Trump: 'No money was paid' to North Korea for Otto Warmbier

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE on Friday denied that the U.S. paid North Korea after the country reportedly billed the U.S. for treatment of American Otto Warmbier, who was held prisoner there and returned home in a coma and later died.

Trump did not deny that North Korea sent the U.S. a $2 million bill for Warmbier’s hospital care, something The Washington Post first reported on Thursday.

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"No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else," he tweeted. 

The president went on to lash out at the Obama administration for a $1.8 billion payment to Iran as part of a decades-long dispute, and for exchanging five imprisoned Taliban members for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release. Bergdahl later pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.  

 

In a follow-up tweet, Trump shared a quote that praised his hostage negotiation skills and appeared to refer to himself as "Cheif Hostage Negotiators, USA!" with the word "chief" misspelled.

 

Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster during a January 2016 visit to Pyongyang. He was sent back to the U.S. in a coma in 2017 and died a short time later. He was 22.

Trump previously took credit for the June 2017 release of Warmbier and used his death to pressure Kim over human rights, saying the Ohio native was “tortured beyond belief.” 

But Trump prompted bipartisan backlash earlier this year when he said following a summit with Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTrump on North Korean projectile launches: Kim 'likes testing missiles' North Korea fires two more projectiles into sea Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit MORE in Hanoi, Vietnam, that he took the North Korean strongman's word that he was not involved in Warmbier's death.

"He knew the case very well. But he knew it later,” Trump said of Kim. “And, you know, you’ve got a lot of people. Big country. 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 bad things.”

Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy, issued a statement pinning their son’s death on Kim and indirectly criticizing the president for his comments.

Trump later claimed his comments were "misinterpreted," saying he holds "North Korea responsible” for Warmbier’s “mistreatment and death.”

The Washington Post reported Thursday that North Korea wanted the U.S. to pay for Warmbier's care, but that it was unclear whether officials agreed to do so. The U.S. envoy who brought Warmbier back signed a pledge to pay the bill at Trump's direction, two people familiar with the matter told the Post.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Shaken Portman urges support for 'red flag' laws after Ohio shooting MORE (R-Ohio), Warmbier's home-state senator, responded to Thursday's report on the medical bill with scorn for North Korea.

"No, the United States owes them nothing," he tweeted. "They owe the Warmbier family everything."

 

The president has sought to carefully manage his relationship with Kim as his administration engages in negotiations to get the dictator to give up his nuclear arsenal. 

The two have met in person twice, and Trump has spoken glowingly of Kim, who is accused of myriad human rights abuses, saying the two "fell in love" and praising his leadership skills.

Rachel Frazin contributed to this report, which was updated at 8:26 a.m.