Mike Pompeo contradicts Donald Trump on threat posed by North Korea by Kim Jong-un

Trump's secretary of state contradicts him about whether North Korea poses a nuclear threat

Published February 24, 2019 12:00PM (EST)

Mike Pompeo (AP/Alex Brandon)
Mike Pompeo (AP/Alex Brandon)

On Sunday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly contradicted President Donald Trump's assertions about North Korean nuclear policy — and was promptly checked by CNN host Jake Tapper.

"Tensions in the peninsula have alleviated but your successor as CIA director, Gina Haspel, told Congress last month that North Korea is 'committed to developing a long-range nuclear armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States?' President Trump after the last summit tweeted, 'There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.' Does he still believe there’s no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, even though Gina Haspel, the CIA director, says North Korea is committed to creating a missile that could hit the United States?"

After dodging the question and attempting to throw shade on President Bill Clinton, Tapper edged back toward his original question by asking whether Pompeo believes Kim Jong-un is a nuclear threat.

"Yes," Pompeo replied.

"But the president said he doesn't?" Tapper asked, prompting Pompeo to sputter that "that's not what he said. I mean, I know precisely what he said..."

"He tweeted, 'There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,'" Tapper interjected.

Pompeo then attempted to engage in damage control.

"What he said was that the efforts had been made in Singapore, this commitment that Chairman Kim made, have substantially taken down the risk to the American people," Pompeo told Tapper. "It is the mission of the Secretary of State and the President of the United States to keep the American people secure. We're aiming to achieve that."

"Okay, that's just a direct quote, but I want to move on," Tapper remarked.

Pompeo also discussed the ongoing foreign policy crisis in Venezuela, which reached a head when President Nicolas Maduro began blocking aid.

"There's more sanctions to be had. There's more humanitarian assistance, I think, that we can provide. I think we'll find other ways to make sure that food gets to the people who need it, and we will," Pompeo told Tapper regarding the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, according to CNN.

Pompeo also denied that the Trump administration was using humanitarian aid as a tool for forcing Maduro from power.

"This aid went in ... at the request of the legitimate president of Venezuela," Pompeo told Tapper, alluding to Juan Guiado, whom the Trump administration is supporting in his quest to oust Maduro. "He said, 'Please bring food to my people. Please bring medicine to the sick that are here.' That's what we've been working on these past few weeks."

He also denied that Venezuela's rich oil reserves had any role in American foreign policy toward that country.

"We're aimed at a singular mission — ensuring that the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they so richly deserve and that the Cubans, and the Russians who have been driving this country into the ground for years and years and years no longer hold sway," Pompeo told Tapper.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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