National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday wouldn’t match President Donald Trump’s assertion that he believes North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un is not responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier.
“Do you take Kim Jong Un at his word?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Bolton in an interview Sunday, echoing Trump, who said after meeting with Kim in Hanoi recently that he took the North Korean ruler at his word that he was not responsible for Warmbier’s death.
“The President takes him at his word,” Bolton responded.
“I know he does, but what about you?” Tapper asked.
“My opinion doesn’t matter,” Bolton said. “I am not the national security decision maker. That’s his view.”
Tapper tried again a minute later: “I don’t know one expert on North Korea who thinks that anything could have happened to Otto Warmbier without Kim Jong Un knowing about it ahead of time. Do you disagree?
“Good for them,” Bolton responded, before saying administration officials can’t “comment from the distance” like TV commentators.
Tapper: "I don't know one expert on North Korea who thinks that anything could have happened to Otto Warmbier without Kim Jong Un knowing about it ahead of time. Do you disagree?"
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) March 3, 2019
Warmbier was released from North Korean custody in a coma and with severe brain damage, and died shortly after returning to America.
After Trump’s initial assessment post-Hanoi that “I don’t believe [Kim] would have allowed that,” Trump tweeted in response to critics on both sides of the aisle, including Warmbier’s family: “Of course I hold North Korea responsible […] for Otto’s mistreatment and death.”
“I’m in such a horrible position because, in one way, I have to negotiate, and the other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier, and I love Otto, and it’s a very, very delicate balance,” Trump said. “He was a special young man, and to see what happened– So bad, so bad. And a lot of what I do with respect to North Korea– And any success that we hopefully have– And we’ve had a lot– We’re given no credit.”