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THE SITUATION ROOM
Senators Press Pompeo on Russia, North Korea Summits, Other World Issues; Senators Press Pompeo on Trump's Russia, North Korea Summits; White House Bans Correspondent from President's Event. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 25, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIR, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: -- as it relates to comments. I notice that you are not responding to what I'm saying.
[17:00:06] MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think -- I think I responded to everything that you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go over what you did.
CORKER: No, you didn't. And the fact is that --
POMPEO: Well --
CORKER: -- you just didn't. OK?
POMPEO: We disagree.
CORKER: We don't disagree. Let's run the transcript again if you want to talk about it. But the fact is that --
POMPEO: We'll let the world decide.
CORKER: -- it's the -- it's the president's public statements that create concern amongst senators on both sides of the aisle. And I was asking you if, in fact, there was some, you know, some rhyme or reason that this type of distrust or discord would be created, and -- and I know you're not going to answer the question. But I'm trying to make a point as to why --
POMPEO: I know you are.
CORKER: Why the open comments and the question, and just the energy behind this hearing are what they are. It's not about you, and it's not about Mattis, and it's not what we're doing on the ground.
POMPEO: Senator, you know, you went through a long litany of statements, but let me give you -- first of all, I will tell you, I talk to the same allies you do. I speak to their foreign ministers directly. It is the case that they are behaving differently today. There's no doubt about that. They are now scrambling to figure out how to make sure that they are fully part of NATO. Some of that is a result of the statements that you referred to, Senator. Some of that is identifying -- CORKER: I actually agree with that. Yes. I agree with that.
POMPEO: So these are the -- well, there you go! I'll let the record reflect --
CORKER: I'll say some of the -- some of the actions.
POMPEO: Some of the statements actually achieve important policy outcomes for the United States of America.
CORKER: Some of them do.
CORKER: And some of them are very damaging.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Secretary.
So in response to Senator Barrasso's question on new START, I wanted to follow up a little bit. Both the United States and Russia came into compliance in February 2018, met the deadline on deployed nuclear warheads, and -- but my impression from your dialogue was the U.S. does not yet have a position on whether to work to extend the new START agreement past 2021.
POMPEO: That's correct.
MERKLEY: But it --
POMPEO: We're very hopeful that we can achieve -- we view them -- these are individual agreements as a legal matter, and they can be worked on independently. But the deterrence model, the underpinnings, the framework of these nuclear agreements, they are connected, whether they be things covered by new START, things covered by the INF treaty, other -- other provisions. They are of a part, and is the case that we are, as we begin to evaluate how to approach that, we're trying to do in it a holistic way.
MERKLEY: Thank you.
I -- I think I can anticipate that this will be something that you and your team working on in the year ahead, setting the groundwork for understanding the options there. Thank you.
So Russia oil tankers reportedly supplied fuel to North Korea via sea transfer for several times in 2017. President Trump made a reference in which he talked about saying that "what China's helping us with, Russia is denting." And then he said specifically also "Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea."
Did this issue of Russia bypassing the U.N. sanctions come up in the conversation between President Putin and President Trump? POMPEO: I think I can answer that question, because I believe
President Trump has talked about this. In fact, Russia's commitment to help us achieve denuclearization of North Korea did come up. The two of them did discuss it. And the centrality of continuing to enforce the U.N. Security Council resolutions, resolutions that the Russians voted for, were raised between the two of them. I heard in a subsequent meeting at which I was present, I heard Vladimir Putin reiterate his commitment to doing each of those two things.
MERKLEY: And to follow up on your conversation with Tim Kaine about the communique from the Singapore summit and the details that need to be worked out in regard to having a survey to just the starting point, if you will, of a detailed nuclear agreement, when you have an agreement regarding the details of how such a survey of North Korean missiles, nuclear materials and so forth, when you have that agreement, will you brief this committee on that?
POMPEO: Senator, I'm sure we'll be able to share some elements of that with you.
I'm harkening back to the Iran agreement, the JCPOA, in which they provided a declaration which was knowingly false. That is, the administration knew did not reflect accurately the history of the Iranian weapons program.
[17:05:12] I promise you I won't do that. I promise you I won't lie about the contents of their declaration. If we disagree, if we think they're wrong, we will acknowledge that.
MERKLEY: But --
POMPEO: But I'll have to think through precisely how and the appropriate way we would share that information with you. But you have my commitment not to allow a false declaration to form a fundamental pillar of a nuclear agreement.
MERKLEY: Well, certainly --
POMPEO: The way that it did.
MERKLEY: I'll tell you, we all had privy not just to a briefing on it but to the actual documents and details. And so, we had that standard. In fact, those were made public, as well. Would you expect to meet those two standards, essentially, of --
POMPEO: When the agreement is complete, yes. I was thinking you were talking about sort of during the process. I think those documents were made public at the time that the legislation was being considered and when the agreement was final.
We hope to bring this agreement to Congress, and it is, of course, the case that you would need to see the underpinnings of that agreement. And part of that would be the -- there would probably be a series of declarations associated with that.
MERKLEY: I'll tell you, it did -- it did bother me some that, because those details hadn't been worked out yet, that the president already conceded to setting aside the joint exercises with South Korea. Were the South Korea leaders briefed in advance of that announcement?
POMPEO: Senator, I'm going to leave that to the Department of Defense to answer. That would have been conducted between -- in military channels.
MERKLEY: President Trump blamed poor relations with Russia on U.S. foolishness. And I'm surprised he blamed U.S. foolishness rather than Russian annexation of Crimea; of their occupation of eastern Ukraine; of their attacks on individuals in Britain; of their support of the Syrian government. The Syrian government is using barrel bombs and gas on its own people. And given that Russia's significant cyberattack on our elections.
Do you believe that the poor relations with Russia is a result of U.S. foolishness?
