Trump sug­gests Obama to blame for death

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Michael A. Me­moli michael.me­moli @la­times.com

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump on Tues­day im­plic­itly blamed his pre­de­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Obama, for the death of Amer­i­can col­lege stu­dent Otto Warm­bier, call­ing it “a to­tal dis­grace” that the young man did not get to re­turn from cap­tiv­ity in North Korea un­til last week.

“Frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the re­sults would have been a lot dif­fer­ent,” Trump told re­porters in the Oval Of­fice. “He should have been brought home a long time ago.”

Warm­bier died Mon­day at an Ohio hospi­tal five days af­ter he was evac­u­ated in a coma from North Korea, where he had been held for 17 months. Doc­tors said he had ex­ten­sive loss of brain tis­sue — a re­sult, his fam­ily said in a state­ment, of the “tor­tur­ous mis­treat­ment” he re­ceived while im­pris­oned.

Trump did not name Obama, but his com­ments sug­gest­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should have been able to se­cure Warm­bier’s re­turn sooner echoed com­ments from Warm­bier’s fa­ther, Fred, last week.

Warm­bier said his fam­ily was ad­vised by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “to take a low pro­file” as it worked to bring him home. Af­ter Trump took of­fice, Warm­bier said, he and his wife “de­cided the time for ‘strate­gic pa­tience’ was over” — us­ing a term to de­scribe U.S. pol­icy to­ward the rogue gov­ern­ment in Py­ongyang.

Warm­bier said it was his un­der­stand­ing that, at Trump’s di­rec­tion, State Depart­ment of­fi­cials “ag­gres­sively pur­sued” a res­o­lu­tion.

A spokesman for Obama said that dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion, “we had no higher pri­or­ity than se­cur­ing the re­lease of Amer­i­cans de­tained over­seas.”

“North Korea’s iso­la­tion posed unique chal­lenges, but we worked through ev­ery av­enue avail­able to us — in­clud­ing through the Swedish, our pro­tect­ing power, as well as through our rep­re­sen­ta­tives in New York — to se­cure the re­lease of Mr. Warm­bier,” said Ned Price, a for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman.

Trump told re­porters: “It’s a to­tal dis­grace what hap­pened to Otto. It should never, ever be al­lowed to hap­pen.”

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