Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke to reporters Tuesday in the White House press room to announce a presidential executive order to impose sanctions on terrorist groups and supporters.
"This administration has intensified our counterterrorism sanctions effort. We designated more than 230 individuals and entities in 2018, the most designation of any year in the last 15 years" Mnuchin said.
"Today's executive order marks the most significant update to counterterrorism sanctions authority since September of 2001," Pompeo explained.
"Specifically today's action amends Executive Order 13224 by adding clauses that allow the departments of State and Treasury to directly target leaders of terrorist groups and their associated entities without having to tie terrorist leaders to specific acts."
"Second, it more effectively and efficiently targets individuals and entities who participate in terrorist training and provides new authorities to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly do business with terrorists," Pompeo said.
They also commented on the firing of National Security advisor John Bolton, saying "the president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment."
Pompeo added: "He [President Trump] should have people he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgment benefit him in delivering American foreign policy. When the president of the United States makes a decision like this, he's well within his rights to do so."
TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Today the president signed a new executive order which underscores his decisive leadership in flighting--fighting global terrorism. This administration has intensified our counterterrorism sanctions effort. We designated more than 230 individuals and entities in 2018, the most designation of any year in the last 15 years.
The new executive order modernizing sanctions to combat terrorism which was signed today greatly enhances our ability to identify, sanction, and deter perpetrators of terrorism worldwide. Among other provisions, the EO allows the U.S. government to better target terrorist group leaders, provides new tools to pursue individuals who participate in terrorist training, authorizes secondary sanctions on foreign financial institutions that have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant financial transactions with sanctioned persons and targets those actors for and behalf of specially designated global terrorist.
Utilizing this new executive order today Treasury sanctioned over two dozen individuals and entities from 11 terrorist groups. Specifically we have leaders, operative and financiers from over 11 terrorist organizations including Iran's Quds Forces, Hamas, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates. The government has taken more action than we ever have before. The U.S. is--Treasury is enhancing our efforts to deny terrorist access to the U.S. financial system. We will continue to make sure that the security of the United States and to protect innocent people from becoming victims of terrorist attacks.
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: Thank you, Stephen. Today's executive order marks the most significant update to counterterrorism sanctions authority since September of 2001. It significantly expands authorities to target terrorists and those who finance their activities.
Specifically today's action amends Executive Order 13224 by adding clauses that allow the departments of State and Treasury to first, directly target leaders of terrorist groups and their associated entities without having to tie terrorist leaders to specific acts. Second, it more effectively and efficiently targets individuals and entities who participate in terrorist training and provides new authorities to impose sanctions on foreign financial institu--institutions that knowingly do business with terrorists.
The Trump administration has already used existing sanctions authorities more aggressively than any administration before us, and now we are immediately putting these new authorities to good use a Secretary Mnuchin said. Today the Department of State announces the designation of 12 terrorist leaders. They include (INAUDIBLE) of Iraq and former (INAUDIBLE) of improvised explosive devices, four senior members of Hezbollah's jihad counsel and leaders from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ISIS Philippines, ISIS West Africa, and TTP in Pakistan.
Further we are announcing the designation of (INAUDIBLE) an Al Qaeda affiliate jihadist group in Syria as a specially designated global terrorist entity. As these actions show today's executive order by President Trump adds further muscle to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. It will help us to ensure that the deadly attacks of September 11 that occurred 18 years ago this week are never repeated on American soil. Never.
At this time Secretary Mnuchin and I are happy to take a couple of questions on this topic. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Did John Bolton fire--get fired or did he quit and did he leave the White House because he disagreed with you in particular over talks with the Taliban?
POMPEO: So last night the president asked for Amb--Ambassador Bolton's resignation. As I understand it, it was received this morning.
QUESTION: Was it because of disagreement?
POMPEO: Go ahead. Yes, ma'am in the back.
QUESTION: Go ahead, Terry(PH).
QUESTION: Was it because of this disagreement?
POMPEO: I'll--I'll leave to the president to talk about the reasons he made the decision but I--I would say this the president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment, this is a staff person who were strictly for the president of the United States that he should have people that he trusted values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy. That is what is as cabinet member Secretary Mnuchin, and I try to do every day, and when the president make a decision like this he's well within his rights to do so.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, can you describe your working relationship with John Bolton as it was today?
POMPEO: Sure. Sure.
QUESTION: And also does his departure make it easier for you to do your job and for the administration to accomplish the president's foreign policy agenda?
POMPEO: Look, I--I don't talk about the inner workings of how--how this all goes. We all give our candid opinions. There were many times Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed that's to be sure but that's true for lots--lots of people with whom I interact.
My mission set is always to make sure as I run the Department of State is to deliver America's diplomacy and to work with a team whether it's at Treasury or the president's staff to make sure we get good outcomes. I--I know everyone has talked about this for an awfully long time. There were definitely places that Ambassador Bolton and I had different views about how we should proceed.
QUESTION: With John Bolton out of the picture is it now possible to see some less hawkish Iran policy and does this offer the path for the president to meet with Rohani?
MNUCHIN: I would say Secretary Pompeo and myself and the president are completely aligned on our maximum pressure campaign. I think you know we have done more sanctions on Iran than anybody and it is absolutely working. Now the president has made clear he--he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.
POMPEO: Go--go ahead. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo for clarity on this can you foresee a meeting between President Trump and the Iranian leader later this month surrounding the United Nations?
