tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg January 1, 2020 10:00am-10:30am EST
david: so you have been in north korea, and you have met with the leader of north korea on a few occasions, and you have been there when the president has met with him. so what type of person is he? can you communicate in english with him? can you just kind of summarize what your impression is of the leader of north korea? sec. pompeo: yeah. i have spent more time with him than any american. i passed dennis rodman on the last trip. david: president trump has sometimes tweeted things that are not favorable about some people working for him. he has never tweeted anything unfavorable about you. sec. pompeo: it is early. it is early. david: my experience is sometimes when people get close to the president and see the job up close, they say, "well, i could do that job, too." has that occurred to you, that you could do the job, and would you have any interest in running
for president at some point in your life? sec. pompeo: i try to answer this consistently. i have never been able to predict what my next gig will be. >> would you fix your tie, please? david: well, people wouldn't recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. just leave it this way. all right. i don't consider myself a journalist. and nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began to take on the life of being an interviewer, even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? so you became our 70th united states secretary of state in april of 2018. you are happy with the job? is it as much fun as you thought it was going to be? sec. pompeo: every day. [laughter]
david: so what are the most significant foreign policy issues of concern to you? what do you think are the biggest challenges we have in our country right now in the foreign policy area? sec. pompeo: i get asked this question about sort of the rank ordering the challenges. david: so you mean that is not a unique question? [laughter] sec. pompeo: it is an important question. it is about priorities and resources and how do you allocate time and think about the problem set? for me, the first task when i came in, now 16 or 17 months ago, to the state department, after having been the cia director, was to make sure the state department was ready in a moment of crisis. in terms of priorities, every morning the first thing i do is read about china. so i take time and talk about all the broad array of issues that present both real opportunity for the united states and risk to america from china. david: let's talk about china for a moment. the trade negotiations are going on. you are not the lead in the trade negotiations. bob lighthizer is taking the
lead in that. can you make any progress in non-trade issues until the trade issue is resolved? sec. pompeo: yeah. we have made some. we have had other places where we have gone backwards. the chinese have, frankly, been very helpful on north korea. so they have done more to enforce the u.n. security council resolutions on north korea than ever, at any time in history. they are helpful with us today in afghanistan and the projects there, too. it is something folks do not spend a lot of time thinking about. so far, so good, with respect to respecting our sanctions enforcement on the islamic republic of iran. so there are places we can work with china. there are lots of diplomatic fronts where we have -- we don't share the same values, but we have overlapping interests, and we work on those problems. david: so you have been to north korea, and you have met with the leader of north korea on a few occasions, and you have been there when the president has met with him. so what type of person is he? does he have great interesting , thoughts? does he speak english? do you communicate in english
with him? can you just kind of summarize what your impression is of the leader of north korea? sec. pompeo: yeah. i've spent more time with him than any american. i passed dennis rodman on the last trip. [laughter] david: ok. ok. sec. pompeo: so, uh, so -- look, he is bright. he has managed to rise to the level of leadership in a difficult environment, where he was a very young man when his time came. from my very first interaction with him, he has been very candid with me about the things that are important to him, the priorities set, and how the negotiations might proceed. he has now repeated that he is prepared to denuclearize. it is now time to execute. and i hope that we can achieve that. david: do you expect a third summit to be announced anytime soon, the date and time of it? sec. pompeo: there is nothing in the works. david. ok. sec. pompeo: there is nothing planned. david: why did the last summit end before the lunch occured? why did it abruptly end? sec. pompeo: there was a big spread, to put it in economic terms.