POMPEO: Senator, I think there are countless reasons you identified -- you identified several. I could go on about the reason that we find ourselves in this place with Vladimir Putin and his regime today. Not a good place, to be sure. A place that the president is working to develop a relationship to try and -- to try and reconfigure, at least at the level of making sure these two leaders understand each other and know how each other are thinking about the problem set. I think that's important and appropriate. And --
POMPEO: Hopeful he can be successful in this.
MERKLEY: It's a nice essay. It didn't answer my question, but I'll go on.
The president has also said there's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea and that we could all sleep well. Given that we don't yet have an agreement on even surveying the stockpile of what North Korea has, or an agreement on eliminating their weapons or their missiles, or an agreement on verification strategies, shouldn't we more accurately approach this from the viewpoint that there is still a nuclear threat from North Korea? The president's team is working to eliminate it, but it is still a nuclear threat as of today.
POMPEO: Yes. I think the president would agree that the primary systems that are threatening America continue to exist. I think what his comment was, was that the tension has been greatly reduced. We're at a point where --
MERKLEY: I'll take that description.
POMPEO: -- it's possible there could be a miscalculation.
MERKLEY: I've got 20 seconds, so I wanted to ask you one last question on a completely different topic. Fortify Rights, a human rights group that traveled to Burma to document what happened through Rohingya, came out with a report detailing devastating atrocities, which we've also seen from elsewhere. And we also have the report that Senator Brownback, our ambassador on religious freedom, is making.
Is it time for the Senate to -- to act on the sanctions against the Burmese military that we passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
POMPEO: I'll leave it to senators to decide if it's time for the Senate to act. I can only say that the underpinnings that you describe, the atrocities you describe are very real.
MERKLEY: Well, I would say this is the type of thing where executive leadership makes a difference in giving direction to this body. And so that's why I was seeking your and the president's opinion on whether it's time to really send a strong message against such ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Can we expect such a leadership from the president or yourself?
POMPEO: I remember what Secretary Tillerson did before me on this issue. You can -- you can be sure that we will be serious and lead on this important issue.
MERKLEY: Thank you.
CORKER: Thank you. Senator Young.
SEN. TODD YOUNG (R), INDIANA: Mr. Secretary, thank you. I appreciate your stamina. You have been here for quite a while.
I want to let you know how much I appreciate your leadership as you've fit in -- filled this role during this tumultuous period in international relations.
[17:10:00] I have to say, since you've taken this position, the interaction our office has had with members of the Department of State and with you individually has really markedly improved, and so I'm appreciative of that.
One of the axioms of diplomatic or military strategy is it -- you want to unite your allies and divide your enemies. And as I see it, this is one of the things that Vladimir Putin has been succeeding in doing. He seeks to divide and weaken NATO, for example. He wants to divide the American people.
And the more we make Russia's meddling in our own elections a partisan issue, I think the more we play into Putin's hands. The intelligence community has been clear and consistent. Russia did, indeed, meddle in our elections. So I think we need to stand together as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats, with respect to this issue.
What are your thoughts on this matter, Mr. Secretary?
POMPEO: Senator, I think -- I think it is the case that the Soviet Union and now Russia's efforts to undermine western democracy are long and continuous. I think they occurred in 2016. I am confident that the Russians are endeavoring to divide, to
separate us from our allies, to create space to find partners for themselves around the world, in the same way will go out and work diligently with our allies. I always think that having a united United States, folks who come at these problems with seriousness and thoughtfulness towards a shared goal, increases the likelihood of America prevailing in these challenges -- against these challenges.
YOUNG: Well, I happen to agree with you, and I just -- I hope that my colleagues and I will adopt a tone and approach to this very serious issue which impacts all Americans in recognition of everything you just said.
So -- Mr. Secretary, just about an hour ago, President Trump convened a joint press conference with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and in the press conference, the president and -- both the presidents announced they were going to launch a bilateral U.S./E.U. set of negotiations with the goal of reducing tariffs, increasing economic cooperation between the E.U. and the United States, and working together to counter the predatory economic practices that we've seen from countries like China.
I can't tell you how encouraged I am by this. I think, with our collective leverage brought to bear, perhaps even ultimately pulling in other G-7 countries like the Japanese, we have a real possibility of reducing the intellectual property theft, reducing the incidents of joint technology, force technology transfer of state-owned enterprises, dumping things into our own economy, precisely the sorts of objectives I know the administration has.
So do you agree that the United States moving forward has to prioritize a trade dialogue with the E.U. in order to eliminate current retaliatory tariffs on farmers and manufacturers in places like Indiana, as well as to effectively combat China's nefarious activities?
POMPEO: Yes, don't forget Kansas farmers, too. So I didn't -- I don't have the benefit of seeing the press conference. I was sitting here. I didn't see the announcement or what they said. I know this was one of the things that President Trump was trying to accomplish in his conversations with Mr. Juncker. It sounds like they made, at least, some progress in that regard.
Look, the president has been clear with respect to trade policy, Europeans won't accept our agriculture products. There are other products that are closed to us. He is endeavoring to get them opened. He is trying to drive towards zero, zero, zero. Zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, zero subsidies. That's the place he's trying to get the whole world.
And he is confident that when we get there, Americans will out-compete the rest of the world, and whether it's manufacturers or innovators or farmers or all of the above, they'll ultimately be very successful and wealth creation not only in the states but elsewhere, as well.
YOUNG: Well, I'll just add that I find this effort of working cooperatively with the E.U. and other major economies as coherent and workable if we're trying to really address the greatest challenges, which is those seen by the state capitalist countries, China being the worst offender.
[17:15:00] I don't have as much clarity with respect to our trade strategy as I'd like to. That's one of the reasons that I keep emphasizing I think we need to actually have a written one, just as we do a national security strategy. But very appreciative of President Trump's announcement today.
Lastly, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to call to your attention that my home state of Indiana is home to 23,000 Burmese Americans, and as I travel the state and listen to so many of my constituents that are Burmese Americans, they reiterate to me three things.
No. 1, they express grave concern regarding the Burmese military's atrocities against the Rohingya, and they want to see those perpetrators brought to justice.
