At his press conference this morning in Hanoi, President Donald Trump raised quite a few eyebrows when he said that he believed Kim Jong Un when he said that he didn’t know what led to Otto Warmbier falling into a coma while he was in a North Korean prison:
I asked Trump if he confronted Kim Jong Un about Otto Warmbier’s death. He said Kim knew about the case but denied knowing about how Otto was put in coma and he takes Kim at his word.
— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) February 28, 2019
Trump says he doesn’t think the “top leaders knew” about Otto Warmbeir’s death in North Korea
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) February 28, 2019
“I will take him at his word,” said the president:
On Otto Warmbier's death, POTUS says of Kim, "He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word."
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) February 28, 2019
CNN’s Jim Acosta called the moment “odd”:
One odd moment: Trump claimed during news conf that Kim Jong Un felt badly about the death of American Otto Warmbier.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) February 28, 2019
Others think this showed American weakness:
Trump aimed to project toughness in his negotiating stance. But between this backtracking and his comments on Warmbier, he did plenty to appease Kim. https://t.co/qpDY0r17qu
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) February 28, 2019
This is so goddamn embarrassing. https://t.co/XXX0tktRdd
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) February 28, 2019
Even conservatives piled on:
You don't get points for "effort" when the "effort" involves pretending Otto Warmbier wasn't murdered, and that the US has a "special relationship" with the worst dictator on the planet — and when that "effort" results in less than nothing.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 28, 2019
Rick Santorum called it “despicable”:
“This is reprehensible what he just did. He gave cover… to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier,” @RickSantorum says about Pres. Trump saying he believes Kim Jong Un’s claim he wasn't aware of the American student’s condition https://t.co/2JAkMvsnCI pic.twitter.com/kdGjff7N7r
— CNN (@CNN) February 28, 2019
But. . .
Reporter Doug Bock Clark, in this exhaustive investigation for GQ, found that it’s likely Warmbier attempted suicide early on in his incarceration which is what led to the coma, but nobody knows what really happened:
I retweeted this, but if you don't have the time, after 56 paragraphs it reveals that he was NOT physically tortured by the North Koreans (though they speculate his death could be the result of a suicide attempt, after psychological torture). Nobody knows. https://t.co/w0xCU4V3hW
— Jason "David Wong" Pargin (@JohnDiesattheEn) February 28, 2019
We’re not saying Warmbier was treated well, but it’s just that there is no evidence that he was physically tortured during his months in captivity:
There is no forensic evidence Otto Warmbier was physically tortured. That doesn't mean he was treated well by North Korea and certainly doesn't mean Trump should take Kim Jong Un "at his word." https://t.co/Q4vYAcq8y1
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) February 28, 2019
But there is evidence Warmbier received “good care” after he went into a coma. Dr. Michael Flueckiger, a trauma doctor who went over to North Korea to return Warmbier to America, found that he was “well nourished and had no bedsores, an accomplishment even Western hospitals struggle to achieve with comatose patients.” From the article:
The North Koreans asked Flueckiger to sign a report testifying that Otto had been well cared for in the hospital. “I would have been willing to fudge that report if I thought it would get Otto released,” Flueckiger said. “But as it turned out,” despite the most basic facilities (the room’s sink did not even work), “he got good care, and I didn’t have to lie.” Otto was well nourished and had no bedsores, an accomplishment even Western hospitals struggle to achieve with comatose patients. But the North Koreans were still not ready to release Otto.
It’s “complicated,” at the very least:
It's worth reading this story so you understand the full context of POTUS remarks re Kim Jong Un & Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier was wrongfully imprisoned, yet evidence is not there to conclude NK tortured him. Negligence, sure. But the rest remains unclear.https://t.co/BzWcbgKae3
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) February 28, 2019
Maybe Trump’s got this one right (or closer to being right than his earlier rhetoric)?
— Joe Gabriel Simonson (@SaysSimonson) February 28, 2019
Video of the q-and-a here:
President Trump says he has confronted Kim Jong Un about the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who was detained in North Korea. But he doesn't believe Kim knew about what happened: "I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen…He felt badly about it" pic.twitter.com/f4ePXAnTp8
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 28, 2019
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) February 28, 2019
NO DEAL: Trump WALKS from North Korea denuclearization talks in Hanoi https://t.co/jB3UBYaSx5
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) February 28, 2019