presented by a Chinese Communist Party that appears intent on failing to live up to its international obligations.  I don’t know precisely what that response will be.

The time for accountability will come, and when we do that, we need to do it in a way that reflects the full scope of the problem set – not just what has occurred as a result of this pandemic, but the full problem set that it has presented.  The President took it on.  He saw that we had unfair – trade relationship.  We worked diligently to fix that.  There are many dimensions to this challenge, and the world, not just the United States, needs to confront them in a way that delivers for the American people.

QUESTION:  Last question, Mr. Secretary:  The Washington Post on April 8th wrote a story about the growth of online hate speech directed towards Asians and Asian Americans.  I know you do not put up with anti-Chinese, anti-Asian speech at the State Department or anti-Chinese American or anti-Asian American actions and speech.  But just – would you reiterate for the benefit of the public, this is the CCP we’re talking about, not China?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Go back and listen to what I’ve said even on your show this morning.  The Chinese people have been harmed by this as much as any people all around the world.  This is the Chinese Communist Party.  This is the leadership there inside of China that has failed to deliver a government that could address this problem in a fair, open, and transparent way.  The first people who were killed, the first people who went into lockdown, were several million people in Wuhan, in Hubei Province.

This is not about the Chinese people.  This is not about Asians.  This is about a regime that has failed to deliver on its most basic promises and commitments and needs to do so.