No. 2, they reiterate a desire to expand people-to-people ties between Burma and the United States.
And thirdly, they express concern regarding the treatment of Chin Christians in Burma.
Now, I note that you're hosting this week the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, focused on combatting religious persecution and discrimination. And as we appropriately address within that forum the Rohingya crisis, I'd just ask the department to continue to also make clear to the Burmese government that all religious minorities, including Christians, should be respected.
So, Mr. Secretary, will the Department of State work with my office to not only continue our joint efforts related to the Rohingya, which I support, but also to encourage the Burmese government to end any policies whatsoever that treat Christians as second-class citizens?
POMPEO: Yes, senator, we will.
YOUNG: Thank you.
CORKER: Senator Murphy.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here.
I certainly associate myself with many of the comments by the chairman. I think that the administration, the president is making up foreign policy on a day-to-day basis. I think if you've got a tiger by the tail, you have a difficult and enviable [SIC] job, and I appreciate you spending so much time with us here this morning.
We focus on words from the president, because our allies and our adversaries listen to those words, and they calibrate their actions based upon those words. And while you're right that the president, about 20 to 30 hours later, did correct himself after the Helsinki summit to say that he did, indeed, agree with U.S. intelligence services and not with Putin, five days later he went back on Twitter and said this: "So President Obama knew about Russia before the election. Why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax. That's why."
That's the most recent statement from the president, saying that Russia's interference in the election is all a big hoax. So I guess my question is, why shouldn't we accept this most recent statement from the president as U.S. policy rather than the statement that you referenced on July 17?
POMPEO: Well, Senator, I -- I can't go through the litany of all the statements you just gave. I have a list from January '17, June '17, July '17, July -- again, July, November '17, March of '17. I'm happy to go through them, each of which the president confirmed that he understood that Russia had meddled in the election and that I could give you all the -- although I couldn't recount you, I could tell you numbers of times when I was personally with him, where he told me directly he understood that. And indeed, provided guidance to, at this time it was the intelligence community, but I think he gave similar guidance throughout the government that we needed to do all we could to push back on election interference. And I have a catalog of activities that this administration's undertaken to do just that.
MURPHY: What do you make of his most recent statement --
POMPEO: Senator, I'll leave you. You can -- you can speculate. You can draw whatever inferences you want for whatever purposes you so choose. Here's what I can tell you, I can tell our allies --
MURPHY: There's no inference. I mean, it's a statement from the president in which he says that the Russian interference in the U.S. election is a hoax, from July 22. There's no inference that I need to draw from that. That's the president's statement.
POMPEO: Senator, you are -- you are certainly trying to draw inferences about the American policy, and I'm laying out for you American policy. And I'm happy -- let me talk to you about what we've done on election interference if I might.
MURPHY: I -- I understand --
POMPEO: Let me just --
MURPHY: I understand you draw a distinction between the president's comments and U.S. policy. When I'm trying to suggest to you is that what the president says is U.S. policy, because our allies and our adversaries make decisions based upon those comments.
And so let me try to drill down on a specific issue that Senator Corker raised, and that's the comments the president made regarding our potential defense or nondefense of Montenegro.
[17:20:07] Tucker Carlson asked him a question suggesting that Montenegro is too small to be defended, and the president responded by saying, "I understand what you're saying. I have asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people."
Now, I know you are going to tell me today that the official policy of the United States is to defend Montenegro and to defend our NATO allies, but can you understand why we would be concerned that the president would draw a question as to whether we would defend Montenegro? Because, in the end, that is a communication to Vladimir Putin about whether the president is going to come to NATO's defense.
As you know, an attack on NATO won't be a Russian army moving across the border. It will be a hybrid attack, a disguised attack. There will be some question as to whether the United States should respond or not. So can you at least understand why we are concerned about the president raising questions about the utility of the United States defending Montenegro?
POMPEO: I think the president's been unambiguously clear, and I can go read you his policies and if --
MURPHY: Are you going to refer to his policies or the separate statements? I'm asking you about this statement.
POMPEO: Senator, because you --
MURPHY: Explain it to us.
POMPEO: Senator --
MURPHY: What did he mean?
POMPEO: Senator, the policies are themselves statements, as well. Indeed, they're the most important statements that the administration makes.
MURPHY: Well, policies are statements, and statements are policies. It goes both way.
POMPEO: No, that's not true. That's absolutely not true. People make -- I make lots of statements. They're not -- they're not U.S. policy. The president says things, the president makes comments in certain places. We have a National Security Council. We meet, we lay out strategies, we develop policies. Right?
MURPHY: How do I know the difference?
POMPEO: The president -- it's the president that sets the course.
MURPHY: How do I know the difference between a presidential statement that is not a policy and a statement that is?
POMPEO: Senator -- Senator, here's what you should look at. Compare -- compare the following. Barack Obama speaking tough on Russia and doing nothing.
MURPHY: That's not true.
POMPEO: It is true. MURPHY: I understand you want to rewrite the Obama policy on Russia, but that's simply not true.
MURPHY: You organized all of your -- all of your world --
POMPEO: Let's go task for task.
MURPHY: -- to put a comprehensive, unprecedented set of sanctions on Russia. So --
POMPEO: The man said he would have more flexibility after the election
MURPHY: My question isn't about -- isn't about -- I know you want to turn constantly back to --
POMPEO: No. I just want to look of facts of policy, Senator. I'm trying to get to U.S. policy. It's what I do. I'm America's chief diplomat, implementing U.S. policy.
MURPHY: I think -- I think you have been dealt a tough hand, and you do a credible job with it.
Let me turn -- I just -- let me ask a less adversarial question to end with. I think one of the -- you said two very important things on North Korea. You said that they have agreed to denuclearize and that they understand our definition of denuclearization.
POMPEO: That's correct.
MURPHY: What is most important is that those two statements link, is that they have agreed to denuclearize according to our definition of denuclearization. Is that your testimony today?
