Washington D.C. – Lead Republican Michael McCaul (R-TX) sat down with national security expert and global correspondent, Martin Smith, and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, NY for an exclusive interview on U.S. policy in global hot spots. The conversation centered around McCaul’s perspective on current foreign policy challenges, including the crisis in Venezuela, the implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and more. 


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On the dire situation in Venezuela and the United States’ supportive role in the people’s struggle alongside interim President Juan Guaido in the fight for free and fair elections (03:37)

“To me you are either for the people of Venezuela and democracy and free and fair elections, or you are for a socialist dictator and it really comes down to that simple argument.

“… We are very concerned about the safety and security of President Guaido… Not only him being arrested but also his personal safety and security that [Maduro] could kill him.

“… I think ultimately it is the people of Venezuela who have been out in the streets very supportive of President Guaido and his efforts towards democracy and free and fair elections. I can’t imagine the United States America as the leader of the free world standing on the sidelines and not  participating and leading in an effort to promote democracy… it is a human rights issue and a humanitarian issue. Again, we cant just sit back, I think we have a responsibility to help.”


On countering Chinese aggression and predatory lending tactics through “One Belt One Road Initiative”(22:11)…

“When I talk to the military and the intelligence community, they tell me that the number one threat today is not radical Islamist terror anymore: its China…

“…What they are doing in these countries is over leveraging… They bring their own workers in, they don’t hire the host workers, they exploit the natural resources, and then without a ‘shot fired’ take over these countries economically… [Developing countries] know they are getting exploited but they see the short term gain, not the long term pain… When I said, ‘Why are you doing business with China? They said, well because [United States] is not there.”

“… I just introduced this week, the Championing American Business Through Diplomacy Act, which gets our diplomats to put more pressure and to advance American interests in Africa and other countries and continents so that we can be competitive with China in this respect. Because in my sense, they are winning right now on this.”


On the Global Fragility Act to prevent extremism and enhance stability in fragile states around the globe (24:44)…

As we see the defeat of ISIS as I speak in Syria, in the lower Euphrates close to Iraq, we are also seeing [terrorist] movement towards Libya and the Sahel… We need to stabilize these countries. So you look at the economic advancement is in our national security interest, as well. 

“… We’ve done a good job offensively to destroy the enemy, I think where we have failed is on the prevention piece. To get to the root cause of what causes extremism and radicalization and we got to start looking at investing in that piece because not only is it good from a national security standpoint its good for our economic interests as well.”


On the outcome of negotiations between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un at the recent summit in Hanoi, Vietnam (32:49)…

“The President walked away from the table… it is better to walk away like Reagan did with the Soviets rather than just to get a deal. 

“Kim Jong Un is not accustomed to people telling him ‘no’ and i think that had a deep psychological impact on him when he was told ‘no we are not doing that’.”


On the United States role in being a forceful advocate against human rights abuses globally (34:18)…

“Our moral authority is very important here if we are to be a world leader… We are seeing human rights abuses all over the globe. 

“… With Syria, I met with a prisoner who was a prisoner of Assad… who was beaten and tortured for years… The Caesar Act, which I think is really important we get to pass through the Congress which would impose sanctions on the Assad regime.”


On combating anti-Semitism (35: 36)…

“One of the most disturbing trips I have ever been on was when I visited Auschwitz to see the horrors of what the Nazis were doing… Never again, but yet it is happening. It’s hard to believe that [anti-Semitism] is still happening today. It’s hard to imagine that anti-Semitism is on the rise… It’s one generation away from me and yet it’s happening right now and we have to stand up.”


On the Venezuelan people’s historic opportunity to reclaim democracy and alter the course for a more robust and independent Western Hemisphere (43:44)…

I am a realist, but having said that, I think that this is what majority of Venezuelans want. They are tired of the oppression. Socialist dictatorships don’t work. It has destroyed that country over the last 20 years… 

“If it fails you are going to have a massive exodus that you are already seeing. 1.3 million are in Colombia and its an estimated 3 million more refugees coming out… This is why the Colombians and the Brazilians and the Argentinians and the Lima Group are so supportive of this effort… Not to mention the starvation, the killings, I have four of my constituents that worked for Citgo sitting in a Venezuelan prison right now.

“I am seeing signs of progress whether it be in Brazil and Argentina, El Salvador; other countries starting to move towards real democracies with better economies of scale. That’s what we want for Venezuela, and it would impact Cuba directly and it would impact Nicaragua and Bolivia. It would have a direct impact on our real enemies and that is Russia, China and Iran.”


On U.S.-Chinese competition and the need for the international community to elevate and bolster cyber defenses globally (47:23)…
We are in a race with China in technology and cybersecurity. They are on the path to developing quantum computing. I’ve been doing cybersecurity for a long time and whoever gets quantum is going to rule… it’s almost like the space race to the moon. They have stolen trillions in intellectual property and its hard to compete with a country who does that. They’ve stolen our cyber weapons.”

“I am elevating the cyber mission at [the Department of State] which is long overdue to create an Ambassador at large for cybersecurity that can negotiate with other countries on cyber issues, and it creates a cyber bureau within the State Department. 

“I did this with [the Department of Homeland Security] and now I am trying to do it with the State Department. I think it’s long overdue to elevate that mission and priority within the State Department.


On the devastating humanitarian crisis in Syria brought on by Assad’s tyrannical regime and countering the threat of ISIS (54:08)…
Syria is probably the most complex foreign policy challenge that we have today. If we don’t lead as a nation, inaction becomes the decision.

“… I thought the President’s decision to withdraw our forces was a mistake. Just like I criticized Obama when he withdrew from Iraq, and then ISIS formed the caliphate.”


On the threat of authoritarian regimes and working across the aisle to counter that aggression (58:21)…

“Our founding fathers believed in constitutional democracies because they thought they would not go to war with each other. Anytime you have dictators, socialist dictators, we have seen the destruction. Dictators I can point out– Kim Jong Un, to Maduro, to Assad, they have destroyed their countries and the human rights abuses are rampant. 

“… Congress should be coming together on all this… This Committee has always been bipartisan…That is what [Chairman Engel] believes; that is what I believe; and I really believe he is a guy I can work with well to advance, not a Republican agenda or Democrat [agenda], but an American agenda that is best for the world.”