Firing back at criticism for endorsing dictator Kim Jong Un’s claims that he had nothing to do with the death of American student Otto Warmbier in North Korea, President Donald Trump boasted Friday on Twitter that he helped return Warmbier to the U.S. and shifted blame onto former President Barack Obama.
Trump’s comments come a day after news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he stated he took Kim “at his word” when he said he was unaware of the conditions faced by Warmbier, a college student who was imprisoned in North Korea for taking a propaganda poster and who died days after being returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state in 2017.
“I got Otto out along with three others,” Trump wrote Friday “The previous administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch.”
While Trump added in his tweets that he “of course” holds North Korea responsible for Warmbier’s death and that his comments have been “misinterpreted,” the vicitm’s family had a different interpretation of his comments in Vietnam.
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Trump made no mention of Kim ― whose use of public executions, arbitrary detention and forced labor are well-documented by human rights groups ― in his response Friday.
In a bizarre spin on Warmbier’s death, Trump added in another tweet that he hadn’t died “in vain” because “his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future.”
Last April, Warmbier’s parents successfully sued the North Korean government over their son’s death, with a U.S. court ordering in December that North Korea pay them $501 million in damages.