POMPEO: The definition was set forward, and denuclearization was agreed to. I don't know what else to -- I don't know how else to --
MURPHY: I'm not trying to give you a hard time. I'm trying to understand.
POMPEO: And I'm trying to -- I'm trying to articulate what's been agreed to. We made clear what we viewed as the scope of denuclearization. It's not dissimilar to what the U.N., how the U.N. has characterized, now the South Koreans have characterized it. And when we did that, the South -- or excuse me, the North Koreans said, "Yes, we agreed to denuclearize."
MURPHY: So your understanding is their commitment is upon our definition?
POMPEO: It is, Senator, yes.
MURPHY: OK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. CORKER: Before turning to Senator Isakson, the -- so in essence, the
communique that we saw coming out of the Singapore meeting, that is the sum total of the agreement we have with them?
POMPEO: Yes. We've also had conversations after that. It is also the case that that agreement incorporated the Panmunjom Declaration, which in turn incorporated previous inter-Korean agreements, as well. So the Singapore summit is stacked on a series of agreements, each of which is encompassed within the agreement between President Trump and Chairman Kim. So you can look to the full breadth and scope of those agreements about things the North Koreans have committed to.
CORKER: Yes. And look, I don't think any of us would expect that there would be a meeting in Singapore, and all the issues would be worked out. I think we all understand it's going to take a long -- a long time to get this all worked out.
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: I spent all week trying to come up with intuitive, brilliant, incisive questions to ask you, recognizing how intelligent and articulate you are, and I ran out of everything, except one thing. I had it written down here to be the first question I'd ask you, and then by golly the president of the E.U. had an agreement while we're sitting here listening to this that answered my question. But I want to repeat it anyway.
[17:25:05] Are you seeing consequences of the trade proposals of the president's, particularly the 232 and tariffs being applied, to having any impact diplomatically on the United States of America?
ISAKSON: I do, too. And the reason I brought it up is this. Actions have consequences. And I hope the administration will look to the State Department for insight and advice on the effects of the tariffs on the diplomacy of the United States of America, vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Because it has a significant impact, because Ag is the No. 1 thing upon which we're going to get levied the punitive tariffs by the people we're trying to raise tariffs on now.
We feed the world. We -- we're the world's bread basket. This committee has passed the Feed the Future legislation for years, some time ago. But we're going to be in deep trouble if we don't have a policy that recognizes both our responsibility and the world's need and food's importance in peace and security.
So not to lecture you, because I wouldn't do that in a million -- you know more -- you've forgotten more than I know. But I do know that the president's proposals and the tariffs are serious business. And he needs to consider the consequences on the diplomacy of the United States and hunger in the world. So I'll let you respond to that.
POMPEO: Senator, I think -- I think the president appreciates that. I think he understands that the tariffs that have been imposed create -- have a diplomatic impact. They're part of my broader effort, to be sure.
Some of those things create difficulties. Some of those things create real opportunities. We've seen each from the sanctions that have been levied to date. And I know President Trump -- it sounds like he made some progress today with the E.U.
I've watched Secretary Mnuchin, Bob Leitheiser (ph) and the team try to use the effect of those tariffs to achieve good outcomes so that farmers can have access to markets, so that we get energy sold to countries that refuse to take our energy. Each of those things are important parts of the president's agenda to try and create wealth for ordinary Americans.
ISAKSON: And I commend the administration's commitment to zero, zero, zero being the goal as far as the trade policy is concerned. But getting to that goal is going to require a good communication between all facets of our government, including yourself and the State Department.
POMPEO: Yes, sir.
ISAKSON: On the impacts. And that was the point I was trying to make.
POMPEO: Yes, sir.
ISAKSON: I also am sorry Senator Paul left, because I was going to begin my remarks by saying I agreed with him on something, and I don't always do that. So you all need to tell him that I prefaced my remark. But he is right about not being afraid of meeting with Vladimir Putin and the Russians and the North.
Meetings with these people, in my judgment, are not as a lot of people have professed them to be. I've seen people have said we ought to back up from meeting with them. But I think the more open we can be in meeting with the leadership of countries we're having to deal with one way or another, the more it forces them to be open.
So it's really -- what the president has done when he went to North Korea is, all of a sudden, Kim Jong-un is sitting on the side of the table, said, "I'm sitting across the table from the president of the United States. The world media is here, and they're looking to me for answers."
And all of a sudden, after it's all over and the pomp and circumstance is all over, North Korea's got to be accountable or it's going to have pressure to be accountable.
So I think the president's engaging these leaders makes an awful lot of sense in terms of bringing them out to surface in the dealings that we have with them. And I just wanted to throw that in there, because I think it's an important thing.
Lastly, on bipartisanship, Senator Coons is here, who, by the way, had a significant role in your getting confirmed, as you know. And you and I have talked about that. So I'm proud of my find Chris Coons, and I'm proud of you. And you're a great choice for secretary of state.
But he and I have worked together on State Department issues and trade issues and tariff issues on behalf of poultry in the United States of America and particularly with the South Africans, who we cracked down the door here two years ago; and now we're getting 19 million metric tons of chickens from Delaware and Georgia sold to the South Americans [SIC], who love them and are eating them. And it pointed out to me, once again, to reinforce what I did in my first statement about Ag.
We have such a powerful force with our agriculture productivity and the level to which we've taken our technology in agriculture. We need to use that as a tool for our relationships around the world. And I know you want to do that and want to be a part of that. And you can help us in doing that, because every time we make a trade deal that sells Georgia chickens or Delaware chickens to the South Africans is good for Georgia and Delaware, but it's good for America, too.
POMPEO: Amen. I agree, Senator.
ISAKSON: Thank you for your service to the country.
POMPEO: Thank you.
CORKER: Thank you. I'm not sure if Senator Coons wanted you to advertise that again. I'm sure his social media account will be -- have a lot of incoming and explaining. But with that, Senator Coons. I'm thankful for the role you played.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I was grateful for an opportunity to just show a little courtesy to a dear friend, Senator Isakson, in that previous incident you're referring.
