Transcript: Sec. Pompeo Remarks on ABC, CBS, and Fox News on May 5, 2019

The following is an edited transcript of the interview between Margaret Brennan of “CBS Face the Nation” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 5, 2019, related to Latin America:

QUESTION: You’ve got the whole world as your portfolio, so let’s move on to Venezuela and Russia. There was this phone call between Vladimir Putin and President Trump that just happened. The President described it to us in an Oval Office spray. Why didn’t he bring up election interference on this phone call when he said he did discuss the findings of the Mueller report, which found sweeping and systematic Russian interference in 2016?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, you’ll have to ask the White House that question. The President has been very clear. The administration has taken great action. I wish the previous one had stopped the election interference that took place in 2016. They failed to do so. Between 2017, when President Trump came into office, and 2018, we had a successful election year, a set of midterm elections. We’re working diligently to assure that the elections in 2020 aren’t interfered with by Russia, by Iran, by North Korea, or anyone else. We have enormous resource deployed against that challenge, and the American people should be sure that their government is working hard to keep our elections safe and secure.

QUESTION: You said this week that Moscow has hundreds of people in Venezuela, and you were very clear that you think it was Russia that convinced Nicolas Maduro not to get on a plane and to flee the country. Here’s what the President said during his – after his phone call with Vladimir Putin:

“PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. And I feel the same way.”

QUESTION: There seems to be a difference in how the President described the situation and how you and Ambassador Bolton have described it.

SECRETARY POMPEO: No, no difference. No difference. The President has said – I think he, in fact, tweeted – that the Russians must leave Venezuela, and we have asked every nation that is interfering with Venezuelan democracy. You’ve seen this. I was down on the border. We saw mothers who couldn’t feed their children fleeing the country. We saw families that had sick kids but couldn’t get medicines all sitting – it was sitting within 50 miles of where we were located, and Maduro won’t allow it to come in. The President has been very clear we want the Cubans out, there are Iranians on the ground there, we want the Russians – we want everyone out, so that the Venezuelan people can get the democracy they deserve. That includes Mr. Maduro leaving.

QUESTION: So when he says – the President says Putin is not looking to get involved at all in Venezuela, that is not the President accepting him at face value?

SECRETARY POMPEO: You’ll have to leave – you’ll have to let the —

QUESTION: He knows that that’s not the case?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has tweeted that he wants the Russians out of Venezuela.

QUESTION: So he was just putting a positive spin on things in that moment?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We are working very diligently to ensure that Maduro leaves and we get free and fair elections in Venezuela. That will require the 2,300 Cuban security personnel, frankly the people closest to Maduro who are protecting the (inaudible) security for Maduro – they’ve got to leave. We’re working on that as well. We’re working with the Cubans to try and get an outcome that will let the Venezuelans have this opportunity.

QUESTION: On this – I know you’ll be meeting with the Russian foreign minister in the coming days – is there a deal to be struck with Russia on this front? I mean, Russia benefits, right, by having Venezuelan oil off the market, by having a level of influence in America’s backyard. Is the U.S. going to negotiate a deal with Russia on Venezuela?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll certainly bring up Venezuela. It will be one of many topics that Foreign Minister Lavrov and I speak about. Whether there is a particular deal that can be reached, only time will tell.

QUESTION: Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina who I know you know well, tweeted this week: “Cuba, Russia send troops to prop up Maduro in Venezuela while we talk and have sanctions. Where’s our aircraft carrier?” He seems to be calling a bluff here on your mention and mention from others that military options aren’t off the table. What is actually being considered here? Because you can’t refer to the use of military force lightly. Is there an actual option that you are considering deploying in the coming days?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness. The President has made clear that no option is off the table. We worked this week to further the planning so that we’d have a wide range of options – diplomatic options, political options, options that would involve the Department of Defense. We’ve made clear. The President has – the President —

QUESTION: That’s hospital ships, or that’s actual offensive action?

SECRETARY POMPEO: There are – there will be many options that we will fully bake, make sure they’re ready, get laid out in exquisite detail, that are executable, so that when the situation changes on the ground or the President makes a conclusion that it’s a path he wants to go down, that these options are prepared for him. We wouldn’t want to be flat-footed, and we’ve worked diligently to make sure that that capability – a wide range of capabilities are prepared to be executed.

