QUESTION: So pleased to welcome back our friend, the United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, it's great to be with you this morning.
QUESTION: I want to make sure that America understands what happened yesterday. You greeted Tony Kim, Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul, who were released from North Korea; you greeted the parents of Otto Warmbier, who you brought back from North Korea but sadly died afterwards; Caitlan Coleman and her children rescued from Afghanistan; Josh Holt from Venezuela; Pastor Brunson, of course, came back from Turkey; Danny Burch last month from Yemen. Why did you hold this � and there are many who are still held captive, and you had their families come, and you had the people who were held hostage by Iran in '79. Why did you do this at the State Department yesterday?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It was an important day here yesterday. We invited back family members of those that we've not been able to bring back, some who are still held, and then folks who had been held � you talked about back in 1979, now coming 40 years on. We did this with a singular purpose: We want Americans to know � frankly, we want the world to know � that America and its State Department will not rest until every single American who is wrongfully detained or held hostage is brought home. And I, too, wanted to personally let those family members who are suffering � they've got loved ones who are being held in Syria, in Iran, in other places in the Middle East � I wanted them to know that they're on my mind, they're in my prayers, they're on my heart, and that our team, under the guidance of President Trump, is focused on getting each and every one of them back to their families.
QUESTION: I watched the entire speech. You said, We will never abandon our people. You also said President Trump asks you about this every week?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Every week. And there is a formal update that's provided to him as well. We're just � we walk through the situation, what we're doing, actions we might take, actions that he might take to increase the probability that we'll get these folks home. I think our success to date in this administration, now two years on, of getting these people back without putting a bunch of money on a � cash on a pallet, by simply using American diplomacy and power to get these individuals returned home, I think our success to date is a direct function of the President's attention to these issues.
QUESTION: I also want to underscore it's bipartisan, and you said this yesterday in your remarks: Republic, Democrat, conservative, liberal, and every branch of the government, and we've got a lot of friends � like, I think the UAE helped us get Mr. Burch back.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Burch back. Yes, sir. Yeah.
QUESTION: We got � we got lots of people. No one is against this effort, and that's maybe why it � the news media isn't interested.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can't account for why they're not as interested in it, but this is an important note. We work with members of Congress all the time. Sometimes it's their constituents, sometimes they just have a particular interest in getting folks back. We work closely with them. We work closely with every element of the United States Government � the FBI, the Department of Defense, Homeland Security � all of us working together, and it is � it's not about partisanship, it's about America and getting these folks returned home.
QUESTION: Now, let's talk about some of the people who are still abroad. First of all, I want to bring up Siamak Namazi. He's one of the � that the Iranians hold. They've got a bunch of them. But I thought their foreign minister guaranteed his release. Did they squelch on the Iran-U.S. deal, the JCPOA, before the ink was dry?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, there were fewer Iranians returned than had been committed by the Iranian Government, for sure. We had family members out here yesterday at the State Department. They are rightly concerned, and we are working even as we speak to get Mr. Namazi back.
QUESTION: Now, Iran's got at least a half dozen. I know you � your � you guys fudge numbers for national security reasons. I know that you and President Trump and Ambassador Bolton are not going to send pallets of cash, and you explained that, and I thought it was great that you told the families face to face why we won't do that. Would you explain to the American people why we do not buy them out?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, it was important that I do that, because were my family member held and I had the ability to write a check to get him back, it would be in my heart to do that, and I wanted to walk them through our policy, which when we � you send money, you encourage. Not only do you encourage the country to which you send the money to obtain the release, the ransom payment, but others around the world watch this behavior, and I've seen this. I've seen this when I was the director of the CIA. There are countries who know that there's no money, there's no crime, there's no benefit, upside, to taking Americans if it's cash that you are looking for. And so this policy, while difficult in particular cases, makes enormous sense. And we can also demonstrate from two years of effort that it is possible to get people returned, to get our citizens back, without engaging in the ransom payments that other administrations have engaged in.