And I will, at the risk of not being as gracious as I should be, just share that when Senator Isakson and I met with the South African minister, that meeting was to hear their concerns about the impact of the steel tariffs on a very important alliance. That Chairman Corker and I recently were in Sweden and had a chance to hear from them about their concerns about the steel tariffs.
I am encouraged by the announcement that's just come out an hour ago about the meeting with the E.U. leadership but remain very concerned that some of our closest allies around the world are getting the wrong message.
In a dinner last night with the Canadian ambassador, a large bipartisan group of us were there to try and reassure them.
I do think that we should be corralling our allies and partners in confronting China's aggressive, prolonged and inappropriate trade actions and avoiding some of the needless harm we've caused to close alliances. The point of the sub-African meeting was they are preparing countervailing tariffs that might well shut down our access to their market.
But I'm not really here to talk about chickens, as much as I do love talking about chickens with my friend, Senator Isakson. Mr. Secretary, I just want to say, first, thank you for this very long
hearing. I want to confirm: a number of senators have asked you pointed questions about progress with North Korea, with Russia, issues around Syria and Iran, and you've said not in this setting. Will you return soon to brief us in a classified setting? Because there's a number of important and pressing things we really haven't been able to address today. Will you come back and give us that classified briefing?
POMPEO: Of course. Of course.
COONS: Thank you. And a number of senators on both sides have recognized that you've got an important role in a very difficult time. I want to upfront just say I was pleased to hear about the Crimea declaration. I think it's important for the administration to be forceful and clear about our position with regards to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.
I remember my whole childhood, there was a little box in every American map that said, "We refuse to recognize the illegal annexation of the Balkan states by the Soviet Union in 1940." And for decades, folks just thought that was aspirational, would never happen.
Today, the Baltic states are free. They are NATO allies. And the chairman and I recently visited Latvia, as well, and heard from them about their determination to remain free and to take strong steps against Russia's interference.
Finland and Latvia, the Baltic states, other allies of ours in that region are prepared to invest more in their own defense and to strengthen their defenses against Russian interference in their upcoming elections.
There's elections in Latvia, Moldova and Sweden that are happening soon. What best practices are you seeing among our European allies? What tools do you think the State Department can and should be using? And how should we be doing, as you put it, everything we can to push back on likely election interference by Russia to our vital allies, as well as to our upcoming midterm elections?
POMPEO: Yes, it's a -- it's a good question. We, the United States government, I -- my previous organization, in the intelligence world, did a great deal of work with our European partners. We did it with the German election, the French election, trying to help identify threats and vectors. Good, solid intelligence sharing. I think that's an underpinning so that these governments can understand the threats. Sometimes America is better positioned to see them and observe them than some of these other countries would that are smaller with fewer resources.
And then I think it's also important -- and we've begun to do this -- that countries begin to share the actions that they observe. That is not only the precursors and indications but what actually took place, to download so that we can begin to understand how to push back.
I think it was Senator Paul who said earlier there's lots of variations on the theme. Right? There are overt efforts. There are -- call them --
COONS: Covert efforts.
POMPEO: Covert efforts. There's influence operations. There are lots of methods by which adversaries, not just Russia, can attempt to undermine elections and democracies. We have an obligation to the Europeans, and it benefits America, as well, if we try and help them ensure that their democracies are protected, as well.
COONS: And I do think we would benefit from hearing more and more regularly, more clearly, what we are doing with our close allies to convey that we get what is happening to them and that we are concerned about what's happening to us.
Frankly, I want diplomacy to succeed. I prefer an environment of diplomacy to one of a perception of imminent conflict with either North Korea or Russia. And you've been very forceful, even aggressive today in advancing the administration's position.
As the chairman said earlier, a lot of the tension here, I think, comes from the gaps between your forcefulness and clarity and what I perceive and many perceive to be the president's lack of forcefulness and clarity.
[17:35:0] In your written statement you say that President Trump has stated, quote, "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place." And then you go on to say, "He has a complete and proper understanding of what happened."
My concern, if I could just directly, is that our president has never made a clear and comprehensive speech outlining the threat posed by Russia, our strategy to respond to it and criticizing directly President Putin for directing the attack on our election in 2016.
Just a few days ago -- now, I guess, more than a week ago, Robert Mueller delivered indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers, GRU officers. It calls them out by name, gives enormous detail of how Russia attacked our 2016 election. And one of the ways in which our president then undermines the clarity and credibility of that action by our Department of Justice is by calling the Mueller investigation a "rigged witch hunt," or by standing next to President Putin in Helsinki and suggesting he's uncertain whether our intelligence account of what happened in 2016 is the more credible or the Russian one.
Could you please clarify for me if there are clear indicators that Russia continues to interfere in our election planning up to this November, would you advise the president to rescind an invitation to Vladimir Putin to come and meet in the White House? Do you think it is unwise to extend the credibility and the prestige of a White House meeting without being clear about Putin's threat to our upcoming elections?
Senator Paul said -- and I agree with him -- we should meet with adversaries but as President Reagan did, we need to be clear-eyed about who they are and call them out for being adversaries before sitting down with them.
Can you commit to being clear with the president in helping us understand whether or not the president clearly understands the attack on our election?
POMPEO: So I've tried to do that earlier today, Senator Coons. I think the president is very clear about that. It is -- I find it surprising that statements that are made, especially a statement like a statement for the record, I mean, you should all know the White House cleared that. Secret. All right? These are White House -- I uttered the words. These are President Trump's statements in that sense, as well, right? These are statements from the United States government, of which President Trump is very clearly in charge.
And somehow there's this effort to suggest that -- that they're not that. The statements that I've made today are fully consistent with -- unless I misspoke somewhere along the way, which is possible after a couple hours. These are -- these are, indeed, the administration, President Trump's policies that we're implementing.
