Trump suggests Obama to blame for death
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.”