Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) put substantial distance between himself and President Trump on Friday regarding the President’s recent comment on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s knowledge of the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier.
“This was an absolute murder. It was torture and murder, and I think that the North Korean regime should be held accountable for it,” Stewart told CNN. “I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that the President of North Korea Kim Jong Un was holding one of the very few Americans that have been held over history, and that he wasn’t aware of that person or aware of his treatment and his conditions.”
Stewart said he understood what Trump was trying to do by developing a “positive relationship” with Kim so “they can move forward on a very, very critical issue.”
“But we can’t turn a blind eye to how this young man was treated,” he continued. “Short of other intelligence would indicate otherwise, I think once again the North Koreans tortured and murdered this young person, and I think it is unlikely that Kim Jong-un wasn’t aware of that.”
Stewart breaks with Trump: "extraordinarily unlikely" Kim Jong-un wasn't ware of Otto Warmbier's treatment pic.twitter.com/ChCbqWZoMU
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) March 1, 2019
After walking away from denuclearization talks earlier this week, Trump told reporters that he believed Kim when he claimed he was unuaware of how Warmbier was treated when he was imprisoned in North Korea for a year and a half. Warmbier was returned to the U.S. as a gesture of good will between Trump and Kim as the two world leaders worked to engage in denuclearization talks, but he was in dire condition. Warmbier died six days later after being in a coma for more than a year.