COONS: My core point, Mr. Secretary, was that, while your statements have been clear, our president's statements have confused our allies, encouraged our adversaries and have failed to be comparably clear. And I'm concerned that an invitation to President Putin to the White House, without clarity about his threats to our election, his threats to our allies, puts at risk clarity.
I welcome the Crimea declaration today. I think that is an important step forward but I urge you, if President Putin attacks our next election, advise President Trump to withdraw any invitation to president Putin.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CORKER: Senator Portman.
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming back to testify again. You've had a long afternoon. I think you ought to do it more often. I mean, while you have been here, we managed to negotiate a successful preliminary agreement with the European Union. You managed to issue a declaration supporting -- with regard to Crimea. And there was a third thing that happened. And I don't know if it's good or bad. But my understanding is the White House has decided to postpone the visit of President Putin until after the first of the year.
POMPEO: When I left my business it began to succeed, as well. So I'll -- I'll come down here.
PORTMAN: I think they wait until you're gone before they make all these decisions. No.
I want to comment briefly on what you responded to with Senator Coons on what tools do we use with regard to pushing back on some of the interference in other countries' elections. I'd hoped that you would say the Global Engagement Center. Because
it's a tool you have. And frankly, although Senator Murphy and I wrote legislation to give you authority to do it, you have more aggressively used that tool, both by providing funding for it and now hiring the right people than your predecessors; and it's precisely this sort of situation.
I would give you the recent example. I think it's very important. Which is what's going on with Macedonia. You know, as they go for the referendum to be part of Europe, these European integration efforts tend to be a place where the Russians see an opportunity and engage in significant disinformation. Great opportunity for us to push back in the appropriate way through the Global Engagement Center.
[17:40:09] And would you confirm to me that you thought about that? Or you will think about that in the future?
POMPEO: Yes, of course. May I add one thing that you'll -- I think you'll find interesting? When I was with my Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, he is very aware of the Global Engagement Center.
PORTMAN: Should be.
POMPEO: He raised the issue with me.
POMPEO: When I met with him. I think it was when I met with him in person. It may have been in a conversation by phone, but my last interaction with him, he raised the issue.
PORTMAN: As compared to the resources that the Russians put into their effort, it is minuscule, as you know, but it is significant. And I think it will be done professionally, thanks to some of the work you've done; and I applaud you for that.
We discussed at your confirmation hearing in April a need for us to focus more on Central Eastern Europe specifically Ukraine. I've just come back with a trip to Ukraine. I'd been out on the contact line in April where there's a hot conflict going on. I mean, where there are people dying.
And it is, when you go there, pretty moving, because you see how the Ukrainians have had to defend themselves and their territory integrity, really, for the last four years against Russian aggression. And I believe, as I think you do, that a successful pro-Western Ukraine is not only critical to the region, but I think it's the best anecdote to Russian expansion in the region.
Along those lines, I want to commend you for last week releasing the $200 million in military assistance. This goes for equipment, training, other assistance. And I think we have not taken enough credit for what happened, which is we told the Ukrainians, "You need to make reforms." And when I was from there in April, I talked to President Poroshenko. I also talked to the Speaker Pirro (ph) then and again last month about this. In fact, I talked to him the day after they passed these reforms, saying we need to see these reforms to your defense system and, frankly, getting away from the Russian- influenced system they had into one that's more consistent with European democracies, having a civilian control their military among other things. They did that.
You then were able to release the $200 million. That's exactly how it should work, right? So I commend you for that. And I think it's going to make a huge difference. The lethal weapons they now have to defend themselves makes a huge difference. And so the actions sometimes do speak louder than the words, and in those cases I think it's very important.
On the resolution which you issued today with regard to Crimea, I was really happy to read it. I know that many in our community in Ohio who follow this closely are pleased with it. They believe this puts the United States clearly in the position where we will not relieve sanctions until this issue is resolved. And I would ask you today, can you confirm that the Russians have a clear understanding that sanctions related to Crimea will not be able to be reduced or certainly eliminated so long as Crimea remains an issue?
POMPEO: I think they did before this statement, and I'm confident after the statement that the president released they'll -- that will reaffirm their understanding.
PORTMAN: Do you believe the Russians have an understanding that sanctions related to their actions in eastern Ukraine along the border cannot be altered without real implementation of the Minsk Agreement and the end to that aggression?
POMPEO: I do.
PORTMAN: There's a lot of talk about new sanctions, as you know, with regard to Russia. And I do support us having a better bilateral relationship with Russia. I think it's important. We're two major nuclear powers. We've got a lot of weapons pointed at us. I also support discussions that are prepared. I think it's very important that our statements, both in private and in public, are clear and consistent. And I think that needs to happen from the president all the way down to our diplomats such as yourself, and again I think you have done that. I think that was the issue with Helsinki.
In addition to what's going on in the eastern border of Ukraine and Crimea, I think there's a clear consensus in the national security community, not just the I.C., but the national security community more broadly, about the severity of the short and midterm threat that Russia poses. Its espionage, its cyber, its information capabilities. Meddling in the 2016 elections and now in the 2018 elections, our intelligence communities seem to have a consensus around that, including you in your previous role. And we have sanctions in place, but they don't seem to be working.
PORTMAN: I mean, that long list that I just gave, they don't seem to be working. So let me ask you a question, and this is not a easy one to answer but, one, why aren't they working?
Second, do you support new sanctions specifically related to the new information we have about 2016 and about 2018? Interference in our Democratic process. And if so, what kind of sanctions would be more effective?
POMPEO: So, your point is well taken. There continues -- in spite of the work that's been done by this administration, there continues to be Russian malign activity. We have to use sanctions as a tool.
You talked about the Global Engagement Center. I think there are many tools that we can use. In my role as a diplomat, we have a handful, and we are working to do what I think it was Senator Rubio at the beginning of this hearing described as raise the cost sufficiently and convince Vladimir Putin that it's not in his best interest to continue this behavior. That's going to be difficult.
I know -- I know precisely who Vladimir Putin is. I know his history. But that's the task. The rest of the task is for us, the U.S. government -- that includes you and the executive branch -- to raise the costs on Russia sufficiently that they cease this malign activity that adversely affects the United States.
