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Secretary Of State Talks Immigration, Venezuela At War College

Andrew Harnik
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Washington.

At the U.S. Army War College, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told military officers from the U.S. and its allies they need to be ready to face emerging threats. 

"The truth is, you all will be tested again, and I am confident it will be soon," Pompeo said to students at the War College, which educates senior military officers and civilians. "We don't know how. We don't know where...But I can assure you it will come before you."

Pompeo, who served as an Army officer in the 80s and early 90s, focused on how military and diplomatic strategies must work together to advance U.S. causes around the world.

His roughly seven-minute speech was followed by a question-and-answer session for students, with news media required to leave the auditorium. 

The Q&A session gave the former CIA director a chance to offer students "frank feedback," said Ken Burgess, a U.S. Army colonel and student, after the event.

"A lot of the international students had questions that were specific to their regions, and the secretary provided clarity on policy to those areas," Burgess said.

Pompeo, who replaced Rex Tillerson in March 2018, visited the War College hours after President Donald Trump said he wants to cut financial assistance to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and to shut down some points of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Speaking to reporters, the top Trump administration official said immigration into the U.S. at the southern border is "a crisis."

"President Trump is working to set the conditions so we can keep our country safe, secure and sovereign," said Pompeo, adding that the U.S. is working with those countries to find diplomatic solutions. News agencies such as NPR say most people asking for asylum at the border are fleeing violence in their home countries.

Pompeo was asked whether U.S. policy toward Russia might change following the completion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. Attorney General William Barr's summary of the report, which has not been released publicly, said Mueller found no collusion between Trump and Russia in its attempts to influence the 2016 election in Trump's favor.

Pompeo said the U.S. is always looking for opportunities to work with the country. However, Russia also needs to understand U.S. interests and priorities.

He pointed to Venezuela, where the U.S. has backed Juan Guaidó as the country's true leader, while Russia is backing Nicolás Maduro. Diplomatic tensions are mounting, with National Security Advisor John Bolton calling the recent arrival of Russian military officers and armaments into Venezuela "a direct threat to international peace and security in the region."

"The Russians have got to leave Venezuela," Pompeo said. "And so, there are places where our interests don't overlap."