Trump: American student’s death a ‘total disgrace’


President Trump said Tuesday an American student who died after being detained in North Korea should have been brought home sooner, calling his ordeal “a total disgrace.”

“It’s a disgrace what happened to Otto [Warmbier],” Trump said the White House. “It should never, ever be allowed to happen. And frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different.”

Trump’s comments appeared to echo criticism of President Obama’s administration from the family of Otto Warmbier, who died on Monday at the age of 22.

{mosads}Warmbier was released by the North Korean regime last week after 17 months in captivity. The University of Virginia student had been detained after allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster while on a trip to North Korea and take it back to the U.S. 

Warmbier’s father at a press conference last week criticized the previous administration’s failure to get his son home.

Trump said that he spoke to the family.

“He should have brought home that same day,” he said. “His family is incredible … but he should have been brought home a long time ago.”

A spokesperson for Obama said that “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 former National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“These tireless efforts resulted in the release of at least 10 Americans from North Korean custody during the course of the Obama administration. It’s painful that Mr. Warmbier was not among them, but our efforts on his behalf never ceased, even in the waning days of the administration,” added Price.

Trump spoke to reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He did not respond to questions about the Russia investigation or whether he taped his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. 

Trump on Monday condemned North Korea’s “brutal” treatment of Warmbier while he was imprisoned. 

During a tech industry event at the White House, Trump said “a lot of bad things happened” to the student.

“But at least we got him home to be with his parents where they were so happy to see him, even though he was in very tough condition. But he just passed away a little while ago. It is a brutal regime and we’ll be able to handle it,” Trump said.

–This report was updated at 1:42 p.m.


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