we had had a number -- i can't go into all of this -- but we had a number of conversations about a broad range of issues. in the run up to that, my team had worked very, very hard. and it turned out that the idea that the leaders could bridge that gap in that moment turned out to not work that day. david: do you think -- the u.s. position has been that we would not lift sanctions until there was a so-called denuclearization. but would you be willing to consider having the north koreans keep whatever they have in nuclear weapons now and then lift sanctions if they did not do more than they have now, or is that something too hypothetical? sec. pompeo: too hypothetical. david: oh, ok. i did not want to give you the answer. sec. pompeo: [laughs] david: all right -- sec. pompeo: look, i will say this. i have talked about this publicly a couple of times. we hope there are creative solutions to unlocking this. this is a very difficult challenge for each of us. we have to remember, too, these aren't u.s. sanctions. these are u.n. security council resolutions. they are global sanctions put on by every single country. we are mindful that we are the steward for enforcing those. david: let's go to an easier
part of the world the middle , east. [laughter] david: the strait of hormuz. are we committed to keeping open the straits of hormuz at any cost, militarily? sec. pompeo: we are going to keep them open. we are going to build out a maritime security plan. countries from all across the world that have a vested interest in keeping those waterways open will participate. it will take more time than we wish it would take, but i am very confident that the world understands that it is important. that america is prepared to be a significant part of that, but we need countries from all around the world to assist us. we will be a success. david: our position is that if a u.s. ship were taken by the iranians, we would presumably do something militarily, i guess. i don't know. what about if a ship is taken that is a british ship or some other nationality? are we not committed to recovering that ship or doing something to defend those ships? sec. pompeo: i was working with -- i guess i am now working with my third british foreign minister since i have been secretary of state, but working with the british to find the
solutions to both, a, right that injustice, and second, prevent it from happening again. so to establish deterrence that's the mission set. , david: recently, you gave a visa for the foreign minister of iran to come to the united states for the u.n. event. you are familiar with that. sec. pompeo: yes. that's true. david: when he was in the united states, were there any talks, direct or indirect, with him in the state department that you can talk about? sec. pompeo: no talks. david: no talks, ok. sec. pompeo: although he spoke. the american media decided to give him a megaphone to talk about things that are untrue going on in the islamic republic of iran and gave him a chance to lie vociferously to the american people. i look forward to the chance to speak to the iranian people in that same way. but truthfully, tell them honestly about what has gone on inside of their own country. so far, they have not taken me up on that offer. david: president trump has imposed tough sanctions on iran. do you think they are going to have the effect of bringing iran to the negotiating table or not?
sec. pompeo: we have to step back and think about what we are doing more broadly in the middle east. with respect to iran, it is the world's largest state sponsor of terror. it has the capacity to work towards a nuclear weapon system, which would cause proliferation risks all throughout the middle east, so we are very concerned about that as well. our chosen strategy was to take a 180-degree turn from what the previous administration has done. they created opportunity for enormous wealth for the kleptocrats in iran. for them to underwrite hezbollah militias in iraq, the even as weyemen who speak preparing to continue their attacks on saudi arabia. we have decided to go the other way. we are trying to reduce their resources to conduct terror campaigns all around the world. they allowed their nuclear systems and their missile program, and we have been incredibly effective. i remember, david, i am sure no one in this room remembers, but many in washington said that american sanctions alone won't work. they have worked. we have taken over 95% of the
crude oil that was being shipped by iran all around the world, we have taken it off of the market. when i came in, brent crude was at $63.34. 17%, 18% lower than when we withdrew from the jcpoa. we have managed both to protect the economic growth that the world needs while doing our best , to deny resources to be islamic republic of iran regime. david: the prospect of another iranian agreement, one that is more favorable to your point of view and the president's point of view, is that likely to happen this year, next year, or you just can't predict? sec. pompeo: i don't do time. timelines are a fool's errand, in my business. david: the iranians are now enriching uranium at a greater level than they were before. do you worry that somebody, israel, might attack the iranian facilities? or are you not worried about that? sec. pompeo: yes. they are enriching more than they were under the agreement. their temporary reduction in enriched uranium has now ended. they are moving back in the wrong direction. we are urging them to think about it. but for us, it is not about the levels set in the jcpoa. david: all right.