QUESTION: And just a final point on this. Juan Guaido, the opposition leader that the U.S. backs and many other countries recognize as the legitimate leader, has said that he essentially miscalculated the level of support in assuming the military would back him or break away from Maduro. Are you still saying a military option is on the table when the opposition leader we are backing can’t get the support of his country’s military?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, he didn’t get it that day, although the senior intelligence official left. It’s not the case that military haven’t left. There have been lots of Venezuelan military that have departed. But let’s make —

QUESTION: Not enough to make that successful?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Not yet. We’re not there yet. We won’t be successful till the day that we are, and we are determined to see that the Venezuelan people have their democracy restored, as are 54 other nations, including most every nation in the region. They understand that three million refugees, three million migrants that have departed Venezuela, another two million this year, is unacceptable for their region, and they are working to build out a coalition to support the Venezuelan people in their democracy.

QUESTION: All right, Mr. Secretary. I’m told we have to leave it there. Thank you for coming in.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, ma’am.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview between Jonathan Karl of ABC‘s “This Week” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 5, 2019, related to Latin America:

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s turn to Venezuela. National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested earlier this week that Maduro was about to fall, openly called for members of Maduro’s inner circle to defect. But opposition leader Juan Guaido acknowledged yesterday that he miscalculated the level of support that he thought he had within the Venezuelan military. Was this an intelligence failure for the United States?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, no, not at all. This is the Venezuelan people attempting to re-establish their democracy. The United States has joined with them. We have supported the National Assembly’s choice. Juan Guaido is the interim president of the country.

And as you know, these things sometimes have bumpy roads, to be sure, but Maduro can’t feel good. He’s ruling for the moment, but he can’t govern. There is enormous poverty, enormous starvation, sick children that can’t get medicine, Jonathan. This is not someone who can be part of Venezuela’s future, and whether that change takes place today or tomorrow or a week from now, one can’t predict. Our mission is to work with a large coalition, now 50 countries-plus, who are determined to restore democracy and then ultimately a productive economy to Venezuela.

QUESTION: You said today, tomorrow, or a week from now. So you’re saying this is imminent?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It could be two weeks, it could be four weeks.

QUESTION: It’s not going to be two months, not going to be a year?

SECRETARY POMPEO: What we can do is provide support, get support from the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, the entire region, that understands that restoring democracy for the Venezuelan people is an imperative, and get them all to work together so that we get the outcome we’re looking for.

QUESTION: Would Maduro still be in power if he didn’t have support from the Cubans and from the Russians?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Without the Cubans, there would be no possibility he was still in power. They are – they are the center of this. Indeed, it is the Cubans who are performing the security cordon for Maduro today. They are everywhere around him. He doesn’t trust his military. You said the military hadn’t come across. Well, the leader of their intelligence service —


SECRETARY POMPEO: — left. So there’s a lot – Maduro cannot feel good about the security of his position today, and he shouldn’t because the Venezuelan people will demand ultimately that he leave.

QUESTION: You said the Cubans or the Russians?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The Russians need to get out too. The President tweeted it very clearly. He said the Russians must go. We want every country – Iran is in there today. They need to leave as well. Every country that is interfering with the Venezuelan people’s right to restore their own democracy needs to leave.

QUESTION: I want to play you what the President said about Vladimir Putin and what Putin told him about Venezuela:

“PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela, and I feel the same way.”

QUESTION: But wait a minute. What does he mean, the Russians – that Putin does not want to get involved in Venezuela? Aren’t they already deeply involved in supporting Maduro?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has said that the Russians must get out. I’m going to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov in a couple of days. We’ll have more conversations about this. The objective is very clear: We want the Iranians out, we want the Russians out, we want the Cubans out. That’s ultimately what has to take place in order for Venezuelan democracy to be restored. It’s very clear. I don’t think anything the President said is inconsistent with that.

QUESTION: But wait a minute. You said that Maduro was on the plane ready to leave and to flee for Cuba, and it was the Russians that told him to stay. And the President is saying that Putin told him that he’s not looking to get involved in Venezuela. Does the President not realize what you have said publicly and what is obvious, that Putin is deeply involved in Venezuela? I mean, what does he mean when he’s saying he’s not looking to get involved?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I didn’t see the full context of the quote there. I don’t know what context that was said in. I do know this: The President has made clear we want everyone out, and that includes the Russians.

