President Trump on Friday afternoon argued that his recent comment about the mistreatment and death of Otto Warmbier was “misinterpreted,” but he did not walk back his statement that he believes Kim Jong Un was unaware of how Warmbier was being treated while jailed in North Korea.
In two tweets, Trump said that he holds North Korea responsible for Warmbier’s death and touted his efforts to bring Warmbier back to the U.S. Missing from Trump’s tweets, however, was any mention of whether Kim himself was aware or responsible.
….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
On Thursday, Trump said at a press conference that he took Kim “at his word” when he claimed that he was unaware of how Warmbier was being mistreated in North Korean custody. Warmbier was arrested in North Korea for allegedly stealing a poster, and returned to the U.S. in a coma only to die a few days later.
Trump’s comments sparked outrage on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said Friday that it’s “extraordinarily unlikely” that Kim was unaware of the Warmbier’s condition. He said that Trump shouldn’t “turn a blind eye to how this young man was treated” just to build a better relationship with the North Korean dictator.
Warmbier’s parents also issued a statement emphasizing that “Kim and his evil regime are responsible.”