CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - President Donald Trump said Thursday he does not hold North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier after Kim denied knowledge of the Wyoming High School graduate’s mistreatment.
“We have talked about it. I really don’t think it was in his interest at all,” Trump told reporters during a press conference Thursday after the U.S.-North Korea nuclear summit ended early without a deal.
“I know the Warmbier family very well. I think that they are an incredible family," Trump said. "What happened is horrible. I really believe something very bad happened to him and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it.
“And when they had to send him home - by the way, I got the prisoners back, I got the hostages back and Otto was one of the hostages - but Otto came back in a shape that was not even to be talked about. I found it- I thought it was horrible. Now, the others came back extremely healthy But Otto came back in a condition that was just terrible.”
Trump said he did speak to Kim about Warmbier’s mistreatment, but he believes Kim when he says he didn’t know about it at the time.
“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen, it just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen,” Trump said. "Those prisons are rough. They are rough places and bad things happened. But I really he - I really don’t don’t believe he knew about it.
“He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly about it. But he knew the case very well. But he knew it later," Trump said.
"And you know, you’ve got a lot of people, a big country, a lot of people and in those prisons and those camps you have a lot of people and some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things. He tells me he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
During the press conference, Trump alluded the two leaders did discuss human rights cases including Warmbier.
But he has mostly avoided North Korea’s vicious human rights record as he has tried to convince Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. At one point, Trump has even previously said
Late last year, North Korea was ordered by a federal judge to pay $500 million to the Warmbier family after they filed a lawsuit against the country requesting $1.05 billion in punitive damages.
"North Korea has repeatedly lied about the causes of Otto's condition and refuses to acknowledge its abhorrent actions," the lawsuit reads. "North Korea, which is a rogue regime, took Otto hostage for its own wrongful ends and brutally tortured and murdered him."
Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement at the time they were thankful that that the court found the government of Kim Jong Un “legally and morally” responsible for their son’s death.
“We put ourselves and our family through the ordeal of a lawsuit and public trial because we promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him,” their statement reads. “Today’s thoughtful opinion by Chief Judge Howell is a significant step on our journey.”
Otto Warmbier, a native of Wyoming, Ohio and a University of Virginia student, was accused in January 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country.
He was imprisoned by the North Korean government and suffered severe brain damage, but there were no signs of physical trauma.
He was evacuated in a coma on June 13, 2017 and returned home to his family in Cincinnati.
The 22-year-old was taken straight from the airport to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he died six days later.
In 2017, a North Korean spokesman denied Otto Warmbier had been tortured while in custody.