sec. pompeo: it is about the capacity to build out a nuclear weapons system in the timeframe that matters to you and your kids and grandkids. the previous agreement didn't remotely touch that. david: you were the head of the cia at the beginning of this administration. do you have any doubt that the russians interfered with our last presidential election? sec. pompeo: no. none. none. david: ok, so -- sec. pompeo: and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one in 2018. ♪
david: in the middle east, do you see any prospect for peace between israel and the palestinians? there has been talk of a plan. do you see any progress being made? sec. pompeo: well, there's a reason it hasn't been solved for 40 years or more. in the end, this will be the decision of the prime minister of israel and the leadership in the west bank and gaza. i have been deeply involved in mr. kushner's efforts there. david: does our position, the position of the united states government that we prefer, a one-state or two-state solution? sec. pompeo: you will see our plan shortly. david: will you give us a hint? sec. pompeo: no. [laughter] sec. pompeo: we prefer what the
palestinians and israelis agree to and what the nature of that relationship will look like. david: negotiations are underway with the taliban in the middle east. the u.s. is involved in that. do you see any progress in reducing our need to be in afghanistan, anything in the near future? sec. pompeo: yeah, real progress. i try not to do timelines, but i am optimistic. we are not just negotiating with the taliban. that is the story. the truth of the matter is, we are talking to all afghans. so we have spoken with president ghani, i spoke to him on friday night, or friday morning. we are speaking with the opposition, the folks not inside the government. we are speaking with taliban officials. the ambassador has worked all across afghanistan. when i was there last, i met with ngo's, women's groups, a broad swath of afghanistan. we want them to take their country back. and we want to reduce what is for us a tens of billions of dollars a year in expenditures and enormous risk to your kids and your grandkids who are fighting for america.
we think there's a path to reduce violence and achieve reconciliation, and still make sure that the american counterterrorism effort in afghanistan has the value and the potential to reduce risk here in the states. david: for the next presidential election in the united states, would you expect we will reduce our troops in afghanistan? sec. pompeo: that's my directive from the president of the united states. he has been unambiguous. and the endless wars. -- end the endless wars. it won't just be us. resolute support with countries from europe and across the world. david: so on russia, you've met with mr. putin many times, i assume? sec. pompeo: a few times, yes, sir. david: any impressions that you might convey? is he very smart? very tough? does he understand english? do you convey your thoughts to him in english, or does he have an interpreter? sec. pompeo: i think he speaks english plenty well. david: ok. sec. pompeo: look, he is very clear about the things that are in russia's interest. the things they are working on. we had a strategic dialogue with them that we hope will build into something that handles a broad set of proliferation
issues not just nuclear , proliferation issues, but a broad array of proliferation issues. and we hope china will join that set of conversations. we think in today's world, these agreements need to have china be part of them. and i hope that president putin will support us. i think he will. david: you were the head of the cia at the beginning of this administration. do you have any doubt that the russians interfered with our last presidential election? sec. pompeo: oh, none. none. david: ok, and have conveyed -- sec. pompeo: and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one in 2018. people forget we have had an election since 2016. i hear people saying, oh, we have to protect 2020. well, the good people who ran in 2018 cared a lot about about us protecting that one. we did so very effectively. and we will do so again in 2020. and it is not just the last thing -- i know this town, i know exactly what will get reported. just so you know, it ain't just russia. that is bad english, i will try and correct it. there are more nations than just russia who are attempting to undermine western democracy.
that has been true since the founders created this great nation. and so we have to be ever vigilant. david: there is legislation that has passed the house and is now in the senate to give more resources to keep the russians from being able to do this again. is the administration supportive of the legislation, which seems to be blocked right now in the senate? sec. pompeo: yeah, i don't know the details of the legislation. i am convinced the state department has all the resources it needs to perform its part of that function. we have what we need. we have the authorities we need. we have the money we need. the burden is on me to execute. david: and have you communicated to mr. putin that we don't like what he has done before and he shouldn't do it again? sec. pompeo: on a number of occasions. david: and what is his response? sec. pompeo: "noted." [laughter] dave: ok. sec. pompeo: that's a diplomatic term for, "i hear you, brother." [laughter] david: ok. he doesn't admit anything, i assume. but ok. with respect to england, there's a new prime minister. you have met boris johnson before? sec. pompeo: i have. i met him when i was the cia director.
