Otto Warmbier was a college student traveling in North Korea in 2015 where he was arrested for stealing a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. While in North Korean custody, Warmbier mysteriously slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness.
Warmbier died shortly after being released to the United States in 2017. In 2018, a federal judge held North Korea liable for “torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier” and ordered the country to pay $500 million in damages.
Earlier this week, President Trump was asked about his cozy relationship with Kim Jong-Un and whether he confronted the North Korean dictator about the death of Otto Warmbier. Trump responded by saying he took Kim “at his word” that he had nothing to do with it.
WOW — Trump says he doesn't think Kim Jong Un is responsible for Otto Warmbier's death.
"I do not think the top leadership knew about it… I do not believe that he would have allowed that to happen… He tells me he did now know about it and I will take him at his word." pic.twitter.com/mDydJGq2dv
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2019
“I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it,” Trump said. “I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen. […] He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
If you think it’s probably beyond belief that the brutal and infamously anti-American dictator of North Korea didn’t know about one of the country’s biggest American political prisoners, you’re not alone.
-Ah shit we've got an American prisoner here in our North Korean jail, a valuable bargaining chip, and token of the mythical evil force we propagandize about constantly. Should we alert our infamously mercurial and vengeful despot ruler of this?
-Hmm better not to tell him imo
— luke oneil (@lukeoneil47) February 28, 2019
Saudi Arabian Prince: I had nothing to do with Jamal Kashoggi’s death.
Trump: Sounds credible to me.
North Korean dictator: I had nothing to do Otto Warmbier’s death.
Trump: I believe you.
Literally any woman: I was sexually assaulted.
Trump: Lol sure you were, ugly.
— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) February 28, 2019
Trump is willing to take Kim Jong-Un at his word.
He was willing to do the same thing for Vladimir Putin.
But when the sitting President of the United States said he was born in the United States, he wasn't willing to take him at his word.
America First? https://t.co/KKPUQlqXos
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) February 28, 2019
But Trump didn’t didn’t just rile Twitter with his comments, he also pissed off Otto Warmbier’s parents, who had previously been Trump’s guests for the 2018 State of the Union address.
“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that. Thank you,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier told CNN.
Now, Trump has responded to the criticism he’s received from the Warmbiers and others (sort of). In a series of tweets, Trump claimed he was “misinterpreted” and tried to shift blame to Obama.
I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family. Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch. Of course I hold North Korea responsible….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2019
….for Otto’s mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2019
It’s a gaslighting reminiscent of the time Trump claimed he “misspoke” at the Putin summit absolving Russia of responsibility for 2016 election interference. But Trump’s lame attempt at an apology isn’t going over too well.
Yesterday you called the man responsible for their son's murder a friend and a great leader, you narcissistic twit. https://t.co/n9Fwxtz7Qm
— Rex Huppke (@RexHuppke) March 1, 2019
You said you fell in love with the dictator who's responsible for the torture and murder of an American citizen. No misinterpretation here. Naturally, your response is to brag about yourself while lying about Obama, which only makes you look more despicable, not less. Resign. https://t.co/Tt1IxRopOf
— Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) March 1, 2019
Is this supposed to be a Trump version of an apology? If so, try again. https://t.co/DP1A8zel55
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) March 1, 2019
JFC this guy. Everyone watched him say he believed Kim Jong Un. And here he is the next day claiming he's being "misinterpeted." WE ALL SAW IT, DONNIE. https://t.co/5Y2uqctbTb
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) March 1, 2019
Point of clarification: Two of the three he mentions here were arrested during the Trump Administration. Eleven Americans were released during the Obama Administration. https://t.co/kSFKyK4l18
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) March 1, 2019
In other North Korea news, it turns out the Trump-Kim summit that seemingly fizzled with no concrete concessions from either side actually yielded some pretty substantial concessions… from the U.S. Trump—who had been praised as “knowing when to walk away” by right-wing media after talks fell apart—has agreed to halt “large-scale joint exercises” with South Korea in order to “ease tensions” with North Korea, according to NBC News.
the hanoi summit, as explained by fox & friends graphics pic.twitter.com/vvgFkWS2aL
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) March 1, 2019
IOW, the summit WAS actually a success. For Kim Jong un. https://t.co/PBkaYTepwv
— Robert A George (@RobGeorge) March 1, 2019
Who wants to talk about how Trump was smart to walk away now? It’s an iron law: if you get out on a limb with a take about how *actually* Trump is being smart and strategic, it will be sawed off behind you. https://t.co/Boap4vx8K6
— Adam Jentleson 🎈 (@AJentleson) March 1, 2019
And that, folks, is the “art of the deal.”