QUESTION: Now, we know why Hamas wants IDF soldiers. We know why the Taliban wants Americans. It's just for their money and for their leverage. What is Iran's game? Because they are � they are such an evil regime, they're such a rogue regime, but they make it worse for themselves and they expose themselves to the international order when, since 1979, they make hostage-taking part of state policy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It's the Islamic nature of the republic, is � in my judgment. It's the reason they hold Americans. They think there's leverage. They think we'll make concessions to them because they've held Americans. We will not do that. What we will do is work with our � countries like the Swiss, who are our protecting power. We'll work with others in the area to make the case that on a humanitarian basis, these individuals must be returned and that American policy will not favor them until they're back.
I had a chance, Hugh, to meet with more than a handful of folks who were taken hostage for 444 days back in 1979. The stories, the beatings were truly remarkable. And importantly, to a person, they said, that the individuals who held them, the people who were responsible for their detention, have now risen, are in power today in the Islamic Republic of Iran. If there is ever a reminder of the abhorrent nature of this regime, it occurred here at the State Department yesterday.
QUESTION: Now, Mr. Secretary, you just said the Islamic nature of the regime. I know how the media works. They'll seize on that when, in fact, we have some wonderful partners who are themselves Islamic nations. I think you meant Islamist, didn't you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I did mean Islamist, and what I'm talking about is a subset, right, this extremism. And it is the revolutionary nature of this --
SECRETARY POMPEO: -- this idea that there's this Islamic revolution that is going to serve the people of Iran well. Hugh, you know this, you've read. We know the people in Iran. They are educated, they are talented, they are hardworking, and they are being subjugated to these corrupt ayatollahs and leaders who are using this Islamist activity, this revolutionary activity to empower themselves, to build houses for themselves all across the world, to make sure that they have all the money that they need, and much to the detriment of the Iranian people. And of course, they're � remain the world's largest state sponsor of terror all around the region.
QUESTION: If I can switch to South America, I know the Vice President met with the CITGO oil executives that Maduro, the dictator, took hostage in 2017. Were you also � did you also meet with those people?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I did. They were here yesterday. We met with the family members yesterday. I had a chance, both in our formal meeting and then at the end of the day when we had just a little gathering, I had a chance to meet and shake their hand and tell them that we are very focused on getting their return. And we are � we're very hopeful that we can convince the regime, even before it leaves, that the right thing to do would be to free these executives.
QUESTION: Even before it leaves, which brings me to this issue that I brought up with Rick Scott last hour, the Russians have deployed military troops there. This is � it's not the Cuban Missile Crisis, but you know it's metastatic once the Russians start showing up. What are we doing, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I can't talk about all the options that are being considered, but President Trump's made clear that we're prepared to do what it takes to get the Russians to leave. I think he said it precisely that way. We've certainly talked with the Russians. We've told them how serious we take the threat that is posed by their continued use of military power inside of Venezuela. It's � I tried to convince them it's not in their best interests. I think I failed at that. And so now we will turn to the other tools of American power to ensure that the Venezuelan people get a chance to have the democracy they deserve without the boot of the Cubans and the Russians on their throat.
QUESTION: What about the allies in Colombia and Brazil? Are they also threatened? When you see Russian little green men showing up and official troops, that's just a harbinger of doom for your country next door.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, you're a historian. You know the history of how Russia moves around. You know the history of Russians' efforts here in the Western Hemisphere. Sadly, the previous administration allowed the Russians to have influence in Cuba and other places throughout the Western Hemisphere. We are very focused on pushing back against that. Venezuela will be among the places, but we see them in other parts and eyeing even other places inside of South America, as you referred, and those countries � Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile � excuse me � Chile, Brazil, Colombia all understand that risk. I'll be traveling to the region next week where we'll talk about that very threat.
QUESTION: Last question, 45 seconds, Mr. Secretary. I had a driver yesterday by coincidence who comes from Nicaragua. She told me about Ortega and the fact that he is an evil, evil man, as is his wife. Is the United States preparing to do anything about him and her?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, yes, and it is absolutely the case that both Ortega and his wife have inflicted horrible pain on the Nicaraguan people, and our team on the ground is on the ground again there next week to continue to work on that problem set.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, congratulations on having the hostages there yesterday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Hugh.
QUESTION: American media should be paying attention to this. The record that the administration has is second to none, but we're not going to forget Jeff Woodke in Mali or Bob Levinson or any of the others held in Iran or in Syria � Austin Tice or Kevin King and Paul Overby in Afghanistan. A great event yesterday, well done. Don't go anywhere, America. I'll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
Source: U.S. State Department