QUESTION: So you were at the Pentagon going over military options on Friday with the President’s national security team. I know the line that you’ve said, the President’s said, everybody has said: All options are on the table. But is a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela really an option?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, make no mistake, we have a full range of options that we’re preparing for. That’s part of what we were doing on Friday was making sure that when this progresses and a different situation arises that the President has a full-scale set of options: diplomatic options, political options, options with our allies, and then ultimately a set of options that would involve use of U.S. military. We’re preparing those for him so that when the situation arises, we’re not flat-footed.

QUESTION: Does the President believe that he can intervene militarily without getting congressional authorization as well?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t want to speak to that. The President has his full range of Article 2 authorities, and I am very confident that any action we took in Venezuela would be lawful.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview between Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 5, 2019, related to Latin America:

QUESTION: And joining us now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, it’s great to be with you this morning.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Venezuela. On Tuesday, you and National Security Advisor John Bolton were talking as if a coup in Caracas was underway. Take a look:

MR BOLTON: They need to be able to act this afternoon or this evening to help bring other military forces to the side of the interim president.”

QUESTION: What happened? Was there an intelligence failure about whether or not some top Venezuelan officials were going to flip on Maduro?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, first of all, Chris, there can’t be a coup led by Juan Guaido. He is the elected leader of Venezuela, duly elected through their constitutional process, so there couldn’t have been a coup there.

The Venezuelan people’s struggle for democracy continues. We’ve made very clear that Maduro must leave. There’s no way you could have free and fair elections with Maduro still inside of that country. And we have made very clear that not only the United States but 50-plus nations support Juan Guaido and his National Assembly and their efforts to beat back the horrific conditions there.

I was on the border in Cucuta. I watched women carrying babies across the border. They didn’t want to leave their country. They were having to make decisions about whether they could feed their baby on the second day or the third day, their sick children didn’t have medicine – all of which was sitting in Colombia and Maduro has denied them. And so our effort —


SECRETARY POMPEO: So our effort is to make sure —

QUESTION: But call it what you want – ousting, coup, whatever – why didn’t it happen? Maduro is still in power.

SECRETARY POMPEO: He is. These things sometimes take time.

QUESTION: And why did we think it was going to happen on Tuesday and it didn’t happen?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We know it’s going to happen.

QUESTION: But I’m – I don’t mean to —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, Chris, I’m not going to talk about all the various conversations that have taken place. We continue to work with leaders down there. The Lima Group continues to work with leaders on the ground. The Organization of American States continues to work with leaders on the ground.

If you think about where this country was 90 days ago, the Venezuelan people should be very proud. They are much closer to having democracy restored and having their country back on the right track than they were 90 days ago.

QUESTION: On – for weeks, you and Bolton have talked about and called out Russian interference in Venezuela. Here you are:

“MR BOLTON: They’d love to get effective control of a country in this hemisphere. It’s not ideological; it’s just good, old-fashioned power politics.”

“SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve told the Russians and we’ve told the Cubans that’s unacceptable.”

QUESTION: But Friday, President Trump talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Venezuela. Here he is:

“PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela.”

QUESTION: So which is it? Is Putin propping up a dictator in our own backyard, or is Putin looking for something positive in Venezuela?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has been very clear on this. He said – I think it was in a tweet several weeks back – the Russians have to get out. That remains our view. We want the Venezuelan people not to have interference from any country, whether it’s China or Russia. You now have Iranians on the ground in Venezuela. We know about the long history with a couple thousand Cuban thugs essentially controlling that country today.

The United States wants all other countries out of this nation and allow the Venezuelan people to restore their own democracy. We’re confident that we’re going to achieve that. And I couldn’t tell you what day, but it will happen.

QUESTION: But the President told the American people that Putin said that he didn’t want to get involved, that he was looking for something positive. In fact, Russia is very involved. The Wagner group, a private Russian military force, in Venezuela. Putin has sent top military and intelligence officials to Venezuela. What are you going to tell – you’re going to be meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Finland tomorrow. What are you going to tell him?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to tell him the same thing the President told the world, that every country must get out, including the Russians. That’s what I’ll tell him. We don’t want anyone messing around with the Venezuelans because we want them to be an autonomous, independent, sovereign state, democratic-elected officials. This is what we desire for the Venezuelan people. That’s what I’ll talk with him about. I’m then going to travel on to Germany and to the United Kingdom, and we’re going to work with them to achieve this objective.

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