Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With John Roberts of Fox News America Reports

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Via Teleconference

QUESTION:  A Fox News alert now, the United States leveling perhaps the most serious charge a country can face, accusing China in the last hour and a bit of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in its repression of Uyghur Muslims.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement just a short time ago.  He joins us now for an exclusive interview.

Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us.  Let me just read if I could from your statement.  You said, quote, “I have determined that the People’s Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party, has committed genocide and crimes against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups.”

A very significant declaration, obviously one that China will oppose vigorously, but also one that sort of runs counter to what President Trump’s position has been for the last couple of years.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, John, thanks for having me on.  This is a very serious and tragic set of actions that are taking place there in the western part of China.  We have been talking and working on this for an awfully long time in the Trump administration.  We have sanctioned officials.  We have told businesses they couldn’t bring products out of this region.  We’ve told businesses to be very careful that they could be too close to what’s taking place there, right.

This is forced labor.  This is forced sterilizations, forced abortions – John, the kind of things that we haven’t seen in an awfully long time in this world.  And we now have conducted an exhaustive review of the facts and made the determination that, in fact, the Chinese Communist Party has committed these crimes against humanity, is continuing to try and deny these people – not just the Uyghur Muslims but other faiths as well – the simple capacity to continue to exist and to create an ethnic set of activities that we haven’t seen in an awfully long time.

I’ve referred to this over time as the stain of the century.  It is truly that.  And today’s actions is simply a continuation of the work this administration has done to try and convince the Chinese Communist Party to cease this terrible, terrible set of human rights violations that have been taking place.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, since you made the announcement a little more than an hour ago, it has received a tremendous amount of approval in the United States Congress, particularly from your Republican colleagues.  This was something that then-candidate Joe Biden proclaimed about a year ago.  Now, obviously when you’re a candidate it’s much easier to say something than when you are the State Department, but some of your Republican colleagues – Ben Sasse notably – are saying, “What took so long?”

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, I’m happy to accept that critique.  What took so long is when you do something like this, you have to be right.  You have to – and I think this will be a bipartisan analysis that will be shared by a broad swath of American leadership.  Indeed, leaders all across the world I think will recognize that the United States got this right.

But John, this is a serious matter.  We didn’t take it lightly.  We wanted to continue to work.  There were lots of vigorous discussions all across the United States Government.  We talked with people all across the world.  We relied on facts that came from nongovernmental organizations, journalists, other governments to make sure that we had everything just right, and we wouldn’t have done this if we weren’t convinced that these declarations, this determination that I have issued today, was proper, appropriate, and would hopefully lead to better lives for people in this region.  That, in the end, John, is our objective.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you, like the President, are in the last hours of your tenure at the State Department.  Looking ahead to the Biden administration, we’re wondering what we can expect.  In an exclusive interview with foxnews.com, counterintelligence chief Bill Evanina saying, quote, “We have to educate America so they know what malign influence tastes like, smells like, looks like, so when they see it they can call it out.  I think the challenge for the Biden administration will be to understand the scope and scale of some of the Chinese threats in the American landscape domestically and what is the best course to defeat that.”

Here we have a president-elect who not long ago said, “China is going to eat our lunch?  Come on, man.”  Do you believe that the Biden administration will be fully equipped to handle what many people say is the greatest future threat facing America?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  John, I’m counting on it.  More importantly, the American people are counting on it.  This threat – the work that President Trump has done to identify the risk – he talked about it with tariffs and economic issues.  We’ve talked about it with spies operating out of a consulate in Houston.  This challenge, the threat from the Chinese Communist Party, is real; it is existential to the United States.  We have to get this right.  And I am counting on the next administration continuing our work, continuing to build out on the things that we have done in the exact way that the American people will demand.

I have great confidence that the American people have come to understand this challenge from the Chinese Communist Party and will expect every leader, whatever political stripe, to continue to protect and secure American freedoms.

QUESTION:  Your presumed successor, Antony Blinken, begins his confirmation hearing in about an hour.  He says in his opening statement, quote, “Humility and confidence should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin … Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.”

There are some critics who are saying this sounds like Obama redux.  Is he going to begin with an apology tour?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Boy, I sure hope not, John.  I’m proud of this country.  Our founders recognized it was an imperfect union.  We all strive to be better.  But this is the most exceptional nation in the history of civilization.  I am proud of the work that the Trump administration has done in the Middle East, on China that we’ve been talking about.  We made life better for people all across the world.  We recognized that the people of Iran and North Korea deserved better, and we worked diligently to achieve that.  It ought not be an America that we apologize for.  We should be proud of the greatness, the uniqueness, and the exceptionalism of the United States of America.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, it’s been good to talk to you.  We wish you well post-administration.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, John.

