US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he doesn’t think North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was involved in the mistreatment of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died after being detained in the isolated country. (Feb. 28)
Republican Sen. Rob Portman saidÂ â€œwe should never let North Korea off the hookâ€ forÂ Otto Warmbier after President Donald Trump said ThursdayÂ he did not holdÂ North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responsibleÂ for the 22-year-old’s death.
â€œWe must remember Otto, and we should never let North Korea off the hook for what they did to him,â€ Portman said in a statement hours afterÂ Trump completed a summit with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam.
On Thursday, as his summit with Kim ended, Trump said he did not place blame onÂ the North Korean government.
“I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump said of Kim. “He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
‘I don’t believe he knew about it.’: Trump defends Kim Jong Un on Otto Warmbier’s death
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In 2016, a then-21-year-old Warmbier was arrested for committing a “hostile act” and later confessed to stealing a poster from a hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor and served 15 monthsÂ before he was sentÂ home to his parentsÂ in Ohio in June 2017. He arrived in a coma with a massive brain injury and later died.Â
Warmbier returned to Cincinnati in what doctors later described as a state of â€œunresponsive wakefulnessâ€ â€“ blind, unable to walk or talk and bedridden. Testing showed that his brain had been in progressive decline.
In December, Warmbierâ€™s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier of Wyoming, won a $501 million judgment against the North Korea government for his wrongful death.
“I think they’re an incredible family,” Trump said of the Warmbiers. “What happened is horrible.”
More: Trump-Kim summit: Fact checking President Donald Trump’s claims about North Korea
More: Five things we learned from the Warmbiersâ€™ court victory over North Korea
In 2017, Trump raised Otto Warmbierâ€™s story as he promised â€œto handleâ€ North Korea. The president described Warmbier’s parents as “powerful witnesses” to North Korea’s horrors during his 2018 State of the Union as the family watched from a guest box in the House chamber.
Trump’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted out her support for the Warmbier family on Thursday.
Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto. â¤ï¸🇺🇸
â€” Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 28, 2019
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