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

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Via Teleconference

QUESTION:  Tony Katz.  So great to be with you.  We have talked often about China’s influence in the United States and how China tries to work (inaudible) on college campuses, where you’re not able to speak out against China.  One of the ways they do this is with Confucius Institutes.  We’ve had these conversations with Congressman Jim Banks of the Indiana Third.  Before, we’ve seen Confucius Institutes removed from college campuses.  Chuck Grassley, senator from Iowa, referring to Confucius Institutes as fronts for Chinese propaganda.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us right now.  Always a pleasure to have you back on the show, sir.  These Confucius Institutes you’re now taking a look at as a problem and the danger that they pose.  As you would describe it to America, what’s the real danger?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good morning.  This is Mike.

QUESTION:  Hey, sir.  This is Tony Katz, WIBC.  Great to be with you.  Talking about –

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Tony, it’s great to be with you today too.

QUESTION:  Absolutely.  Talking about Confucius Institutes.  I know you’re up against a time crunch and I hate it when I can’t push the buttons properly.

We know that Chuck Grassley has spoken out against Confucius Institutes, referring to them as fronts for Chinese propaganda.  We know that Congressman Jim Banks of the Indiana third has discussed the problem with Confucius Institutes.  We’ve seen college campuses remove them.  As you see it, what is the issue with Confucius Institutes?  What is the issue or the danger they pose to America?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Tony, these are essentially, and in reality, an important element of the Chinese Communist Party’s global influence campaign.  And they now reach tens of thousands of U.S. schoolchildren every day, and so they need to be shut down.  They effectively – the Confucius Institutes effectively have allowed the Chinese Communist Party government to take up a physical presence in the halls of our children’s schools here in the United States.  It’s unacceptable, and so we’re asking every high school, every K-12 institution, every college to evaluate their Confucius classroom, their Confucius Institute, and we’d like to have them all shut down and have the people who are engaged in this on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party who are here traveling on visas no longer being – having access to our classrooms.

QUESTION:  Well, so much of this, sir, is a conversation about propaganda.  And we hear the propaganda conversations coming up often that China is guilty of it.  Of course, we hear that the Russians are guilty of it, and you have engaged these conversations before as well.  How much of what we receive in terms of information would you describe as clearly propaganda?  How much should the American people be worried about it?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Tony, we all have to be on guard.  Every one of us has an individual responsibility and the United States has a responsibility itself to identify this disinformation and share that with the American people.  But we all need to be cautious.  When you see someone from a Confucius Institute talking about the benefits and the greatness of the Chinese Communist Party, you need to understand the source.  When you see on RT a particular storyline, you need to say, well, that is a – that is a Russian-influenced operation.  Maybe it’s still true.  Maybe the information’s there, but you need to evaluate it very carefully.

These countries, these leaders, their intelligence services, their military apparatuses, their public information efforts are aimed often at posing real risk to our democratic values, and each of us has a responsibility to be very careful about accepting this information at face value when we see it, whether that’s on TV or on a website or on our phones through Twitter.

QUESTION:  Talking to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  By the way, RT stands for Russia Today.  It’s a cable news outlet that’s paid for by the Kremlin.

Let me move you just briefly into the Middle East.  We’ve got the deal with the UAE and Israel.  You got the deal with Bahrain and Israel.  Of course, the conversation was if Bahrain is signing a deal to create a relationship with Israel, Saudi Arabia can’t be far behind.  There’s no way Bahrain is moving without Saudi Arabia’s acceptance and okay.  Is Saudi Arabia next in line to create some kind of more formalized ties with Israel, and if so, what pressure does that put on Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Tony, the work that the President has done in the Middle East to reduce risk of terrorism from there, whether that’s the destruction of the caliphate or the killing of Qasem Soleimani and taking down al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, those are all huge steps forward.  The Abraham Accords are consistent with that, right?  The President came in and said the problem isn’t the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  It’s the challenge presented by the Islamic Republic of Iran.  And so the Abraham Accords are a natural corollary to that.

You now see nations publicly acknowledging that developing a relationship with the Jewish homeland of Israel is appropriate, useful, and constructive for their own economies, for their own people, and that hatred of Israel is not a good foreign policy for an Arab nation.

And so I’m convinced there will be many more follow.  Whether and what and when the sequence of nations, I certainly couldn’t tell you, but we have countries now approaching us saying hey, we want to go work towards this; we want to get to the right place; we want to get on the right side of history.  This is good for our country, good for security, and of course, good for the American people as well.

QUESTION:  When we talk about good for the American people, is it good for a question of stability or is there a trade conversation in here?  Is there a tourism conversation in here?  Is it a mix?  Where do you see the most good?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  All of the above.  Most importantly, it will reduce the number of our young men and women, kids from Indiana and from Kansas, my home state, who will have to go fight and put themselves at risk, trying to create better conditions, less risk of terror here in the homeland, in the United States.  So I would put the security perspective at the top of the list.

But it’s certainly the case that the coalition that we’ve now built out of Gulf states, of Arab states alongside of Israel, to counter the threats from Iran also will create an opportunity for economic prosperity, a chance to sell product, chance to purchase goods from these countries in ways that have proven more difficult because of the strained relationships between Israel and each of those countries.

QUESTION:  Talking to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  Sir, before I let you go, we were talking about disinformation.  And it is such a big subject, because it seems that politically, it’s thrown around as this hot potato.  Anytime something comes up, someone wants to talk about disinformation, and we see social media networks talking about this.  And it came up most recently yesterday in this bombshell conversation from the New York Post about emails of Hunter Biden and you have people saying that this is all a disinformation campaign by the Russians; this laptop and this hard drive that was handed over and supposed emails between Hunter Biden and Burisma and talking about connections to former Vice President, current presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

Has any of this been brought to your desk?  Has the State Department been asked at all to look into this?  And could the State Department tell us if they know for sure if any of it is part of a disinformation campaign from Russia?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I don’t want to comment on this.  This is really not a State Department function.  It’s a U.S. domestic set of issues here.  But I will say this:  There is a real challenge with some of America’s biggest technology firms banning, suspending accounts in a way that is inconsistent, that is viewpoint driven, that is ideologically driven.  That’s simply unacceptable.

We’ve asked these firms in many cases to take down terror threat, terror – right? – when terrorists are trying to talk to each other on these.  They’ve been good partners in that. But it can’t be the case that they can choose a political viewpoint and decide whether they’re going to allow that information to be on their network, on their system, on their social media apparatus simply because they find that the political viewpoint held by those who are trying to communicate are simply exercising their First Amendment freedoms.  That’s just not the right thing to do.

QUESTION:  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when you have more time, I want to get into 5G with you and a host of other subjects –

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’d love to do that, Tony.

QUESTION:  — as you’re seeing things unfold.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, I appreciate it.  Go back to work.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you. You too.  Bye-bye.

QUESTION:  Go talk to important people.  My goodness gracious.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So long.

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    In U.S GAO News
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