i believe he was foreign secretary at the time, when we met. david: does the trump administration support a brexit, or would you prefer that there be a remain? or do you not take a position on that? sec. pompeo: i have confidence in the british people. david: ok. now, the british ambassador had to resign because his cables were leaked by somebody. do you tell your own ambassadors they should be a little bit more careful about what they say to you, because somebody could leak what they are writing? is that a worry? sec. pompeo: not at all, and if i did, they would ignore me. [laughter] sec. pompeo: i mean, right? they have a duty. they have a responsibility. our task is for them to tell us what they are seeing. we expect them to report accurately, truthfully, candidly, and our mission is to make sure they don't end up in "the washington post." david: my experience is that sometimes when people get close to a president, they see the job up close and they say, "well, i can do that job, too." has that occurred to you? that maybe, you could do the job? would you have any interest in running for president at some point in your life? sec. pompeo: i try to answer this consistently. i have never been able to
david: now, in respect to mexico, we have been concerned about people coming over the border. are you confident that the mexican government is now doing what it can to keep people from not coming over the border? sec. pompeo: they are. david: are they doing enough, you think? sec. pompeo: no, it is not enough. we still have the high side of 2000 every day. that is unacceptable. and so they need to do more. we need to do more. congress needs to change the
rules. we have to create a deterrence. it has to be the case that those who want to come here legally can, and those who want to come by some other mechanism choose not to, because they understand that they are not going to find a way. i remember, as a member of congress, people would call my office and say, "hey, we live in" -- pick a country around the world -- "and they want to come here and get citizenship." anyway -- i won't tell you the joke, but the simplest way to do it would be to go to mexico and come on. what you want to encourage them to do is to file the paperwork, go through the lawful process, become citizens. we are the most welcoming nation in the world. we will always be. but it is not the case that we can be lawless or have our sovereignty broken through having this mass immigration and an unlawful mechanism. truly, there is a national security risk. david: speaking of south of the border, venezuela, would the u.s. ever send troops in if that was necessary to keep further violence from occurring? sec. pompeo: see, you started trying to get me at the beginning, now you are trying at
the end. the president has said ready clearly we will do whatever it , takes to make sure the venezuelan people get democracy back. that is the mission set. david: president trump has sometimes tweeted things that are not favorable about some people working for him. he has never tweeted anything unfavorable about you. sec. pompeo: it's early. it's early. [laughter] david: so what is the secret of your success in your relationship? you didn't know him before he was elected, did you? sec. pompeo: i did not. i met him the day i interviewed to be cia director. david: and who recommended you to be cia director? sec. pompeo: i don't know for sure. i don't know. david: you mean the cia doesn't have the ability to figure out who recommended you? [laughter] david: you should figure that out. sec. pompeo: david, you would never believe that the cia only does foreign espionage. [laughter] david: ok, ok. sec. pompeo: i have never been able to convince you of that. david: somebody recommended you. you had an interview with them. sec. pompeo: i think the vice president was likely the person who i had known and served with as a member of congress. david: and did you say, "i like the cia job, but i would like to be secretary of state?"
or this came as a surprise to you? sec. pompeo: it was a complete surprise to me. and i was honored to serve as the director of the central intelligence agency. david: ok. some people say that you should run for the senate from kansas. in fact, mitch mcconnell, i think, has twisted your arm a few times to do that. can you say definitively that you will not run? the filing date is june of 2020, you probably know. so any -- sec. pompeo: i didn't, but thank you for reminding me. [laughter] david: ok. so would you consider that? are you putting it off the table for a while? sec. pompeo: it is off the table. as a practical matter, i will serve as secretary of secretary of state every day that i get the chance to do so. look, we all serve at the pleasure of the president. you talked about director coates, who i have enormous respect for, will be leaving. he served nobly. there is a time for everyone. i hope i get to do this for a while longer. david: my experience is sometimes when people get close to a president, they see the job up close, they say, "well, i can do that job, too." has that occurred to you, that maybe you could do the job?