QUESTION:  Thanks so much for joining us exclusively today.  We really appreciate it.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, John.  Have a good day.

QUESTION:  You, too.

 

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    The approach followed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in awarding and overseeing contracts generally aligns with the requirements GAO reviewed. For the 27 contracts and orders GAO reviewed, SSA varied its approach depending on the contract type used and the dollar value. For example, one of SSA's written acquisition plans acknowledged the risks to the government associated with time-and-materials contracts. From fiscal year 2015 through 2019, SSA obligated 22.7 percent of its contract dollars on time-and-material contracts compared with 10.5 percent at other civilian agencies. In addition, from fiscal year 2015 through 2019, the rate at which SSA used competitive award procedures to achieve the best value for the agency increased by nearly 20 percentage points. This increase was the result of the agency's increased use of competition in its contracting for information technology (IT). SSA relies heavily on IT resources to support the administration of its programs and related activities. During fiscal years 2015 through 2019, about 65 percent of the $8.3 billion in contract obligations were for IT goods and services compared with about 16 percent at other civilian agencies. The figure shows the percentage of obligations for IT goods and services at SSA. Percentage of Social Security Administration's Contract Obligations for Goods and Services during Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 SSA adopted an Agile approach to software development for some of its critical IT programs in 2015. An Agile approach to software development involves incremental improvements to software rather than the more traditional single-track approach. Subsequently, SSA developed an IT modernization plan in 2017 that states SSA will use an Agile methodology. GAO's draft Agile Assessment Guide states that an organization's acquisition policies and guidance should support an Agile development approach and identify clear roles for contracting personnel, since this is a different approach than federal agencies previously used. However, GAO found SSA's acquisition handbook does not specifically identify a role for contracting personnel with respect to contracts and task orders involving Agile, which GAO has identified as a leading practice. Identifying a role for contracting personnel in the Agile process should better position SSA to achieve its IT modernization goals and provide appropriate levels of oversight. SSA is responsible for delivering services that touch the lives of virtually every American. To do so, SSA relies on a variety of products and services, including information technology (IT) systems. SSA obligates approximately $1.5 billion annually to procure goods and services, 65 percent of which are IT-related. GAO was asked to assess how SSA implements its contracting and acquisition processes. This report examines: (1) how SSA awards and oversees contracts for products and services, and (2) the extent to which SSA has updated its guidance regarding the role of contracting personnel in software development efforts. GAO reviewed SSA's acquisition policies, interviewed contracting officials, and reviewed a non-generalizable sample of 27 high- and lower value contracts and orders with dollars obligated in fiscal years 2014 through 2018. GAO also examined data from fiscal years 2015-2019 to determine what SSA contracted for and reviewed IT guidance. GAO compared SSA's practices to leading practices for Agile software development with respect to the roles of contracting personnel. GAO recommends that SSA revise relevant guidance to identify the roles of contracting personnel in Agile software development. SSA agreed with this recommendation. For more information, contact William Woods at (202) 512-4841 or woodsw@gao.gov.
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    Today the Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia, to resolve its investigation into a complaint that ODU discriminated and retaliated against a graduate student based on disability and her related request for reasonable modifications of policy. The Civil Rights Division conducted the investigation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
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  • VA Health Care: Community Living Centers Were Commonly Cited for Infection Control Deficiencies Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for overseeing the quality of nursing home care provided to residents in VA-owned and -operated community living centers (CLC). VA models its oversight process on the methods used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which uses inspections of nursing homes to determine whether the home meets federal quality standards. These standards require, for example, that CLCs establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program. VA uses a contractor to conduct annual inspections of the CLCs, and these contractors cite CLCs with deficiencies if they are not in compliance with quality standards. Infection prevention and control deficiencies cited by the inspectors can include situations where CLC staff did not regularly use proper hand hygiene or failed to correctly use personal protective equipment. Many of these practices can be critical to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. GAO analysis of VA data shows that infection prevention and control deficiencies were the most common type of deficiency cited in inspected CLCs, with 95 percent (128 of the 135 CLCs inspected) having an infection prevention and control deficiency cited in 1 or more years from fiscal year 2015 through 2019. GAO also found that over the time period of its review, a significant number of inspected CLCs—62 percent—had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited in consecutive fiscal years, which may indicate persistent problems. An additional 19 percent had such deficiencies cited in multiple, nonconsecutive years. Why GAO Did This Study COVID-19 is a new and highly contagious respiratory disease causing severe illness and death, particularly among the elderly. Because of this, the health and safety of the nation’s nursing home residents—including veterans receiving nursing home care in CLCs—has been a particular concern.  