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: And do you believe new sanctions are appropriate to raise the cost in --
POMPEO: I do. I think --
PORTMAN: -- light of the new information we have received?
POMPEO: I do, Senator. If we find the right places and the right leverage points, the things that will actually make a difference to Russia, I think it would be constructive to head down that path.
PORTMAN: And can you tell us what you think might be more effective than the previous sanctions that have not been effective in accomplishing those means?
POMPEO: I don't know that I have a great answer. I really think --
PORTMAN: Do you think it's focusing more on individuals, on oligarchs? Do you think it's focusing more on some of the economic choke points? What's the --
POMPEO: It is -- it would be my judgment that each of those is necessary. That the things that impact the Russian economy are the things that I hear the Russians most concerned about.
PORTMAN: Secretary, thank you. I'm glad you're there, and we appreciate your testimony today.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you. Senator Booker.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you very much. I guess I'm batting cleanup, and I appreciate the endurance of our Secretary. I know he has hard days, long days, and I'm grateful for this opportunity to question him.
I really want to pick up on some of the line of questioning that Senator Portman asked. It is important what presidents say. And you and I come from that school, I imagine, where you have Ronald Reagan's clear, unwavering commitment to standing strong against then the Soviet Union. You saw it in the next George Bush. You've seen it in presidents.
And so here's a clear statement of fact that the President tweeted out -- I'm concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election -- which is squint with intelligence communities, that they are continuing to attack.
Of course, he said, based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump. They don't want Trump.
Now, that obviously was surprising to see, given that we just heard from Vladimir Putin he prefers Trump. But I'm concerned that the President doesn't understand that this ongoing threat is happening.
When he came out of his secret -- meeting with Putin that was shrouded in secrecy, he said, our relationship has never been worse until it is now because that's changed as of about four hours ago.
Has anything changed in the Russians' attacks or ongoing threats to our 2018 elections?
POMPEO: Senator, what I believe the President was referring to there -- and obviously he speaks for himself in that sense, but what I understood him to say was that he'd had -- for the first time in his administration, he'd had a chance to have an extensive, candid conversation with the leader of Russia, layout and articulate America's interests to him so that he understood unambiguously what those interests were, and to, in turn, hear from Vladimir Putin about the things that he thought mattered most to Russia.
So when I heard him say "things have changed," I think that's what he was referring to. That it was the first time --
BOOKER: Well, if you could give me --
POMPEO: They had met before but it's the first time --
BOOKER: Sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Secretary, I've got limited time. So I agree with Senator Rubio, there's got to be a cost to people when they attack the United States.
Not just attacking the United States. They have assassinated people on British soil. They're threatening our allies. They're intervening in western democracies, annexing Crimea, ongoing hostilities in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
And we passed legislation here, the council legislation which you had an exchange with my colleague, Senator Cardin, about. And I think you said -- this is the transcript of what you said. You said -- thank you for presenting the law. We really appreciate
it. We think it makes it good sense. The President signed it, as well. We have passed sanctions under the law. And we have passed -- but we haven't used all of the sanctions.
Now, I was excited to see Nikki Haley come out and say that we were about to put on new sanctions. In fact, the RNC got talking points from the White House telling their pundits to say exactly what Nikki Haley said before the United Nations, that we were going to put on additional sanctions.
But we haven't used those tools in our toolbox. They said that Nikki Haley was confused. She said, I'm sorry, I wasn't confused. This was the step that the White House was going to take.
And so I hope you understand that there's many of us in a bipartisan manner that feels like we put tools in the toolbox, but the President has shrunk from taking them and using those tools to stand strong against people that are ongoing attacks on the United States of America.
[17:49:59] Nikki Haley said, absolutely, you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those. It has already -- said that they're going to go directly to any sort of companies that are dealing with equipment related to, in this case, Assad and chemical weapons used.
So I'm having trouble -- and, again, I think I'm one of those people who agrees with some of my Republican colleagues that the President should be allowed with folks one-on-one, but this, as far as my staff can find, the only meeting with anybody in the G-20 that has been a one-on-one meeting without staff that hasn't been -- the details of which haven't been disclosed.
And it's particularly troubling given, as Senator Udall said, we have a long history of this administration having ties to the Russians. He read a list.
Whether it was the Russian oligarch close to Putin who bought property for Trump at a significant profit, whether it was Trump tweeting about his deals, whether it was Trump Junior talking about Russians make up a disproportionate cross-section of our assets. Whether it was -- whether Maria Butina who is stating -- asking a question with Trump responding, I don't think we need more sanctions. I don't think we need sanctions. But this goes on.
As Senator Coons just said, we have a president that, right now, sees that we have an ongoing investigation into the very attacks that the Russians did to us that have resulted in over 80 charges, over 30 people being charged, people of the administration, people of the campaign, and this is a president that is having private meetings with the Russians.
Now, this is actually not the first private meeting that he had. I'm sure you remember that this president pulled aside, at a G-20 meeting, and had a one-on-one discussion unbeknownst to staff and had a conversation that he then said, when asked what they discussed -- and I quote, he said we discussed adoptions.
Now, adoptions is a code word as we see for sanctions. It's the same code word that was used to describe pre-election meetings between Kushner, Manafort, Don Junior, these ideas of adoptions.
Now, you haven't asked -- I listened very closely on the last person to ask questions, but you refused to even say if relaxing sanctions, directly relaxing sanctions, was part of the meeting that the president had.
And so I find it hard to believe that we are a nation that is being under ongoing attack and you can't come forward and say, I -- that this president that you say represented we're standing strong against the person, but we're not.
The very president who actually invited some of this here when he said, and I quote, Russia, if you're listening, if you're able to find the 33,000 e-mails that are missing. He invited the very attacks that we're talking about.
And so what I want, and what I think my colleagues want on both sides of the aisle, is to understand and believe that we're not having private discussions about relaxing sanctions, that we're sowing the same kind of strength that past presidents have shown when enemies attacked the United States of America.
