President Donald Trump on Friday attempted to clarify his comments that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier after a bipartisan backlash and a blistering statement from Warmbier's parents.
"I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family. Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch," Trump said in a tweet.
"Of course I hold North Korea 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!"
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Trump touched off a political maelstrom on Thursday after he said at a news conference in Hanoi at the conclusion of a summit with Kim that he did not hold the North Korean leader responsible for Warmbier's death.
"I don't believe he knew about it," Trump said of Kim. "He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word."
On Friday, Fred and Cindy Warmbier issued a statement saying Kim and his regime "are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity," including their son's injuries and eventual death.
"We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto," the Warmbiers 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 faced a backlash from Republicans and Democrats, who excoriated the president for letting the repressive government and its leader off the hook.
Warmbier, 22, was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016 and later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He suffered horrific injuries and died shortly after being released from 17 months of detention. The cause of death remains unknown, as does the cause of his injuries.