GAO was asked to review the quality of care at CLCs. In this report, GAO describes the prevalence of infection prevention and control deficiencies in CLCs prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future GAO reports will examine more broadly the quality of care at CLCs and VA’s response to COVID-19 in the nursing home settings for which VA provides or pays for care. For this report, GAO analyzed VA data on deficiencies cited in CLCs from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. Using these data, GAO determined the most common type of deficiency cited among CLCs, the number of CLCs that had infection prevention and control deficiencies cited, and the number of CLCs with repeated infection prevention and control deficiencies over the period from fiscal years 2015 through 2019. GAO also obtained and reviewed inspection reports and corrective action plans to describe examples of the infection prevention and control deficiencies cited at CLCs and the CLCs’ plans to remedy the noncompliance. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or SilasS@gao.gov.
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  • Child Care: Subsidy Eligibility and Receipt, and Wait Lists
    In U.S GAO News
    An estimated 1.9 million children received child care subsidies in fiscal year 2017, representing approximately 14 percent of all children estimated to be eligible under federal rules – and 22 percent of all children estimated to be eligible under state rules -- in an average month. These figures are from the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) analysis of fiscal year 2017 data, the most recent year for which such analysis is available. Generally, fewer families qualify for subsidies under state eligibility rules than under federal eligibility rules since most states use flexibility provided by HHS to set their income eligibility limits below the federal maximum. Health and Human Services’ Estimated Number of Children Eligible Under Federal and State Rules, and Estimated Number Receiving Child Care Subsidies, Fiscal Year 2017 GAO found that the extent to which children who meet federal child care eligibility requirements also meet state eligibility requirements varies by state as does the share of eligible children who receive Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) subsidies. Under state requirements, the CCDF subsidy receipt rate ranged from 5 percent to 32 percent of eligible children. Under federal requirements, the CCDF subsidy receipt rate ranged from 4 percent to 18 percent of federally eligible children. According to HHS estimates, among families who met federal child care eligibility criteria, children from lower-income families were more likely to receive child care subsidies compared to children from higher-income families. These estimates also showed that preschool-age children were more likely to receive subsidies compared to older, school-age children and that Black children were more likely to receive subsidies compared to children of other races / ethnicities. As reported in previous GAO work, states have varied strategies for managing their wait lists. Some states have a single statewide list while others have sub-state lists that allow sub-state areas to have their own policies. Some states conduct full or partial eligibility determinations prior to placing families on wait lists, and many states require periodic reviews of their wait lists. According to state administrators GAO interviewed, the strategies that states use to manage their wait lists pose certain challenges. For example, state administrators told GAO that sub-state lists can contain duplication, making state-wide estimates of families in need difficult. And administrators told GAO that maintaining up-to-date contact information is challenging, in part due to insufficient technology. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted child care in several ways, including cost, eligibility and subsidy receipt, according to some members of the National Association of State Child Care Administrators (NASCCA). These members told GAO that despite initial declines in the number of families receiving subsidies, some states are seeing their child care costs increase due to, for example, more school-age children using full-day care; increased expenses for additional health and safety measures; paying for more absences and for parent co-pays; and families applying for subsidies for relative care. NASCCA members noted that some states have made changes to policies to help families and providers. To help families access child care, some states have increased income eligibility for subsidies to 85 percent of the state median income; temporarily waived work requirements to receive subsidies; and covered family fees for parents when a family must quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure. Changes to some state policies aimed at helping providers include providing funds to providers to help with increased costs, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional cleaning supplies; paying providers based on their pre-COVID-19 level authorized enrollments; and raising the state's provider reimbursement rate to help providers cover overhead costs. The federal child care subsidy program known as CCDF is one of the primary sources of federal funding dedicated to assisting low-income families with child care who are working or participating in education and training. Funding for CCDF, which is administered by HHS at the federal level, comes from two funding streams: discretionary funding in the form of block grants authorized by the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG Act) of 1990, as amended, and mandatory and matching funding authorized under section 418 of the Social Security Act. CCDF was appropriated more than $8 billion in federal funds in 2019. For more information, contact Kathryn Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.