And you just committed to Senator Portman that you believe more sanctions are needed. And so are we to expect, in the coming days, that we will be applying the sanctions that the Senate has provided this president in a bipartisan way to hold Russia accountable and show them that there will be a cost for their attacks on this nation?
POMPEO: Senator, I think this administration's record over 200 sanctions. Two hundred sanctions that are -- is reflective of this administration steadfastness with respect to our willingness to push back against Russia. I think it's unquestioned.
You just spoke for coming on seven minutes about a whole litany of things political. Let me give you America's foreign policy --
BOOKER: Well, sir, clearly --
POMPEO: -- 200 plus sanctions.
BOOKER: Clearly, there has been divisions in the administration if Nikki Haley is talking about sanctions on one day, and then you're not putting them on the next day.
POMPEO: Senator, there is vigorous debate in this administration on lots of things, there's no doubt about that. The President didn't hire a single shrinking violet, not one of us, and we often disagree about things. There's no doubt about that.
And sometimes we prevail and sometimes we don't. The President calls the ball, and the President called the ball over 200 times to sanction Russian entities. That's pretty strong. BOOKER: The President is not using the tools. He has denied the
Senate's (ph) --
POMPEO: He has used --
BOOKER: -- sanctions.
POMPEO: He has used -- we have used CAATSA, we have complied with CAATSA, we will continue to ply with CAATSA.
BOOKER: Well --
POMPEO: I put this administration's work on sanctions against Russia. Let's just rack and stack.
BOOKER: Then I'll conclude --
POMPEO: For the last eight years, we got --
BOOKER: Mr. Chairman, I want to conclude --
BOOKER: -- with entering into the record the President of the United States' statements on CAATSA. And I will read them and put the whole statement in the record. This is what he said on the day CAATSA was introduced.
[17:55:03] Since the bill was first introduced, I have expressed concerns to Congress about the many ways it improperly encroaches executive power, disadvantages our company, and hurts the interests of this nation. Still, the bill is seriously flawed, particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch's authority. Congress should not even negotiate a health care after seven years. By limiting the executive bill's authority, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals.
POMPEO: I actually agree with --
BOOKER: And -- hold on.
POMPEO: -- each of those statements.
BOOKER: The frameworks of the constitution about the foreign affairs -- so -- well --
POMPEO: I --
BOOKER: You didn't when you were talking to him. I could read your words back about how great this CAATSA deal is. I put this in the record and I finish my comments just simply by saying this is not a president who is using the tools.
This is not a president strong against Russia. This is not a president that is standing up against people that are doing ongoing attacks to the United States of America that are continuing at this moment. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CORKER: Senator Menendez --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. We have been following the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has been grilled over the past three hours by senators from both political parties as he tried to explain Trump's Russia policy and the summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
I want to talk about what we just heard, dramatic stuff, with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He is standing by.
But, first, I want to go quickly to the White House where, in an unprecedented move, CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins was actually banned from a late afternoon press event in the Rose Garden because the White House simply didn't like the questions she asked the President earlier in the day.
Kaitlan, you were the network pool reporter representing the five television networks when you asked the President about that secret audio recording that the President's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made of them discussing a hush money payment to a Playboy playmate who allegedly got an affair with Mr. Trump.
Tell us precisely what happened because it's very, very worrisome.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. So I was blocked from attending an open press event here at the White House because the White House did not like the questions I posed to President Trump earlier in the day during an event in the Oval Office with the President of the European Commission.
So to walk you through exactly what was going on, I was representing the rest of the television networks during this spray, which is what we refer to it here at the White House, in the Oval Office.
We were brought in from the top of the meeting between the President and the President of the European Commission. Both men delivered remarks, and then I and several other reporters started asking President Trump questions.
This is a normal occurrence, and it is also our only chance to ask President Trump questions that day. And he often responds to us, Wolf.
So to give you a sense of the questions that the White House did not like that we posed to President Trump, here they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Did Michael Cohen betray, Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over here. Let's go.
COLLINS: Mr. President --
COLLINS: Did Michael Cohen betray you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on now.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're done. We're done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
COLLINS: Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Kaitlan. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's keep going.
COLLINS: Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. Thank you all. Keep going.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. Let's go.
COLLINS: Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going. Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
COLLINS: Mr. President -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're done. Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, guys. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. We are done. We are done. Let's go.
COLLINS: Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're done. We're done.
COLLINS: -- Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. We're done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, Wolf, the questions I asked in case you couldn't hear them was if the President was upset and felt that Michael Cohen, his former attorney, had betrayed him by allowing the release of that audio recording.
We also asked if he was worried about what Michael Cohen would say to prosecutors. As you know, the President was tweeting about that recording with Michael Cohen just this morning on his Twitter account.
And then I also asked the President if he -- why Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, had not accepted his invitation to the White House yet. That was before the White House announced that they were going to postpone that meeting until next year.
Now, Wolf, after that event was over, the President did not answer questions. He said thank you. We left the Oval Office. And then, later, I was called into the office of Bill Shine, the President's latest hire who is his right-hand man for communications.
It was him and the Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, who told me that I would not be invited to an open press event here in the Rose Garden moments later at the White House because they thought the questions that I posed to President Trump were inappropriate and inappropriate for that venue.
I told them that it is often our only chance to ask the President questions. Those questions were questions any reporter would have asked, and I was there to represent all of the networks and, therefore, asked about the questions of the day along with the other reporters and my colleagues in that room.
Because of that, the White House blocked me from going to an open press event here at the White House that all reporters are allowed to go. Because they did not like the questions that I asked President Trump about the news of the day, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's truly shocking. You know, it's really unheard of. I have never heard of it. This is an open event. You're an accredited White House correspondent.
[17:59:59] Earlier in the day, you did precisely what you were supposed to do representing the five television networks. You asked a question. You asked a couple of questions. Others did as well. That's what happens at every photo opportunity. The White House knows this.