would you have any interest in running for president at some point in your life? sec. pompeo: i try to answer this consistently, i have never been able to predict what my next gig will be. and i suspect that is the case with respect to this. i will say this. the service that i have had the chance to do, i am almost 20 years now in federal service. 18 years of federal service, in my time in the army, and then in congress, and now in the executive branch. it has been a blessing. i hope i have left things a little bit better, and i do feel an obligation. america has given me an awful lot. now if i thought i could do a good turn, there's nothing i wouldn't consider doing for america. david: ok. let's suppose the president is reelected. would you be willing to serve as secretary of state for 1, 2, 3, 4 years of a second term? or have you thought about that yet? sec. pompeo: i haven't thought about it yet. hard to know, hard to answer those questions. the real question is, would the president still want mike pompeo as his secretary of state? david: ok. so when you have decisions with the president, meetings with him, is he best with oral communications, written
communications? what is the process by which decisions are made? is it through the nsc or very informal? sec. pompeo: there's a very robust nsc process. when i brief him myself, i always prefer to have documents. the way i prefer to receive information. so i almost always bring something, a one-page summary at the very least that says here's the outline of what it is that i think are the priorities and how we should think about it, how we should frame this particular problem. and then the president does like to engage in oral exchanges. and i have found them to be elucidating for myself. i often learn things as well. he is very focused on where the money is and how we use economic leverage to achieve our diplomatic ends. david: except when henry kissinger was both secretary of state and national security adviser at the same time, generally, there has been tension between secretaries of state and national security advisors. how is your relationship with john bolton? sec. pompeo: yeah, i mean, look, there's always tension among leaders of different organizations. we come at these things from a different viewpoint.
ambassador bolton has his responsibility to make sure all the ideas are vetted and get to the president. secretary of treasury, secretary of energy, the intelligence community each have their mission sets. we have robust, lively debates. i agree with each of them often and disagree with most of them sometimes. david: in your career, you were first in your class at west point. so how do you become first in your class at west point? that is pretty tough. i mean, what happened to all the other people who were second, third, and fourth? [laughter] david: do they become anything? sec. pompeo: one of them is the secretary of defense. [laughter] sec. pompeo: he's a classmate of mine as well. i give him a hard time about our relative order of finish. [laughter] david: ok. you went to harvard law school. why did you abandon the practice of law? sec. pompeo: i had a great opportunity. i was practicing law at williams & connolly here, had great partners i worked for. unlike many, i actually enjoyed my time there. i was older, i had gone to law school a little bit later, but i had a chance to start a business in kansas with three of my best friends in the whole world. we started a company that was a machine shop in wichita, kansas.
i spent the next 15 years there. david: i thought you once told me you were negotiating with somebody on the opposite side of that deal and that person wound up to be your wife. is that -- sec. pompeo: true. true. took my money twice. [laughter] david: ok. so what is the best part about being secretary of state? sec. pompeo: i love susan. by the way, we are still married. everything is good. [laughter] david: you had to say that. otherwise -- sec. pompeo: i did. i have friends in the room who are texting her right now. [laughter] david: all right, so the best part of being secretary of state is what? sec. pompeo: you get a chance to help ordinary americans understand what we are doing and try and deliver them an environment where fewer and fewer of their kids will have to be in an armed conflict. that is our mission set every day get american outcomes , through diplomacy. david: what is the worst part of being secretary of state? sec. pompeo: i haven't figured that out yet. i'm enjoying every minute of what i'm doing. i truly feel that i have been given this remarkable privilege to serve, and i'm trying to do my best to deliver on that every day.
david: so you started your own company what age? >> 24. david: where did you get the money? >> my mother gave me everything she had that was liquid. my dad gave me everything he could afford to lose. david: one of the boards you were on is mcdonald's, and it is said that you eat mcdonald's every day. >> pretty much every day. david: did you ever play basketball with barack obama? >> several times. david: is he a good player? >> he is pretty good. >> can you fix your tie please? david: people wo