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  • 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Ensure Transparency over Data Quality
    In U.S GAO News
    This 2020 Census was taken under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and related executive branch decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. The report GAO is releasing today discusses a number of concerns regarding how late changes to the census design could affect data quality. The Bureau has numerous planned assessments and evaluations of operations which, in conjunction with its post-enumeration survey (PES)—a survey conducted independently of each census to determine how many people were missed or counted more than once—help determine the overall quality of the census and document lessons for future censuses. As the 2020 Census continues, GAO will continue to monitor the Bureau's response processing operations. GAO was asked to testify on the Census Bureau's progress to deliver apportionment counts for the 2020 Decennial Census. This testimony summarizes information contained in GAO's December 2020 report, entitled 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Assess Data Quality Concerns Stemming from Recent Design Changes and discusses key quality indicators the Bureau can share, as it releases apportionment counts and redistricting data. These key indicators discussed are consistent with those recommended by the American Statistical Association and Census Scientific Advisory Committee for the Bureau. In the accompanying report being issued today, GAO is recommending that the Bureau update and implement its assessments to address data quality concerns identified in this report, as well as any operational benefits. In its comments, the Department of Commerce agreed with GAO's findings and recommendation. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.
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  • Rural Hospital Closures: Affected Residents Had Reduced Access to Health Care Services
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found that when rural hospitals closed, residents living in the closed hospitals' service areas would have to travel substantially farther to access certain health care services. Specifically, for residents living in these service areas, GAO's analysis shows that the median distance to access some of the more common health care services increased about 20 miles from 2012 to 2018. For example, the median distance to access general inpatient services was 3.4 miles in 2012, compared to 23.9 miles in 2018—an increase of 20.5 miles. For some of the less common services that were offered by a few of the hospitals that closed, this median distance increased much more. For example, among residents in the service areas of the 11 closed hospitals that offered treatment services for alcohol or drug abuse, the median distance was 5.5 miles in 2012, compared to 44.6 miles in 2018—an increase of 39.1 miles to access these services (see figure). Median Distance in Miles from Service Areas with Rural Hospital Closures to the Nearest Open Hospital that Offered Certain Health Care Services, 2012 and 2018 Notes: GAO focused its analysis on the health care services offered in 2012 by the 64 rural hospitals that closed during the years 2013 through 2017 and for which data were available. For example, in 2012, 64 closed hospitals offered general inpatient services, 62 offered emergency department services, 11 offered treatment services for alcohol or drug abuse, and 11 offered services in a coronary care unit. To examine distance, GAO calculated “crow-fly miles” (the distance measured in a straight line) from the geographic center of each closed rural hospital's service area to the geographic center of the ZIP Code with the nearest open rural or urban hospital that offered a given service. GAO also found that the availability of health care providers in counties with rural hospital closures generally was lower and declined more over time, compared to those without closures. Specifically, counties with closures generally had fewer health care professionals per 100,000 residents in 2012 than did counties without closures. The disparities in the availability of health care professionals in these counties grew from 2012 to 2017. For example, over this time period, the availability of physicians declined more among counties with closures—dropping from a median of 71.2 to 59.7 per 100,000 residents—compared to counties without closures—which dropped from 87.5 to 86.3 per 100,000 residents. Rural hospitals face many challenges in providing essential access to health care services to rural communities. From January 2013 through February 2020, 101 rural hospitals closed. GAO was asked to examine the effects of rural hospital closures on residents living in the areas of the hospitals that closed. This report examines, among other objectives, how closures affected the distance for residents to access health care services, as well as changes in the availability of health care providers in counties with and without closures. GAO analyzed data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program (NC RHRP) for rural hospitals (1) that closed and those that were open during the years 2013 through 2017, and (2) for which complete data generally were available at the time of GAO's review. GAO also interviewed HHS and NC RHRP officials and reviewed relevant literature. GAO defined hospitals as rural according to data from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. GAO defined hospital closure as a cessation of inpatient services, the same definition used by NC RHRP. GAO defined service areas with closures as the collection of ZIP Codes that were served by closed rural hospitals and service areas without closures as the collection of ZIP Codes served only by rural hospitals that were open. GAO provided a draft of this report to HHS for comment. The Department provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
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    A Montana chiropractor and his wife pleaded guilty today to tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme for the District of Montana.
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