On Sunday, State of the Union anchor Jake Tapper repeatedly confronted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he abruptly called off secretive peace talks with the Taliban, asking the nation’s top diplomat why the president would invite the Taliban to Camp David days ahead of the 9/11 terror attack anniversary.
Pompeo, who was booked to appear on all five Sunday shows, defended the president’s decision to initially welcome leaders of the Taliban to Washington without having a finalized agreement in place, telling Tapper that Trump “believed we could further America’s national interest by having conversations with the people who have the capacity to actually deliver.”
Tapper, meanwhile, noted that the Trump administration has faced widespread criticism for inviting the militant group to Camp David, noting that even members of the president’s own party—such as Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)—have openly derided the move.
“I think there are a lot of Americans out there who had been surprised the Taliban had been invited to Camp David, especially the week of the 9/11 commemoration,” the CNN host pointed out.
After Pompeo waved off the criticisms while saying Trump was making “real progress” in achieving peace in Afghanistan, Tapper pressed him again.
“I don’t think anyone begrudges the president or ambassador trying to bring an end to this war that’s been going on so long with so many innocent people and so many service members killed, but I guess the question is why invite the Taliban to Camp David?” Tapper wondered.
Noting that the president’s effort was to work with those who can eventually end the violence, the secretary of state added that Trump is not going to reduce the pressure on the Taliban if they don’t deliver on their commitments, referencing the recent attack in Kabul that resulted in the death of a U.S. soldier.
Tapper, however, continued to challenge Pompeo on the notion of even bringing the Taliban to American soil to negotiate terms, highlighting that the organization recently reiterated its support for the 9/11 attacks.
“Here’s an organization that still supports 9/11—still believes that the United States was to blame,” the CNN anchor stated. “We brought that on ourselves. Why bring people like that to Camp David? I understand why you want to negotiate for peace but why bring people like that to Camp David?”
Pompeo, again, punted on the specific question, saying that the administration has an “obligation to do everything we can” and that they “understand who the Taliban are.”
This prompted Tapper to then confront Pompeo on how he would view this if the shoe were on the other foot.
“I can’t help but think that if a Democratic president had talked about having the Taliban come to Camp David to negotiate a peace process that was not already a done deal,” Tapper noted. “That you as a congressman, as a soldier, as a veteran, as a West Point graduate, that you would be rather upset.”
The secretary of state insisted that the State of the Union host was “just wrong about that” before taking a shot at Obama, claiming the former president was “prepared to leave without ensuring to protect America.”
“We will never do that,” Pompeo added.
Elsewhere on the other Sunday shows, the secretary of state was grilled on the scuttled peace talks, with much of the focus on the optics of inviting the Taliban to Camp David—especially since the presidential retreat is where American leaders gathered following the 9/11 attacks to plan a response.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace aggressively pressed Pompeo on the bipartisan uproar over the canceled meeting, asking Pompeo point-blank: “Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States to meet with Taliban leaders who have the blood of thousands of Americans on their hands just three days before 9/11?”
During his appearance on ABC’s This Week, the secretary of state defended the Camp David setting, stating that he’s aware of the history surrounding the location and “President Trump reflected on that.”
“We all considered as we were debating how to try and get to the right, ultimate outcome,” he continued. “While there have often been discussions about war at Camp David, There have been discussions about peace there as well. There have been some pretty bad actors travel through that place. It’s an important place.”