QUESTION: Pompeo is with us now. I don’t know what’s been happening, Mr. Secretary, but oh my gosh, we tried to get you on, couldn’t hear you. We’re doing shadow puppets over here. Hey, Mr. Secretary. How are you?

SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) Laura, good morning. I’m good. Thank you. How are you today?

QUESTION: Good. It’s our last show so I wanted to bring on my faves, and you made the list. Isn’t that amazing?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Congratulations on 17-plus years of excellence.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you very much. The soundbite we played for you when we were coming in was a series of comments made by Republicans criticizing the President’s decision to pull troops out of Syria. Number one, were you – did you get a heads-up on this decision? And number two, why is this the right decision now?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Laura, this was a decision that was made with lots of consultation between all the senior-level officials, including myself, with the President. So yes, did I – I had more than a heads-up.

Second, remember the mission statement there. The primary reason – and the President’s talked about this – was to take down the caliphate. We remember folks in cages being lit on fire. The primary mission was to go take down the ISIS caliphate. That is at the very tail end of completion. And we have ISIS remnants in lots of pockets around the world.

Your listeners should be assured that the United States of America intends to continue that counterterrorism campaign, continue the fight against ISIS, whether it stems from Syria or other places. The decision to remove those folks from Syria does not diminish the enormous success this administration has had in the Middle East fighting terrorism.

QUESTION: There’s a – I know there’s a big announcement today about what we’re going to be doing with Mexico and perhaps Central America vis-a-vis our border and other efforts to keep people in their homelands, where they’re going to be working and able to raise their children there and hold on to their own culture and so forth. What can you tell us?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re announcing today what I think is a truly groundbreaking plan to keep illegal aliens out of the United States. It is a very significant border security development. It will no longer be the case that aliens who come here remain inside the United States during the pendency of their asylum claims.

So the idea of catch and release will be replaced with catch and return. We expect this will result in a truly historic drop in illegal immigration, because the incentive to come here – file an asylum claim and remain in the United States during the pendency of that claim – will no longer exist.

QUESTION: And is this in consultation with other countries’ presidents and leadership so they are on board with the receiving of migrants back to their home countries?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So we will be returning the detainees to Mexico – or, excuse me, the illegal aliens to Mexico. We’ve made clear to the Mexican Government our intent to do this, and they have made an announcement – or shortly will make an announcement – about how they’re going to deal with those returned migrants. They’re going to offer them opportunities inside of their country to protect the rights of those migrants, but they will not be inside the United States during the time that their asylum claim is being processed.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s – this is a groundbreaking move. And I know you’ve been working on – I know – I follow your travel schedule from afar and I kind of see where – thinking, hmm, Pompeo and Nielsen – they’re up to something. Something – and I was hoping there was something good.

But you always have to deal with the lawsuits. You’ve had ACLU and various migrant groups and NGOs getting together, pooling money, pooling resources. And you have these nationwide permanent and temporary injunctions that continue to thwart the President’s article – his Article III authority to – I mean Article I authority, excuse me – to protect our country. And what are you going to do about that? Because you know the moment this is announced they’re going to take you to court.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So we hope that’s not the case, but we expect that you’re right about that. This is pretty clear. The Immigration and Naturalization Act’s Section 235 makes clear that the President has the authority to do this; it’s under existing law. And we remain convinced that this is a power that the President was granted by Congress to execute exactly the way we have. We’ve had lots of thought and legal review of this. We are confident that we are on firm ground. And we know that the fact that these folks will be taken care of – they’ll get more help in Mexico – will solve the problem we’ve had of folks coming into the United States, claiming asylum, and then disappearing into our country during the pendency of their claim.

QUESTION: Okay. So when someone comes here – let’s say they walk across the border; they claim asylum and cite – they make the credible fear threshold, persecution in homeland, which is – again, we got a judge yesterday, Emmet Sullivan, who has basically said you – gang violence and domestic abuse both count now as asylum categories. So at that point, when they claim asylum, their case would be pending. Would they have to then go back home, if they claim – make that threshold claim of credible fear?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So there will obviously be a detailed process for the claims that these folks will be making. I’ll leave to DHS to talk about the details of how that will be processed. But this is a fundamental shift in how the United States is going to handle the disposition of these illegal aliens during the time that their claim is being processed. We’re confident we’re on firm legal ground and we think this is, frankly, in the best interest of these migrants as well. We think that they will now see that they can’t disappear inside the United States, and so they will remain in their home countries, a place that doesn’t present all the risks that we have seen to these migrants, these illegal aliens entering the United States, that comes from making the transit through Mexico into our country.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I know you have to hop in a second. But this survey that came out a few days ago that was parroted and trumpeted all over certain cable stations, cable outlets – CEOs say that they often have to apologize to their business partners abroad for Trump’s diplomacy. Three quarters of CEOs say they’ve apologized for the President. Your reaction to those CEOs?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I didn’t see that survey. That’s ridiculous. America remains a global leader on every front. President Trump has exerted American influence in a way that protects America, that understands that American sovereignty matters and that other nations’ sovereignty matters too. We and every American citizen should be rightfully proud of American diplomacy in the Trump administration.

QUESTION: All right. And will there be any news or announcements on China before the end of the year?

SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.) Stand by.

QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Secretary --

SECRETARY POMPEO: I know it’s your last show, but nothing to add on that.

QUESTION: Oh, darn. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. Have a merry Christmas, to you and your family.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Merry Christmas.

QUESTION: And we just appreciate you so much. And you’ve done such a great job, both at the CIA and at State and a great team there as well. So thank you so much for joining us.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Laura. Merry Christmas to you. So long.   back...
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