Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted on Tuesday evening that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is “safe” following an attack earlier in the day by an Iranian-backed militia that prompted fears of another Benghazi. Or as President Trump called it on Twitter, “The Anti-Benghazi!”
“The embassy is being monitored. It’s safe,” Pompeo told Major Garrett, who was filling in for Norah O’Donnell on the New Year’s Eve edition of CBS Evening News. “The actions that we took today were prudent. Under President Trump’s direction our team worked together to quickly, decisively, prudently take the appropriate responses to keep our American people safe.”
The president was reportedly at his Florida golf course when news of the attack reached him.
Pompeo, who was among the fiercest critics in the Senate of the Obama Administration’s handling of a 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, seemed to downplay the severity of the Baghdad incident by saying that the U.S. “never contemplated” evacuating the facility and pushing back on the notion that they were “caught off guard,” adding, “We’ve known for a long time that there was this risk.”
At the same time, he referred to the attack as “state-sponsored terror” and “Iranian-backed terrorism” as opposed to a protest that got out of hand.
Moving on to the other big international news of the day, Garrett—a former Fox News reporter—asked Pompeo, “Have you ever been more concerned about the future of U.S.-North Korean relations than you are right now?”
“I was more concerned before this administration took office,” Pompeo answered. “We were in a place where it was very likely we would have ended up in a war with the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. President Trump has taken an approach where we’ve tried to develop a diplomatic pathway. We hope that the North Koreans will reconsider, that they’ll continue down that pathway.”
Despite Trump’s efforts, Kim Jong Un announced Wednesday that his country will soon unveil a “new strategic weapon” and that it is ending its moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. “These two announcements do not alarm you?” Garrett asked.
“I’m concerned about a lot of things every day, Major,” Pompeo said, stumbling as he seemed to suggest he had just received the news of North Korea’s announcement on his way to the interview. Finally, he allowed, “If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump that is deeply disappointing.”
“We’ve lived up to our commitments,” he added. “We continue to hold out hope that he’ll live up to his as well.”