QUESTION: Would the president support that and do you support that actively?
POMPEO: The president has made very clear he is prepared to meet with no preconditions.
QUESTION: Quickly on the original guidance for this briefing, Bolton was on the guidance to be here so were you two blindsided by what occurred today that he is no longer with the administration? Was it news to you today because last night we were told he would be here today?
POMPEO: I--I am never surprised.
QUESTION: Well, let me ask it--
POMPEO: And I don't mean that on just this issue and I think Secretary Mnuchin would say the same thing. We work very closely with the president of the United States. We--I--I think we have a pretty good understanding of how he is thinking about things. I think you would agree Stephen at nearly all times and so you know our--our mission set is not to talk about that (INAUDIBLE) I know you are so curious about but rather to talk about the things that matter to American foreign policy.
MNUCHIN: I--I would just add that people who knew should know and don't get into the administrative things of a notice went out because yesterday (INAUDIBLE).
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Secretary Pompeo a question about Syria. We reported on Syria and the refugee camps last night. Our David Muir was there and he talked about how these refugee camps ISIS fighters are blending, there's children dancing around the ISIS flag. Are you concerned about these refugee camps becoming a breeding ground, a training ground for terrorists for ISIS fighters?
POMPEO: So there's a long history of just exactly what you are describing camps in Iraq, camps other places where prisoners were detained and extremist elements breeding in those places but we have been working diligently on this.
We have conducted enormous operations against ISIS even after the fall of the caliphate as recently as the last handful of days. We are very focused on this. The success that we had moving down the Euphrates River Valley that our Department of Defense led with the SDF forces was truly remarkable.
We will not take our eye off the ball insuring that whether it is ISIS or other radical Islamic extremist groups continue to be under pressure from the United States of America and that--that would--just to close it out and that would include in these camps that you are referring to.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: The White House says that Sec--National Security Advisor Bolton's foreign policy was not aligned with the president's philosophy. How was it out of alignment?
POMPEO: Well, I--I will leave that to the White House to talk about other than to say I think President Trump--I have watched his campaign, I have now worked with him first as CIA director and now as Secretary of State. Someone asked would the policy be different absent any individual being here, these have been the president's policies.
We give him our best wisdom; we share with him our--our understanding. When I was intelligence director, we did our best to make sure he had the facts and data available so he could make good decisions. But I don't think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because some one of us departs that the President Trump's foreign policy will change in a material way.
MNUCHIN: The one thing I would just say follow-up because the president has been very clear on this, the president's view of the Iraq war and Ambassador Bolton's was very different, and the president has made that clear.
POMPEO: Go ahead. Sure. Way in the back, ma'am?
QUESTION: Are you still planning to impose tariffs on Mexico if they don't' continue with the immigration plan?
POMPEO: So we're looking forward to our meeting with Foreign Minister Ebrard here in just a little bit. We are going to talk about the progress that has been made which has been substantial and real and material and has made America more secure. But as the same time we know there is still work to do and we are going to talk about how best we can jointly deliver that.
We are deeply appreciative of what the President of Mexico and the Foreign Minister have done to increase the capacity
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. Are you planning to impose tariffs on Mexico if they don't continue with the immigration plan?
POMPEO: So we're looking forward two hour meeting with Foreign Minister Berard (SP) here in just a little bit. We're going to talk about the progress that's been made, which has been substantial and real and material, and has made America more secure. But at the same time, we know there's still work to do and we're going to talk about how best we can jointly deliver that. We are deeply up appreciative of what the president of Mexico and the Foreign Minister have done to increase the capacity to deter migration in the United States. And you can see the numbers have improved substantially, but we also know A, it needs to be sustained, and B, we've still got real work to do. Go ahead, Steve.
MNUCHIN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: On Venezuela, we know that Ambassador Bolton was trying to keep up the pressure (INAUDIBLE) and we know that Ambassador Bolton and President Trump disagreed on many things in regards to Venezuela. Of Ambassador Bolton what can we expect now with the departure?
MNUCHIN: I think you know the Treasury Department and the State Department have been incredibly active on sanctions. Everything we do is in consultation with the State Department. Again, we have a massive sanctions program it's working, but I would just add we are concerned about the people there and what's going on, the humanitarian crisis. And I know the secretary has worked with their neighbors extensively.
POMPEO: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Is this national security team a mess?
MNUCHIN: Absolutely not. That's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard of. So--
MNUCHIN: --Let me just say the national security team, which is what you asked, consists of the national security advisor, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself, the Chief of Staff, and many others.
POMPEO: Yes, sir. Go ahead.
MNUCHIN: Of course.
POMPEO: Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, we'll take one more. Yes, ma'am, in the red.
QUESTION: There were reports this week that the CIA had to pull a top Russian asset out because of concerns that his identity could be exposed. Under which administration was this source burned, and is there currently an investigation into how his identity got leaked to the media?
POMPEO: Yeah, I've seen that reporting. The reporting is materially inaccurate. And you should know as the former CIA director, I don't talk about things like this very often. It is only the occasions when there something that I think what's puts people at risk or the reporting is so egregious as to create enormous risk to the United States of America that I even comment in the way that I just did. And I won't say anything more about it. I know the CIA put out a statement. Suffice it to say, that the--the reporting there is factually wrong.
MNUCHIN: Thank you, everybody.
POMPEO: Thank you, all.
QUESTION: Has Bolton's departure made the UN general assembly harder or easier?